The World Bankannounced March 6 a major international effort to expand renewable power generation in developing countries by tapping an underutilized resource: geothermal energy. World Bank Managing DirectorSri Mulyani Indrawaticalled on donors, multilateral banks, governments and the private sector to join a Global Geothermal Development Plan to better manage and reduce risks of exploratory drilling to bring what is now a marginal renewable energy source into the mainstream.

 “Geothermal energy could be a triple win for developing countries: clean, reliable, locally-produced power. And once it is up and running, it is cheap and virtually endless,” he said.  “The World Bank Group, and many of our partners, support the goals of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative … Two of those goals are universal access to modern energy services and doubling the world’s proportion of renewable energy. Geothermal energy, mobilized by the Global Geothermal Development Plan, will be a major step toward both.”

Already, the World Bank and Iceland are working together under a Geothermal Compact to support surface exploration studies and technical assistance for countries in Africa’s Rift Valley.

Many developing world regions are rich in geothermal resources, including East Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America and the Andean region. At least 40 countries have enough geothermal potential to meet a significant proportion of their electricity demand.