Master Plan

Master Plan for Hydro and Geothermal Energy Resources in iceland


A master plan comparing the economic feasibility and the environmental impact of the proposed power development projects has been issued. It is hoped that this comparison will aid in the selection of the most feasible projects to develop, considering both the economic and environmental impact of such decisions, such as which rivers or geothermal fields should not be harnessed due to their value as natural heritage and for recreation.

The creation process of the Master Plan has been split in two phases;

  • Phase 1, 1999-2003, concluded with a preliminary ruling due to limited research and data.
  • Phase 2, 2004-2009, was split in two parts; the first was a continuity stage, 2004-2007, responsible for further research and information gathering, but during the second part, 2007-2009, a new steering committee regenerated the evaluation process to be completed by the end of 2010.

Results of a first-phase study were presented in November 2003. During the first-phase evaluation  19 hydro projects, mostly glacial rivers located in Iceland's Highlands, and 24 geothermal projects centered in the high-temperature fields near the inhabited regions in the south, southwest and northeast of Iceland, were compared. The hydro projects had a combined potential of 10.5 TWh/yr. A number of these projects, with a combined potential of 4.7 TWh/yr, were, however, estimated to cause so severe an environmental impact that their development might not be acceptable. The geothermal projects considered had a combined potential of 13.2 TWh/yr. Projects with a total potential of 4.2 TWh/yr were also considered liable to cause severe environmental impact. A second phase evaluation of projects, comparing all projects in major high temperature geothermal fields, and new or revised hydro projects is now being prepared. Results are expected in 2010.

The master plan is in many respects akin to Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in the sense that SEA developed out of a need for a broader approach than the traditional project-level environmental impact assessment. 

For more information go to the Master Plan website.