UK urged to kick-start geothermal energy revolution

Developing a network of geothermal energy plants could help the UK improve its energy security while also delivering levelling up, a Government-commissioned report has concluded.

UK urged to kick-start geothermal energy revolution

Pictured: A geothermal energy plant in Iceland

The report, produced by Conservative MP Kieran Mullan, identifies 45 locations across the UK suitable for the development of deep geothermal energy infrastructure.

Almost half (44%) of these locations fall within the UK Government’s top 100 places to prioritise in levelling up. Six of them fall within the Government’s top ten – Redcar and Cleveland; Middlesborough; East Lindsey; Hartlepool; Northumberland, and Bassetlaw.

Mullan described this finding as “unexpected” and has urged the Government to “look closely” at geothermal technology as a means to deliver its levelling up pledges and to improve its energy security.

Deep geothermal projects would involve drilling a borehole to a depth of around two miles to flow cold water through hot rocks. The resulting heat can then be extracted and used either directly or converted into electricity.

Only a handful of geothermal projects are in development in the UK at present, which Mullan attributes to a lack of joined-up support from the Government. His report argues that the UK is primed to scale up the sector, because it has significant untapped geothermal resources, and because skilled workers from the oil and gas sector could be upskilled to work in the industry. It sets out the potential for creating more than 280,000 jobs.

“Like wind and solar at their outset, long term financial incentives would help unlock millions in capital investment and kick start the industry,” Mullan has argued. His report sets out the case for a capped amount of support in the near-term.

The report notes that the Government has moved to host its Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctin rounds more frequently and to diversify the kinds of projects which are eligible for participation. Further adjustments could be made to help scale geothermal.

The report was commissioned by the UK Government and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated that the findings will be used by Ministers to determine the need for any further investigation into scaling geothermal energy.

Industry body the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) has welcomed the report. Its director of policy, Frank Gordon, said: “Deep geothermal heat and power is an established renewable energy technology in Europe, and the UK holds significant potential for developing deep geothermal heat, particularly in rural and levelling up areas.

“Government now needs to deliver a comprehensive geothermal strategy without delay, including policy support to help the industry get off the ground. Meeting the Government’s net-zero ambitions requires a complete range of renewable and clean technologies to all play their part, and geothermal should not be left behind.”

Special audio feature: Geothermal and carbon capture insights from Iceland

Readers interested in this article will be keen to listen to our special audio feature, compiled by edie’s content editor Matt Mace, which explores how Iceland is utilising geothermal renewable power, as well as the inroads that are being made into innovative carbon capture technologies. Tune in to now to hear exclusive energy innovation interviews recorded in Iceland.

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