A focus on developing geothermal power plants in the UK could “level up” areas in decline while helping the UK meet its climate change obligations, a report by an MP has said.
Deep geothermal technology uses the heat from naturally occurring water sources deep underground to generate a large amount of usable heat and energy.
Carried out in conjunction with backbench Conservative MP Dr Kieran Mullan and experts at the University of Durham’s Energy Institute, the report finds “strong overlaps” between areas of the UK with high potential for realising deep geothermal heat and areas in need of economic improvement.
A number of countries in Europe with comparable geology have already developed deep geothermal sectors, including France, Germany and the Netherlands.
It is already being used to heat around 250,000 homes in Paris and across France more than 600MWh are produced annually as the government aims to increase the number of schemes by 40 per cent by 2030.
Munich is also pouring €1bn into geothermal power through to 2035 in order to make the city’s heating carbon neutral. Germany is already producing more than 353MWh annually and the government is targeting at least 100 new geothermal projects.
Government support for developing the industry in the UK is limited, the report said. However, with the right policy incentives, it estimated that by 2050 the UK could have 360 geothermal plants producing 15,000GWh annually.
The development of the sector could also support the North Sea transition, given the matched skill sets and techniques.
Out of the 45 areas highlighted, six – Redcar and Cleveland, Middlesbrough, East Lindsey, Hartlepool, Northumberland, and Bassetlaw – were also in the top 10 of local authorities found to have the lowest economic resilience, according to Dr Mullan.
“Think about naturally occurring hot springs like the famous Roman Baths. Modern technology can allow it to be accessed artificially through drilling into aquifers to access warm water below,” he said in a blog post.
“Heat exchangers transmit the heat through to homes and buildings. The sites are chosen exactly because the geology allows water to flow at low pressures, rather than needing to use high pressures to ‘frack’ the rock to create artificial flows.”
The report recommends a fixed tariff or bid-for-tariff approach that would transfer the risk from the taxpayer to the industry in comparison to grant-based support.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “We have made rapid progress on switching to homegrown renewable electricity and have made energy security a key priority. Success is going to depend on pulling all the levers at our disposal.
“I want to thank Kieran for producing this excellent report which will help us consider whether there is a bigger role for deep geothermal. The findings on how developing this technology overlaps with opportunities to level-up really add to our understanding of the possible benefits.”
Energy security secretary Grant Shapps said: “Every renewable has its strengths and weaknesses and this report highlights how deep geothermal is working well in Europe and how it can potentially contribute in the UK.”
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