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1% of global electricity is generated from Geothermal

0.50 % Share of global electricity
38 gCO2eq/kWh Carbon Intensity

Geothermal energy is a form of naturally occurring, clean, and sustainable power that is generated directly from the Earth’s heat. The core of our planet is hot and this heat seeps up towards the surface, creating pockets of hot water and steam. In regions where these are close to the surface, we can capture this geothermal energy and use it as an efficient and highly effective source of power.

The process for generating electricity from geothermal energy is relatively straightforward and involves a series of steps. To capture it, wells are drilled into geothermal reservoirs to tap into the steam and hot water that these contain. Once accessed, the high-pressure steam and hot water naturally rise to the surface where it can be used to drive a turbine, which in turn generates electricity. Once this process is complete, the steam and water are returned to the reservoir where they reheat, allowing for the process to repeat and creating a sustainable cycle of energy production.

One of the key advantages of geothermal energy is its incredibly low carbon intensity. According to data from the IPCC, the carbon intensity of geothermal power stands at only 38gCO2eq/kWh, significantly less than fossil fuels such as coal (820gCO2eq/kWh) and gas (490gCO2eq/kWh). This makes geothermal energy a fantastic alternative to conventional power sources, contributing to a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared with the burning of fossil fuels.

While geothermal energy currently only accounts for 0.5% of global electricity consumption, this figure could grow substantially if it were more widely adopted. Iceland, for instance, generates 28% of its electricity through geothermal methods, while the figures stand at 18% for New Zealand, 12% for Costa Rica, and 19% for El Salvador. Even in Guadeloupe, geothermal power accounts for 6% of electricity generation, demonstrating that it’s a beneficial and usable system in a variety of geographical environments.

Geothermal energy is one of many available low-carbon technologies, all of which have significant advantages over conventional fossil fuel powered electricity generation. Other methods, such as nuclear, wind and solar, also have impressively low carbon intensities (at 12gCO2eq/kWh, 11gCO2eq/kWh, and 45gCO2eq/kWh respectively according to IPCC data), making them equally worthy of consideration and praise in the battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. All of these methods collectively provide effective alternatives to high-carbon, non-sustainable fuels, and should therefore be at the forefront of energy system planning and reform moving forward.

Country/Region Watts / person % TWh
Iceland 1696.6 W 27.7% 5.5 TWh
New Zealand 165.3 W 17.5% 7.4 TWh
Costa Rica 32.6 W 12.0% 1.5 TWh
El Salvador 28.9 W 19.3% 1.6 TWh
Guadeloupe 28.3 W 5.9% 0.1 TWh
Turkey 13.5 W 3.1% 10.1 TWh
Kenya 13.3 W 46.2% 6.2 TWh
Nicaragua 13.0 W 13.0% 0.8 TWh
Philippines 11.7 W 10.4% 11.7 TWh
Italy 10.0 W 1.9% 5.2 TWh
Indonesia 6.6 W 5.1% 15.9 TWh
United States 6.3 W 0.4% 18.6 TWh
Papua New Guinea 4.6 W 8.2% 0.4 TWh
Mexico 3.8 W 1.1% 4.3 TWh
Honduras 3.4 W 2.6% 0.3 TWh
Japan 3.4 W 0.4% 3.7 TWh
Netherlands 2.8 W 0.4% 0.4 TWh
Chile 2.5 W 0.5% 0.4 TWh
The World 2.1 W 0.5% 142.4 TWh
Guatemala 2.0 W 2.1% 0.3 TWh
EU 1.5 W 0.2% 5.8 TWh
South Korea 1.4 W 0.1% 0.6 TWh
South Africa 0.5 W 0.1% 0.2 TWh
Croatia 0.5 W 0.1% 0.0 TWh
Germany 0.3 W 0.0% 0.2 TWh
Republic of China (Taiwan) 0.1 W 0.0% 0.0 TWh
India 0.0 W 0.0% 0.5 TWh
Hungary 0.0 W 0.0% 0.0 TWh
People's Republic of China 0.0 W 0.0% 0.1 TWh
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