Ráðstefna Jarðhitafélags Íslands


Valgerður Sverrisdóttir
iðnaðar- og viðskiptaráðherra

Closing Address at the International Geothermal Conference
on the Multiple Integrated use of Geothermal Resources,
hosted by the Geothermal Association of Iceland

Mr. Chairman, respected guests.

I am honoured to be permitted to address you here at the close of this large and wide-ranging conference on the multiple integrated use of geothermal resources. Over 80 lectures have been given here, covering virtually all areas of geothermal research and the use of geothermal energy throughout the world.

We Icelanders are very proud of our achievements in recent decades in utilising our geothermal resources, first for residential heating and, more recently, for the generation of electricity. Thermal sources, which for centuries were used primarily for bathing, washing and cooking, are scattered far and wide around the country. It was not until early in the last century that technology made it possible to utilise geothermal energy for residential heating in this country, replacing peat, coal and oil. This trend began on a small scale approximately 70 years ago and by 1970 around 50% of all residential housing in Iceland was geothermally heated, while 45% was heated by oil. During the oil crisis between 1973 and 1979 the government embarked on the systematic development of heating utilities across the country, and the electricity grid was strengthened to increase the electrical heating of houses in areas where no geothermal energy was available. Today, approximately 88% of Icelandic housing is geothermally heated and 11% is electrically heated. This means that practically all residential heating in Iceland comes from renewable energy sources. Also, the use of geothermal resources for the production of electricity has increased over the past decade from 5% of electricity consumption to 18%, and it is likely that the role of geothermal power will increase still more in coming years.

The use of geothermal energy is, therefore, an important aspect of the energy use and quality of life that we Icelanders enjoy. Of Iceland's total energy use, geothermal energy accounts for 54% and hydropower accounts for around 18%, which means that approximately 72% of the country's total energy comes from renewable energy sources, a unique situation in the world. The use of these energy sources is therefore of considerable economic significance for Iceland and one of the main pillars of the nation's welfare and prosperity.

Discussion of global energy issues has increased tremendously in recent years. At last year's Summit Meeting in Johannesburg on sustainable development, much of the discussion was focused on energy matters, not least in which ways the role of renewable energy sources could be increased in world energy production in order to reduce emissions of green-house gases and other environmental damage. In my opinion it is extremely important for all nations, who are able to do so, to utilise as efficiently as possible their geothermal resources in order to achieve this objective.

A number of countries have in recent years shown a growing interest in expanding the role of renewable energy sources by utilising geothermal energy in place of fossil fuel energy. There is no doubt that geothermal energy can be found and utilised in many areas around the world. It is surely an under-utilised resource for energy production and diverse industrial use which we are under obligation to study and utilise to a far greater extent. This has been one of the main issues addressed at this conference, and the lectures given here reveal how many important projects in this field are being carried out in various parts of the world.

This conference is held on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Training Programme in Iceland, and, as the lectures here at this conference have shown, it has been a great success. We Icelanders are proud of the work that has been done here and even prouder of the success of the students who have studied here and have achieved important results, each in their own field. Many former students of the United Nations University Geothermal Training Programme in Iceland have given lectures here, and I am especially pleased that their stay in Iceland has helped to strengthen and increase the use of geothermal energy in their home countries. We are interested in expanding still further our dissemination of knowledge of geothermal energy to countries which possess unused geothermal resources and in assisting these countries to develop their renewable energy resources.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provides for the obligation of the world's nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and there is no doubt that the increased use of geothermal energy plays a key role in many countries in this respect. Conferences such as this one are therefore an extremely important means to enable the foremost geothermal energy experts of the world to examine the best ways of utilising these important energy sources, and I am absolutely certain that this will help us on the path to this noble objective that we have set ourselves.

I believe that Iceland will continue to be among the leading countries in the world in the field of geothermal research. Next year the office of the International Geothermal Association will move to Iceland to remain here for 5 years. In light of the fact that it is in line with Icelandic government policy to increase and strengthen in all possible ways the utilisation of this resource, the Government of Iceland will fund the operation of the office to a large extent. The Government believes that supporting the increased use of geothermal energy in numerous areas of the world, where this resource is available in great quantities, is one of Iceland's best contributions in assisting poorer nations to increase their renewable energy sources. We therefore look forward with optimism to continued co-operation with all of you here, who have contributed to the success of this conference and to making our future and our children's future better through the increased use of geothermal energy on a global level.
I thank you for your attention.


Valgerður Sverrisdóttir