Research Projects and Publications

Why Geothermal? Analysis of Community Acceptance to Promote Energy Justice and Sustainable Development Strategies in Rural Argentina

Geothermal Engineering and Exploration

Author: Jackson Marshall Grimes
Year: 2022
Supervisors: Dr. Juliet Ann Newson


As greenhouse gases continue to rise, demand is increasing for meaningful and workable solutions to combat climate change. Many countries are broadening their energy matrix and exploring opportunities to develop Geothermal Power Projects (GPPs), often in regions where industrialization has not occurred. As the number of GPPs in pre-feasibility grows, it is imperative that the development of these projects is done in a socially just and equitable manner. Decision-makers should act early in the planning of renewable energy ventures to adequately inform the public of risks and benefits.

This research investigates community acceptance and understanding of geothermal energy amongst the people of Varvarco, a small, remote village in the Argentinean Andes. Varvarco is the closest settlement to Argentina’s highest potential geothermal project, Domuyo. Through a series of one-on-one interviews, internet surveys, and town hall discussions, the theory is tested that better education and encouraging interest can improve public opinion of geothermal technologies among marginalized populations. Based on qualitative data gathered from this study I suggest a variety of direct-use projects to continue to enhance public perception of geothermal energy. The results of this study are discussed in the context of energy justice in developing economies and which sustainable development goals can be championed in Varvarco.

By opening a dialogue with local stakeholders and embracing their concerns developers can build trust. When local needs are actively incorporated into design solutions, the result can be impactful and balanced GPPs. Ignoring the traditions of the people who have lived for generations in zones that policymakers recently set aside for renewable energy enterprises has led to social resistance movements. When contractors work alongside communities early in project planning, site-specific and circular designs can be integrated into the daily lives of the population most affected by the rush to carbon neutrality.