The United Nations University Geothermal Training Programme


Dear friends, ladies and gentleman,

You are the vanguard of the new geothermal generation. All of you come from countries that possess great geothermal potential. All of you are privileged to be able to take part in the great build-up of geothermal power plants, inyour own country or elsewhere, that I belive we shall see in the next decade.

This also means, that you will be able to contribute not only to increase the wealth and development of your own country, but also to take part in solving the climatic problems that the whole world is facing.

It is therefore with particular pleasure that I address you here today on this 29thy graduation ceremony of the UNU Geothermal Training Programme in Iceland – as a minister with particular interest as well as affection for the geothermal science.

As some of you may know, I have a long standing relationship with this school.

My wife, who has had the good or bad fortune to suffer me for almost 35 year in rather a happy marriage, has been a teacher at this school almost since its foundation, and throughout the years I have come to know quite a few of the students that have passed though its corridors.

I certainly know a few in this audience, both from the present students, as well as some former ones, that have already made good careers in their own countries and are present here to day, visiting Iceland in relation to the IGE-meeting.

So, I can state without reservation that I am truly a part of the international geothermal community.

It is a pleasure to see you all.

Allow me to use this opportunity to congratulate all of you on this occasion. First and foremost my congratulations go to the 21 individuals who are graduating today, but I also would like to congratulate the staff and teachers of the programme. They have done a fantastic job throughout the years, and I esp. congratulate Ingvar Birgir on the splendid success of the school.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe Iceland really can and has a moral duty to contribute to the production of green energy in the world on a much larger scale than we already do. Only today I read in the papers an interview with John Lund, the president of the IGE, who stated that Iceland was in the forefront of developing the geothermal science in the world, and that in his country, the USA, Icelandic geothermal companies were sougth after due to their success in power generation, and had great tasks ahead.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my views on Iceland’s role in the field geothermal energy. I always do, when I find the audience!

They Icelanders are a self-proclaimed geothermal nation, and it has gradually become a part of our identity. I state without any reservation that the Icelanders are today among the world´s leading experts in the utilisation of geothermal energy. They posess not only state-of the art, but wield a breaking-edge technology on all fronts geothermal.

In Iceland we have the longest track record in the use of geothermal energy, stretching back almost a century although production of electricity by geothermal means has only really taken off in the last decade or so.

We also have the very strong geothermal energy companies, that have built up a lot of capital, and are ready and willing to expand abroad.

I think we also - probably - possess the largest pool of educated talent in this particular field, one of the worlds most experienced geothermal drilling company is Icelandic and already operating around the globe, and presently we are developing a truly break-through technology that may enable to harness much greater energy from the geothermal fields than has been possible to date. I am, of course, referring to the deep-drilling project, that excites really a lot these days.

Iceland is a small country and we may not have so much to contribute in other fields to fight the climatic problems, that overshadowhe so many nations today. It is therefore my firm believe, that our major contribution could – and should – be in making our expertise and experience in harnessing power from the earth and in building geopower plants available to the world.

I also happen to think that this is our ethical and moral duty to the rest of the world, as I stated before.

Geothermal energy is not going to solve the global problem, but it can be a part of the solution, and it is the field, where we, the Icelanders, and you, the future scientists in this particular science, can put our weight on the scales.

Sometimes, when I give my vision on Iceland and the possibilities of geothermal power in the future, people ask me politely what this really has that to do with the rest of the world? Isn´t Iceland a volcanic island, and are there any geothermal fields to be harnessed in other parts of the world?

You know the answer better than most. It is a firm yes.

The truth is, that there are vast untapped geothermal resources in most parts of the world. In at least 140 countries geothermal energy is to be found in some form or other.

You know the potential in your own countries. We know what can be done, and how to do it.

As you can hear, the government that I represent as Minister for Industry and Energy has strong plans on promoting geothermal energey, and the production of geothermal power. That applies not only to Iceland, but to as many other countries as possible.

When the government was formed last spring, we agreed a policy that included a clear commitment to the export of our experience and knowledge within the field of geothermics.

Experience shows, however, that it is not enough to offer technological assistance. A lot of nations lack the financial strength to be able to invest on basis of the technology on offer. We as a government have therefore supported that Icelandic technical knowledge and experience in geothermics be joined with private capital, be it from our own strong financial institutions, banks from host-nations or international companies, to work globally for that aim.

You perhaps know the story of Reykjavik Energy Invest, Rei, and its merger with Geysir Green Energy. This new company has great plans, and it moves swiftly, and already is making contracts in several countries. Most of you are likely to encounter it sooner than later in your own countries, be they in Africa, Asia or South-America. Some of you may even become employees for them in your countries, or continents, and thus continue your relationship with Iceland.

I add, as I know a few of you come from Indonesia and the Philippiens, that next week I shall visit my colleaques in these two countries in my capacity as Minister for Energy, with a delegation from Reykjavik Energy Invest.

Ladies and gentleman,

The Icelandic government is committed to continue contributing with the export to of know-how through our schools and our scientists. I am proud to say that The United Nations University Geothermal Training Programme is an excellent example of this. Through it we have now had the pleasure of graduating 380 UNU fellows from 41 countries.

As a result, in many countries in Africa, Asia, Central America and Central and Eastern Europe, graduates from the UN University in Iceland are among the leading specialists in geothermal research and development. They have been very successful, and have contributed significantly to energy development in their parts of the world. The same will apply to you.

I have strongly advocated with a view to the governments pledge to increase aid to developing countries, that more money should in the coming years be advanced to the Geothermal Training Programme. Increased funding should particularly be diverted to increase the number of students offered to finish a Master´s Degree, and even advance to a PhD. I have discussed this both within the government, and especially with the Foreign Minister. The idea has been welcomed and appreciated.

When you go home to your own countries, do not forget Iceland. We are a small nation, but our journey from being an underdeveloped country to a wealthy nation is an example, that a lot of nations can learn from.

The story of Iceland transforming itself from an underdeveloping country at the end of the WW, and into a modern high-income welfare state in a relatively short period of time, is unquestionably closely related to our success in the utilization of renewable energy sources.

Our example can serve as a show-case, and a very potent example, for a great many countries in the world, not least those nations with geothermal potential.

And that is the role and duty of you, to use your education, learning and experience to create wealth for your people and at the same time to assist the transition of the world from being dependent on fossil fuels to renewable resources. Of course, geothermal power will not solve all the problems, but a part of it. You can contribute, and you should not only regard it as a duty, but a privilege.

Dear friends,

I know - if not from contacts with some of you personally the through my wife - how hard you have worked during your study in Iceland. It is hard to come to a foreign country from afar, where you hardly no anyone. I, who took my Ph.D. in a country I had never visited before, know that from my own experience. I know too, that it must be difficult to join a new culture, suffer, embrace, and perhaps come to love our strange climate.

But it shows the calibre of the students, the strength both of you and the school, that all of you have succeded in finishing your study, and your story is therefore a story of success. Now you will go to your own countries, where you shall use your new experience, and continue to work hard for the good of your nations, and the good of the world. In that sense, you are privileged, you have a chance to pay back to your societies, and to the world.

You will be a valued addition to the ever growing legion of able scientists around the world, who are going to create a new and a better future, for yourselves, for your families, for your nations.

Be optimistic, resilitent, hard-working, and the future is yours.

I trust that you have enjoyed your stay in Iceland and go from here with fond memories.

I wish you all well for the future, and again, congratulations on your gradutation.

Do not forget us.