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IM: Why this recent push for
Alexander Richter: There is an importance to
raise financing for companies in geothermal. When
I founded the geothermal news website (think- there was a downturn in the econ-
omy and I saw the need to raise the profile of geo-
This is my intent working with the Canadian
Geothermal Energy Association. We are trying to
make an impact, draw attention to geothermal,
with what little resources we have.
We are making inroads in policy work. That’s
the most important thing, getting geothermal into
policy in Canada—it is currently a weakness.
IM: What is the difference between
perceptions of geothermal energy and
the reality of the possibilities for
geothermal applications?
AR: The geothermal world is a split: on one
hand you have geothermal heat pumps which is a
small application of geothermal energy—a really
local “in your backyard” kind of technology.
When people talk about geothermal energy
they are thinking about heat pumps. Generally,
society is forgetting about the large scale potential
of geothermal heating applications.
Therefore, one of the important things is for us
to do is educate governments and the general
public about geothermal uses and geothermal
technologies. And with CanGEA, we are highlight-
ing the possibilities for geothermal energy in
IM: What are the goals for CanGEA,
and ultimately, for other geothermal
AR: For CanGEA, this year and next year we
plan to promote a strong focus on geothermal en-
ergy in regions where the opportunities are the
largest—such as in northern and western Canada.
We are also promoting direct-use applications
across the country. On a regional basis, we have
formed committees to look at regional issues. On a
federal level—we will try to tap into funds that
might be available to geothermal development.
IM: How do you intend to work with
the provinces on gaining access to
geothermal resources?
AR: Policy-wise the way it looks in Canada is a
lot of the geothermal resources are on Crown land
so it is administered by the provinces. There are
varying differences in how those resources would
be administered which we will need to tackle on a
provincial basis.
IM: How do you sell people on the
business values of geothermal energy?
AR: We are not promoting geothermal
energy purely just because it’s clean energy source.
We believe there is a concrete business value in
geothermal. The only significant issue that the
industry faces is the high start-up costs to build
geothermal plants, and of course, there are early-
stage exploration risks.
We need to demonstrate that different countries
that have supported the early-stage exploration
have created a thriving industry—for example in
New Zealand and the U.S. With government
support in the early stage, we can create concrete
business value and tax revenue for the country.
The most important thing is to have those steps
done by the government that will create the right
market, and we need government to value
geothermal the same way other renewables are
valued. At the same time, we are telling companies
there is a business value that comes with
geothermal energy development.
IM: Why has industry been so slow to
adopt geothermal?
AR: Let’s be frank. We, the geothermal
industry, have not done a great job marketing our-
selves and highlighting the differences between
heat pumps (small geothermal generation) and
large-scale geothermal potential. It is a bit easier to
explain what they benefits are when you put up a
windmill to create wind power. Geothermal energy
is a bit more complex—but then at the same time, it
is easy—water is turned into power or heat.
We need to explain the technology in terms that
the general public understands, and promote the
advantages of using geothermal energy. But the
industry doesn’t have the necessary funds to do
this, and we are depending on media being
interested in order to bring attention to that issue.
The fact is that Canada has a strong natural
resources sector. The country is in a unique
position, with a strong industrial base that can be
built on—that expertise can be used in geothermal.
Alexander Richter, Director of the
Association (CanGEA), and Managing
Partner for ThinkGeoEnergy, has been
championing geothermal energy as
the industry grows in North America,
and he is both the Director and a Board
Member of CanGEA. He is an alternate
board member for the Energy Agency
Geothermal Implementing Agreement
(GIA), and speaks at many major
geothermal energy events across the
globe internationally. He explains why
geothermal is so critical to the
renewable energy equation.
photo provided by Iceland Dr i l l ing
photo provided by Iceland Dr i l l ing