An Icelandic geothermal energy plant
The UK government should provide targeted support for the geothermal sector to aid the country’s green recovery, help deliver on net zero emissions goals, and build a ‘world leading’ industry with significant export potential, a new report has argued.
The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) and ARUP today published a wide-ranging new report exploring the environmental and economic potential of deep geothermal energy projects, drawing endorsements from over 30 businesses, academics, NGOs, and industry experts.
The report argues that the introduction of a targeted Geothermal Development Incentive by the government could result in up to 12 geothermal projects being operational by 2025. It calculates that a surge iun development would create 1,300 jobs and generate more than £100m in investment, predominantly in towns in the North of England, Midlands, and South West.
The report argues that the proposed policy would provide a much-needed catalyst to the industry, laying the foundations for around 360 sites to be established by 2050 providing an extra £1.5bn in investment, 10,000 direct jobs, and 25,000 indirect jobs. In addition, a fleet of geothermal projects could provide reliable and predictable clean power and heat, delivering annual carbon savings of three million tonnes and making a significant contribution to the UK reaching its net zero ambitions.
Deep geothermal energy projects harness natural heat found beneath the Earth’s surface to generate power and provide usable heat to buildings or industrial facilities. The Durham Energy Institute estimates that there is currently enough deep geothermal heat energy to supply all of the UK’s needs for at least 100 years.
Dr Nina Skorupska, REA’s chief executive, argued that deep geothermal eneryg should be central to the government’s clean energy policy over the next 30 years, but could also deliver “real and tangible benefits in the immediate future”.
“The REA believes that urgent work is required to aid the roll out of all heat technologies, however, with the right support from the government, deep geothermal will play a major role in Britain’s heat generation for decades to come,” she said.
The report notes that, as demonstrated in other European countries, the rapid roll out of geothermal on a large-scale can only be achieved through initial government support. Incentives such as those proposed are needed to encourage private investment and develop the UK sector, it argues.
However, it also stresses that such a policy can deliver significant benefits. For example, Germany’s use of geothermal energy reduced the country’s emissions by more than 1.7 million tonnes in 2017, the report states. The industry is estimated to have created more than 22,000 jobs and added over €13bn to the German economy since 2000. But the success of geothermal developments in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and other countries, is closely linked to their governments’ support of the technology through policies, regulations, incentives, and other initiatives.
Michael Chendorain, associate director at ARUP, said the UK could match and even surpass these success stories if the government provided the correct support. “The UK’s deep geothermal resources are proven and can play a key role in decarbonising heat. Homes, universities, hospitals and a broad range of industries can all benefit from a deep geothermal revolution but this will require Government support.”
Greenpeace’s director, Doug Parr, also expressed his support for the report’s proposals and flagged the potential of geothermal to provide not only clean electricity but “good quality employment in its local area, helping to distribute the economic benefits of decarbonisation.” He added: “And that economic opportunity could be built on – geothermal power is an increasingly attractive option in many parts of the world, the potential market is huge and the UK has plenty of geologists and engineers with drilling expertise and limited prospects in their current industry. This is a technology perfectly tailored to meet the challenge of decarbonising without leaving oil and gas workers behind.”