• English

UNFC and Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy could play a significant role in ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, but production today is only at 7% of the estimated global potential. Geothermal energy exists in almost 90 countries, but only 24 of them produce electricity from geothermal sources. Geothermal energy’s potential as a viable energy option with global scale has been constrained to date by a lack of clear global assessment guidelines and standards.  A globally-applicable, harmonized standard for reporting geothermal resources is now available based on UNFC.

Growing awareness and interest in renewable energy resources, including geothermal resources, has highlighted a need to normalize the way in which renewable energy potential is reported. The renewable energy industry has become a fully commercialized sector, in which several oil and gas majors have already started to play a significant role. These players have voiced a need for a common platform to assess and compare in a transparent way the potential of their renewable and non-renewable energy portfolios.

A common assessment and comparison framework for renewable and non-renewable energy resources is also needed by investors, regulators, governments and consumers as a foundation for a comprehensive overview of current and future energy sustainability scenarios at project, company, country, region or world level. With no globally agreed geothermal standards, guidelines or codes existing prior to the development of this document, it is hoped that the inclusion of geothermal energy within UNFC will facilitate the improvement of global communication in the geothermal sector as part of the larger energy sector.

Geothermal Energy Sub-group

At the fifth session of the Expert Group on Resource Classification in April 2014, the Task Force on Application of UNFC to Renewable Energy was requested to provide at least one draft renewable commodity-specific specification for review at the sixth session. To this end, the Task Force called upon the expertise of the International Geothermal Association (IGA) to provide specifications for the application of UNFC to geothermal energy resources using the full granularity of UNFC. A Geothermal Energy Sub-group was established.

Membership of Geothermal Energy Sub-group

Geothermal Energy Specifications

The Geothermal Working Group developed a set of draft specifications for the application of UNFC to geothermal energy resources which were presented to the Expert Group on Resource Classification at its seventh session, 26–29 April 2016, for review (document ECE/ENERGY/GE.3/2016/6). The Expert Group requested that the draft specifications be issued for public comment, following which the document approval procedure agreed at the fifth session of the Expert Group should be followed (ECE/ENERGY/GE.3/2014/2, paragraph 97). The draft specifications were issued for public comment for three months and the Geothermal Working Group reviewed all the comments received and produced the Generic Specifications in response.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has just celebrated its first anniversary. Application of UNFC to renewable energy resources is a priority for our member States, and inclusion of geothermal energy in UNFC will help to attain Sustainable Development Goal #7 by improving the positioning of geothermal within the policy and investment communities.”
Scott Foster, Director, UNECE Sustainable Energy Division

A set of 14 case studies on the applications of United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) to geothermal energy from Australia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines and Russian Federation. The case studies are presented here to illustrate the application of the geothermal energy specifications for the uniform use of UNFC in different contexts. These application examples from different countries provide a range of scenarios in the classification of geothermal resources in a manner consistent with the classification of other energy resources.

MoU with International Geothermal Association (IGA) The work to develop the Specifications for Application of UNFC-2009 to Geothermal Energy Resources was carried out under a Memorandum of Understanding between UNECE and the International Geothermal Association signed on 19  September 2014. Under this MoU, the IGA agreed to develop Specifications and Guidelines for the application of UNFC-2009 to geothermal energy and to maintain them evergreen in a manner consistent with their proper application through regular and periodic review.

Geothermal Specifications became operational on 30 September 2016

Specifications for Application of UNFC-2009 to Geothermal Energy Resources version 30 September 2016
***Available in English and Spanish***

the Geothermal Specifications are intended to be used in conjunction with (i) UNFC-2009 incorporating Specifications for its Application (as set out in ECE Energy Series No. 42, ECE/ENERGY/94) and (ii) Specifications for Application of UNFC-2009 to Renewable Energy Resources (Renewables Specifications). The Renewables Specifications represent ‘rules of application’ of UNFC-2009 to Renewable Energy Resources, while the Geothermal Specifications represent ‘rules of application’ of UNFC-2009 to Geothermal Energy Resources, via the Renewables Specifications. Hence, the Geothermal Specifications are to be used only in conjunction with these two documents and not as a stand-alone document.


Specifications for Application of UNFC-2009 to Renewable Energy Resources  [English, French, Russian]


UNFC-2009Arabic, English, French, Spanish, RussianChinese and Thai

Geothermal Sub-group

The development of these specifications was undertaken by a Working Group of expert volunteers led by Professor Gioia Falcone.

Membership of the Geothermal Sub-group

Public Comment 2016

The Geothermal Specifications underwent a public review process. They were issued for public comment on the UNECE website for a period of three months. The three-month period ran from 6 June 2016 until 4 August 2016.

Further details are available here.