Policy statement

Geothermal Energy: UK Potential

In this policy statement we look at what can be done to fully exploit the potential benefits of geothermal energy for the UK.

Despite the fact that both national and international geothermal energy sources could make a useful contribution to the UK’s climate change mitigation objectives, the exploration risks and current electricity market regime mean that they are not presently an attractive proposition for commercial investigation.

Within Europe, geothermal springs have been used as a source of heating for thermal spas since Roman times, as famously illustrated in Bath. Geothermal energy was first used to produce electricity in 1904 in Larderello, Italy. However, the main period of capacity growth occurred after World War II, when geothermal technology spread around the world to New Zealand in 1958, Mexico in 1959, the USA in 1960, Japan in 1966 and Iceland in 1969.

While geothermal energy has been used to produce electricity for more than a century, recent interest in geothermal has grown largely due to its potential to provide reliable base-load low-carbon electricity generation at commercial prices.

The UK has a number of geothermal energy resources with the potential for exploitation, and although most are suited to industrial heat use and district heating, there are a number that have potential for electricity generation. In addition, there is an opportunity to access geothermal-based generation in Iceland.

Key recommendations

  1. Make UK deep geological data available more widely and easily accessible to non-geologists, by producing and making freely available heat potential maps similar to those for heat demand already produced by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) for Combined Heat & Power.
  2. Introduce licensing for geothermal heat resources and exploration risk mitigation for geothermal heat wells.
  3. Secure an international treaty and structure a financially viable power purchase agreement, so that 1 GW geothermal generation from Iceland can be delivered by High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) interconnector.

Related links

Read the press release:
UK must embrace the potential of geothermal energy


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