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Study Visit to Iceland in the project “Capacity building of key stakeholders in the area of geothermal energy”, September 25th – 29th, 2023

Study Visit to Iceland in the project “Capacity building of key stakeholders in the area of geothermal energy”, September 25th – 29th, 2023

Study Visit to Iceland in the project “Capacity building of key stakeholders in the area of geothermal energy”, September 25th – 29th, 2023

A Study Visit to Iceland was organised between September 25th and 29th 2023 under the EEA FM Project called “Capacity building of key stakeholders in the area of geothermal energy”.

 

The project is one of the three predefined projects financed by the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area in the Environment, Energy, and Climate Change Programme (2014–2021), specifically in the Energy program area. It is executed by the Mineral and Energy Economy Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences (MEERI PAS) and the National Energy Authority (NEA) of Iceland. The project is scheduled to run from October 2020 to April 2024. www.keygeothermal.pl.

The project aims to enhance the capacity of key stakeholders in geothermal energy by improving their skills and knowledge in the utilization of geothermal resources, including, but not limited to, low-emission heating. It is designed to contribute to the objectives of the programme, specifically in the development of geothermal use in Poland. This support extends to various activities in the sector, such as investments facilitated by governmental support schemes implemented in recent years.

 

Another significant focus of the project is on district heating using renewable energy sources, aiming to increase energy security, efficiency, and reduce pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. This aspect is crucial in the ongoing battle against climate change. The project stakeholders encompass representatives from various administration levels, local governments, operators of existing and potential investors in planned geothermal heating plants, geological administration bodies, scientific research organizations, service providers, consultants, and other entities in the geothermal sector.

The Study Visit in Iceland in 2023 was a second round of such activities – first round was held in September 2022. It began on September 26th, with a Workshop focusing on optimal use of geothermal energy for district heating, with almost 80 participants. Halla Hrund Logadóttir, Director General of the National Energy Authority of Iceland opened the Workshop and underlined the importance of cooperation between Iceland and Poland, within the EEA Agreements in a project like this when countries are dealing with great energy and climate challenges. She hoped to see more and bigger further similar projects in the next program period og the EEA Grant.  

 

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, the Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate of Iceland, addressed the Workshop and highlighted the importance of such projects towards increasing energy security and mitigating Climate Change and the importance and opportunities for more bilateral projects and cooperation between Poland and Iceland. He highlighted thanks for the Workshop to all participants of the projects within the Mineral and Energy Economic Research Institute, the Polish Academy of Science and NEA in Iceland, as well as to the Ministry of Climate and Environment and the National Fund in Poland for constructive cooperation in this field in past years.   

Sigríður Eysteinsdóttir Counsellor at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs stated that they were very pleased to see projects, like your study visit, come to fruition through the Grants. It is positive that we can share our expertise in the field of geothermal energy and learn from each other’s experiences. She mentioned also that It’s worth noting that negotiations for the next period of the Grants are ongoing, and we are doing our best to advance them. Hopefully, we will soon gain clarity regarding the extent of our collaboration potential within the framework of the Grants in the future.

Gerard Pokruszyński, the Polish Ambassador to Iceland, delivered a special address highlighting the unprecedented global circumstances triggered by the Russian Federation’s military attack on Ukraine and the resulting multiple crises, including the energy crisis. He stated, “We warned our neighbours that the supposedly cheap energy sources, especially gas – under the Nord Strem 1 and Nord Stream 2 projects were another form of Russia’s warfare. They did not listen, and today not only are they paying a high price, but they are also surprised by this situation. Poland was not surprised.

Exactly one year ago, we opened the Baltic Pipe," he said. "We must be prepared for the worst, and Poland is prepared. But we go further. This includes cooperation with Iceland. Iceland, with its unique sources of geothermal energy, can help support Europe,hopefully in collaboration with Poland. I wish Poland and Iceland a successful partnership in geothermal energy. There was a time when Polish coal heated the homes of Icelanders. Today, we are counting on joint investments using geothermal energy sources and the joint production of 'green' and sustainable energy.

 

In presentations from Agata Gładzka, Marcin Szyndler and Tomasz Mieczkowski from the Ministry of Climate and Environment in Poland they presented the Energy Policy and Geothermal Road Map in Poland. The Ministry of Climate and Environment is implementing a project for the development of geothermal energy in Poland - a strategic project: The Long-term Program for the Use of Geothermal. Total estimated co-financing costs for point 1-8 is approx. PLN 12,735.5 million.

 

These tasks are financed by the Ministry of Climate and Environment, National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, National Center for Research and Development, BOŚ Bank, State Treasury, National Reconstruction Plan, sources of the new financial perspective, e.g. European Funds for Infrastructure, Climate, Environment 2021-2027 (FEnIKS), modernization fund. The cost of development of geothermal energy (in general sense) may reach the overall amount of 49,327.1 PLN million by 2050, including private capital and co-financing. 

The National fund in Poland was presented by Krystian Przybylski from the Energy Transformation Department and Natalia Roguska coordinator of the program for co-financing "Polska Geotermia Plus"

Energy Transformation Department. The priority program Providing access to thermal waters in Poland is dedicated exclusively to supporting the drilling of the first exploratory well, aimed at effective access to thermal waters in Poland. It is an important measure to support local governments in undertaking geothermal investments and is of key importance for mitigating the risk associated with making the first exploratory well on an undocumented thermal water deposit, as we finance the well 100%.

Other program offers of the National Fund, including the priority program Polska Geotermia Plus or EU funds already support the investment stage related to the construction of heating plants and heat distribution and make geothermal an important element of the transformation of the heating sector, which aims not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, competitiveness and energy efficiency of the economy, but also to improve the living conditions of citizens. Construction of heat sources using geothermal energy (deep geothermal energy) is also supported by the Program "Environment, Energy and Climate Change" of the EEA FM 2014-2021.

Maria Guðmundsdóttir, Geothermal Expert, National energy Authority underlined fast energy transition in house heating from oil to geothermal in Iceland during 1970-1980, where heating houses, presented the key elements of geothermal district heating of their companies and cities and municipalities, explaining the development as well as future policy and tasks.

 

Both Beata Kępinska, Project leader, MEERI PAS, and Baldur Pétursson, Project coordinator, NEA team, highlighted engineering, economic and environmental benefits of the project, more energy security and mitigation of Climate Change. They also underlined the importance of more networks and cooperation between Poland and Iceland regarding this subject. Baldur stated that the project of the EEA Development Fund in the field of energy, environment, and climate in Poland, in which Iceland is participating, among other things, will bring benefits in the field of climate that will amount to approximately 600 thousand tons less carbon dioxide emissions every single year.

The focus of the visit held in September 2023, was learning good practices in geothermal district heating,

and other geothermal applications in Iceland, aspects related to the state’s role, modern management, economics, and energy in Iceland. The Study Visit was preceded by training activities in Poland between April 25th and 28th 2023 (more info. at: www.keygeothermal.pl). The Study Visit was prepared by the NEA’s team in collaboration with MEERI PAS.

27 participants from Poland took part in the Study Visit to Iceland. They represented local governments and district heating companies and beneficiaries of government programmes supporting geothermal use in Poland; power companies interested in adding geothermal district heating and other geothermal applications to their portfolio; state geological bodies, scientific institutions, branch media, the Ministry of Climate and Environment and National Fund for Environment Protection and Water Management. Participants were accompanied by MEERI PAS members.

There were several presentations from companies, institutions, cities, and municipalities from Poland, with the focus on the main challenges as well as priorities, tasks, and projects towards construction of district heating in relevant locations. There were also several presentations from Icelandic companies, institutions, and academia, with emphasise on main activities and expertise in geothermal district heating, as well as in related innovation spin offs, renewable energy, and energy transition.       

The Workshop’s agenda included an overview of the state of geothermal use in Iceland and Poland, with a particular focus on both countries’ geothermal district heating solutions, policies, and strategies. The speakers indicated the need to maximise the use of local energy resources, e.g., geothermal energy. They emphasised the role of international cooperation in this area, including cooperation between Iceland and Poland.

The match-making session was highly popular among the Workshop participants and attracted almost 70 representatives. It included presentations of Polish and Icelandic companies and institutions interested in cooperation and establishing direct contacts in district heating and other uses of geothermal energy.  Karen Kjartansdóttir, from Orkustofnun chairman of the meeting, stated that the positive feedback from all participants, affirms that such event is not only well-received but also essential for addressing our shared challenges in energy security, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development. Maciej Miecznik, from MEERI PAS, was also co-chair of the meeting.

The second and third day (September 27th and 28th) of the busy stay in Iceland covered visits to selected geothermal facilities, including heating plants in Reykjavík and several localities in the south of Iceland which operate based on geothermal waters with parameters like those observed in many Polish places.

 

The participants learned about the management, practical use, and billing of energy consumption by end users. Different methods were presented of geothermal water, steam, and energy use in cogeneration plants in Hellisheiði and Svartsengi, south of Iceland, including several innovative methods and projects implemented in geothermal resource parks. 

Moreover, they learned about successful research and works, e.g., on carbon dioxide reinjection and storage in rock mass (stored permanently in a solid form) carried out for several years now and about alternative fuel production. Many of these applications and energy cluster experiences can be implemented in Poland.

The participants received information package during and after the Study Visit.During the Study Visit it was possible to discover geothermal, natural and historical attractions of Iceland, geysers, Gullfoss waterfall, Þingvellir rift valley (where Iceland’s statehood and parliamentarism originated from), enjoying geothermal pools, admiring the Northern Lights, and taking a walk around Reykjavík which is the northernmost capital in the world and also the cleanest one, as it is nearly entirely heated with geothermal energy (the first geothermal heating systems were built in the 1930s).

Participants gave positive evaluations of the organisation and content of the Study Visit. It was ensured through the agenda that the geothermal conditions and district heating perspectives in Poland, were in accordance with the participants’ expectations and needs.

The Study Visit was a success, thanks to organisers and active participants and high interest in all topics discussed as well as visited geothermal facilities, conversations, and friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Overall comment from the Polish delegation was that this has been one of the best-prepared Study Visit they have participated in, it was well conceived and suited to the participants’ needs. The professional services of two interpreters significantly contributed to a full understanding of the content and comfort of the participants.

The Study Visit fulfilled the set objectives, and it will undoubtedly translate into specific effects for many participants, their companies, and institutions. It proved (similarly to the previous training activities in Poland in April 2023) that Polish stakeholders need such activities as well as the opportunity to use the expertise in district heating and other methods of geothermal use, especially from the global leaders in this area.

 

While geysers and geothermal steam are notable resources in Iceland, the country offers more. The temperature of Icelandic geothermal water in certain areas resembles that found in Poland. Geothermal water is widely utilized in Iceland for district heating and various applications. During the Study Visit, participants witnessed this firsthand, grasped the underlying arguments, and were motivated to explore similar geothermal applications in Poland, particularly considering the current challenges we face.
The Study Visit facilitated the exchange of experiences and information between Polish and Icelandic stakeholders regarding geothermal district heating and other applications. It provided a platform to harness the power of collaboration and contacts, aligning with the key objectives of the EEA FM Programme, under which the KeyGeothermal Project is executed, and the reference Study Visit was organized.

The Project partners express their sincere gratitude to all individuals and institutions involved in organizing the Study Visit, developing the agenda, creating information materials, and managing logistical aspects. They also extend their thanks to the participants for contributing to the excellent atmosphere and providing positive feedback on the Study Visit. The successful execution of this initiative was the result of effective cooperation and the dedicated engagement of many individuals, opening up further options and opportunities for enhanced bilateral cooperation between Poland and Iceland in renewables and geothermal district heating. This collaboration aims to reduce pollution, enhance energy security, and contribute to the mitigation of climate change. The 'Capacity Building of Key Stakeholders in the Area of Geothermal Energy' project is financially supported by the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism within the framework of the Environment, Energy, and Climate Change Programme (2014–2021) in the Energy programme area.

 

Summary of the news from the conference, were presented at the web of Orkustofnun  News was also from the meeting, like interview with Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate (Icelandic).  Interview were also with company Artic Green that can be seen here in English  and Icelandic.

 

Photos taken during the event are shown under the text.

Anton Brink, NEA    

Beata Kępińska, Aleksandra Kasztelewicz (MEERI PAS, Poland),
Baldur Petursson, (NEA/ Orkustofnun, Iceland)

 

More information regarding the project can be reached from:

Beata Kępińska, Project manager, MEERI PAS, e-mail: bkepinska@interia.pl

Baldur Pétursson, Project manager, NEA side, e-mail: baldur.petursson@os.is