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World Geothermal Congress 2023

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Untapped Geothermal Energy: How The Geothermal Electricity Policy Community Frames and Views Social, Political, Technical, and Economic Complexities

There exists what appears to be an impressive potential for geothermal electricity production around the globe, yet it has remained largely untapped. Geothermal power, in 2021, generated a mere 14,050 megawatts of electricity generation out of the 2,799,094 megawatts of clean energy sources from technologies including nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind. What explains this gap? Why is it, given the ongoing global energy transformation, that geothermal electricity production’s time has not yet come? Existing research points to the economic, geographic, and technical limitations of geothermal. But more needs to be done to understand the non-technical and sociopolitical hurdles and opportunities for geothermal. This paper reports on research from a qualitative study examining how the geothermal energy community frames and narrates geothermal technologies and innovations, which shape policy attention and agenda setting both intentionally and unintentionally. This paper focuses on the role policy entrepreneurs and the policy community play in agenda-setting using the Multiple Streams Approach as well as messaging and framing literatures: Frame Analysis and Strategic Action Fields. The research combines well-established and highly regarded frameworks not usually applied together to study technology stagnation and opportunity-making, specifically as it relates to utility-scale geothermal electricity generation.

Bryant Jones
Boise State University
United States


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