Iceland greenest country in the world

- Estela Banzon-De La Paz () - October 29, 2007 - 12:00am

Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” may seem like a myth to some especially those living in tropical countries like the Philippines. Moreso, when he talks about glaciers melting and its impact on the world’s sea levels.

But össur Skarphédinsson, Iceland’s Minister of Industry is a witness to this grim reality along with its neighboring country Greenland.

 “They’re (glaciers) receding quite rapidly, far too rapidly” much more than what people thought 10 years ago. And of course, we are neighbors with Greenland, with its huge glacier, and it’s really becoming a problem. It’s a problem that does not respect boundaries. This is a global problem that needs a global solution,” said Skarphédinson in a recent interview with The STAR.

As such, Skarphédinsson said Iceland is playing an active role in promoting renewable energy particularly geothermal energy. “What we can do is to participate in the world’s efforts to combat global warming. We want to emphasize that geothermal power is part of the solution,” he said.

 Iceland is abundant in geothermal power since it is located in the Mid-Atlantic range. When the Vikings discovered the island in the late 9th century, the Icelanders have been aware of the underground thermal activity. In fact,the capital city of Iceland was named Reykjavik,meaning “Bay of Smoke.”

However, it was only in the 1930s and 40s that geothermal was tapped for heating purposes albeit in small scale operations. Today, geothermal power accounts for 50 percent of Iceland’s electricity. It can be noted that over 99 percent of the country’s electricity comes from two environmentally-friendly resources – geothermal and hydropower. As such, Iceland can aptly be called the “greenest country” in the world.

While Iceland produces only 450 megawatts from geothermal power for their own use since that’s their country’s current requirements, it however, can easily harness 2,000 MW with their conventional technology. Lately, Iceland has been experimenting with a new technology that will further revolutionize the geothermal industry. Skarphédinsson revealed they are now implementing a “deep drilling technology” that can increase the power from the geothermal wells by as much as 10 times. “Optimistically, this can be commercially available in 10 years,’ he said.

Skarphédinsson said the Philippines and Iceland have a lot of things in common particularly in geothermal. The Philippines currently is the second largest producer of geothermal power next only to the United States.

He noted that the Philippines can’t go wrong in further developing its geothermal resources as this has been their experience. With Iceland’s government steadily supporting the development and use of their indigenous geothermal power in the 1970s and up to the present, it now has one of the highest per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in the world. In addition, its electricity rate is one of the lowest, if not the lowest in Europe, said Skarphédinsson.

And with such low electricity rates, Iceland is now one of the world’s biggest producer of aluminium. Aluminium is an energy-intensive industry similar to steel. This has been one of the key drivers of Iceland’s economy.

Skarphédinsson also said that basic research is very important in developing the geothermal industry. In Iceland, through the auspices of the United Nations, they were able to put up  a Geothermal University. Not surprisingly, a lot of Filipino geothermal engineers and scientists have studied in this prestigious University.

As such, he said the Philippines is not only blessed with geothermal resources, it has the human resources to also develop it to its fullest potential. It is because of such similarities that Iceland wants to invest in the Philippines.

“It is only natural that we get to work together. Iceland wants to invest in the Philippines particularly in geothermal fields and work in harmony with the local people and companies. And of course, only with the strictest respect for the environment,” Skarphédinsson said.

After all, protecting the environment and saving planet Earth is definitely part of the Icelandic mission.

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