In June, 12 leading Canadian geoscientists and researchers published a peer-reviewed report in the Journal of Geophysics and Geoengineering entitled “Geothermal Resource Energy Potential of Canada.” This report is the first comprehensive study of Canada’s geothermal resources, and the results are spectacular. According to the authors – which include scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada – Canada’s in-place geothermal power exceeds one million times the country’s current electrical consumption and as few as 100 geothermal projects could meet Canada’s energy needs. The full report can be downloaded from the Natural Resources Canada website.
While only a small fraction of this resource could be developed economically, a recent press release by the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) references the report and predicts that geothermal energy could realistically provide as much as 10% of Canada’s current electricity consumption. CanGEA also notes that the development of geothermal resources in Canada has finally begun, with several projects on the way and a record $200,000 price received in a public tender for Crown Geothermal Rights Permits in British Columbia in July. CanGEA claims that the geothermal energy industry represents a $25 billion market opportunity for companies that press ahead with the challenges of developing projects.
Anticipated federal regulations on emissions from coal and natural gas plants will likely provide further impetus for investment in geothermal energy in certain provinces. Alberta, for example, is currently dependant on coal and natural gas to generate electricity but is home to some of Canada’s most promising geothermal sites. Geothermal electricity generation is a process which emits very few emissions while providing reliable base load energy supply (which in many cases can be situated close to load), making it a more attractive alternative to gas than solar or wind energy. However, at present the up-front exploration and development costs remain an economic barrier to the pursuit of such opportunities by most private sector renewable energy developers.