Deep geothermal can provide 20% of UK electricity needs

The UK's deep geothermal resources could provide 9.5GW of baseload renewable electricity, equivalent to nearly nine nuclear power stations, according to a new report.

Published today (May 30), the report also warns, however, that the Government needs to take geothermal resources “much more seriously” to enable developers to realise the UK’s potential. That could mean committing an extra £11m a year to ROC support, plus an additional £1.3m a year via RHI.

Eden Project CEO, Tim Smit compared the geothermal extraction of heat from up to 5000 metres underground with finding oil in Texas in the 1800s. He said that all the necessary technology exists, and that geothermal could produce up to 20% of the UK electricity needs – provided a small investment is made today.

The Geothermal Energy Potential – Great Britain and Northern Ireland report, produced by engineering consultants Sinclair Knight Merz in association with the Renewable Energy Association (REA), focuses on the Renewable Obligation Banding Review.

Chair of REA’s Deep Geothermal Sector Group, Dr Ryan Law, stated that current UK support plans for geothermal are “too low to stimulate domestic investment”.

Plans to keep support for deep geothermal at 2 ROCs “surprised” the UK industry, he added, especially when the global industry is poised to invest $40bn in geothermal developments over the next 10 years and when Germany has built a $4bn geothermal industry.

In terms of production potential, the report identifies ‘hotspots’ in Cornwall, Weardale, Lake District, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Worcester, Dorset, Hampshire, Northern Ireland and Scotland. In addition to 9.5GW of baseload renewable electricity, it’s estimated that 100GW of heat could also be produced.

To achieve those figures, the report calls for initial development support to be increased to 5 ROCs, equivalent to the situation in Germany; for geothermal heat to be given 3p/kWh for CHP, 5p/kWh for hydrothermal direct heat and 7p/kWh for hydrothermal, using a heat pump; for new investment in R&D and for the introduction of exploration risk insurance.

“We don’t want to be left out of the global industry when we could be at the forefront of this development, given the strength of British engineering skills,” said Dr Law. “I only hope this report encourages the Government to act decisively to realise the tremendous potential of deep geothermal in the UK.”

Edie Staff

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