Better than a crystal ball
Although we cannot pretend to see the future, we can look at reports, market trends, growth and potential. All of these are indicators of a future that is less dependent on coal. According to Bloomberg's New Energy Outlook, "Cheaper coal and cheaper gas will not derail the transformation and decarbonisation of the world’s power systems. By 2040, zero-emission energy sources will make up 60% of installed capacity."
The market for waste heat recovery systems is supposed to reach USD 74.72 billion by 2023.
The global market for geothermal heat pumps (GHP) is expected to reach USD 38.92 billion by 2024 (with an impressive projected growth rate of CAGR of 13%).
The hot spots
Today the U.S. leads the way with 3450 MW of installed capacity, yet geothermal heat power still only accounts for less than 1% of the nation’s power supply. In contrast, just over half of Kenya’s power comes from geothermal heat – although its installed capacity is only 594 MW. Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, New Zealand, Italy and Iceland also top the list. Combined, these countries cover more than 80% of the heat power market.
But where is the most growth happening?
Japan geothermal heat power market is predicted to expand over 8% by 2024.
Asia is also where most waste heat recovery systems are being installed, particularly in China where the government has supportive policies in place.
Mexico, already the world’s fourth leading nation in geothermal heat power production with an installed capacity of more than 1,000 MW as of 2016, just received $108.6 million in loans to encourage further investment. This could bring another 300 MW of power online in the next 10 years.
The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal #7 states that by 2030, we should have substantially increased the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. Here is a fun tracking tool where you can chart your country’s progress and compare it with others’.
Another aspect of this goal is to provide electricity to the world population – and while we have made great progress here (from 78 to 87 percent just in 2018), the share of renewables in the energy mix increased only marginally – from 17.3 percent in 2014 to 17.5 percent in 2015.
The potential is enormous – and mostly untapped. The U.S. has tapped less than 0.6% of its geothermal electricity resources. In the global energy mix, geothermal only accounts for 0.15% of the world’s energy consumption. Yet with a capacity factor of over 90%, and “suitable aquifers underlying about 16% of the Earth’s surface,” geothermal electricity could replace coal, natural gas, and nuclear by providing a baseload power supply.
Those numbers probably don’t take into account the global waste heat potential. If we were to harness the waste heat of the global steel industry alone, it would create enough electricity to fulfill the needs of a country like Germany. Imagine if we could harness the waste heat from all industry.
And let’s not forget about heat pumps: “Ground source heat pumps for heating and cooling use 30-60% less energy than traditional heating and cooling systems and could potentially reduce U.S. residential energy use by 3 Quadrillion Btu (~3 % of total U.S. energy use).