Welcoming address by
H.E. Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland
President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson,
Distinguished speakers and participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honor for me to welcome you to the Iceland Geothermal Conference, although I would have preferred to be with you in person.
The world is at a crossroads and faced with challenges that can only be addressed effectively if we work together, organized and determined to reach our common goals. These goals were agreed upon when world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.
We know that climate change and sustainable development are linked, and the impacts of climate change constitute a major challenge for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Our success in ensuring mitigation, adaptation and building resilience to climate change depends on our strategy and action to implement these goals across all sectors.
Goal 7 “to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” is of particular relevance for our discussions at this conference and this summer, at the United Nations in New York, we will review our progress.
It is well known and documented that we need faster progress and stronger impact in all areas of sustainable energy. This includes access to energy, renewable energy development and energy efficiency. To achieve this, we need more financing, stronger policy commitments and active involvement of the private sector.
It has been a long-standing policy of successive Icelandic Governments to support initiatives worldwide that aim to increase the utilization of geothermal energy. The potential is enormous and mostly untapped. One of the main reasons lies in the financial cost, where drilling deep wells to access a geothermal reservoir requires a big investment with considerable risk. For geothermal energy to remain a feasible option the industry must remain vigilant and find cost effective solutions and innovations.
An important factor contributing to the feasibility of geothermal are the direct use opportunities. They have less technical barriers, are less costly, and result in visible social benefits and better air quality. This includes direct use of geothermal energy in heating of buildings, industry, agriculture and fishery sector.
The nexus between food security and geothermal energy is also relevant. In Iceland we have used geothermal energy in the agricultural and fisheries sector for very long time. The drying of food products for preservation is a good example and well known around the world. This potential is, however, far from being fully developed in food systems where geothermal can be increasingly used as an energy source instead of fossil fuel.
This was recognized last year in the first High-Level Conference of the Global Geothermal Alliance, which counts 43 member states and 31 partner institutions. This conference recommended that increased awareness about the technical feasibility and economic benefits of geothermal energy was needed.
However, we have witnessed positive developments in the last few years. For example, impressive investments are taking place in China to build whole cities with district heating derived from geothermal energy. This transformation in China has been done with Icelandic participation – I am proud to say.
There are great opportunities in breaking down barriers in the field of geothermal energy. The example from China shows what large-scale investments in infrastructure can do for air quality and improve quality of life – an impact that is both local and global in terms of climate change.
In Iceland´s international development cooperation, geothermal energy has been one of the key focus areas in recent decades. We are proud to be able to share our experience with other countries, which hold potential in geothermal utilization, either for electricity or direct use.
Most of you probably already know the United Nations Geothermal Training Programme, which is celebrating its 40 years anniversary. Almost 700 fellows from 60 countries have graduated from the Programme, which is the flagship of Iceland´s support to geothermal development. Furthermore, around 2.000 experts have participated in short courses worldwide and, as you may know, Kenya has recently surpassed Iceland in geothermal electricity production. We would like to believe that Iceland has, through capacity building, contributed to this great achievement in Kenya.
In recent years, Iceland has also enjoyed productive co-operation with the World Bank and the Nordic Development Fund in enhancing geothermal utilization. This has involved support to countries in the East Africa Rift Valley. Also, through its Global Geothermal Development Plan and with Iceland´s support, the World Bank has raised over 250 million US Dollars in financing to overcome risk in geothermal development.
Iceland, both public and private sector, is also actively participating in a SE4All driven initiative, which focuses on empowering women in the energy sector and unlocking finance to support gender responsive and socially inclusive energy access.
We know that opportunities for electricity production and direct use in countries with viable geothermal resources can make a significant difference for economic and social development, as well as mitigating climate change. This Conference provides a perfect opportunity to share knowledge and discuss how we can “break the barriers” to reach our goals.
With the Iceland Geothermal Conference you have once again demonstrated the importance of having a common platform to promote the geothermal sector in Iceland and assist Icelandic companies to engage even further in international collaboration.
Thank you, and I wish you a fruitful conference.