Untapped Geothermal Energy: an Active Negotiation Between Incumbents and Challengers Within the Geothermal Community


Bryant JONES

Key Words:

agenda setting, geothermal community, energy policy, strategic action fields, frame analysis, incumbents and challengers, policy attention, messaging and framing, advocacy coalitions


Stanford Geothermal Workshop







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250 KB

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There exists what appears to be an impressive potential for geothermal energy production in the United States, yet it has remained largely untapped. Geothermal power represents just 0.4 percent of the utility-scale electricity generation compared to 37 percent for the clean energy sources of nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind. Geothermal district heating systems number a mere 23 in the United States. What explains this gap? Why is it, given the ongoing energy transition in the United States, that geothermal energy 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 non-technical hurdles and opportunities for geothermal. This paper reports on preliminary research from an ongoing qualitative study examining how the geothermal energy community frames and discusses geothermal technologies, which shape policy attention and agenda setting both intentionally and unintentionally. Using the Strategic Action Fields concept, this paper examines how challengers attempt to destabilize incumbents in the geothermal community to alter incumbent strategies of discourse, advocacy, framing, narratives, and business models.

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