MPs claim there is enough geothermal energy in the UK to meet the country’s annual heating demand for at least 100 years
The UK’s first operational deep-geothermal project in 37 years has launched at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
Eden Geothermal Limited (EGL) said that it began generating heat on 19th June, becoming the first to do so in the UK since 1986. The work has taken several years and involved drilling a well three miles (4.8km) deep.
The £24m project was partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Cornwall County Council. The system will produce around 1.4MW of energy and is expected to reduce the site’s heating bills (currently more than £1m per year) by 40%.
Richard Day, Chairman of EGL said that geothermal offers a “real opportunity” for the oil and gas industry to transform and “become part of the solution”.
“Not only are the expertise and technology for geothermal directly transferrable, but coaxial systems like this could be used to repurpose oil and gas wells.”
The project comes at a time of growing interest in geothermal energy in the UK, including from the NHS, which plans to use geothermal heating for some hospitals to reach its net zero goals. A Government White Paper on deep geothermal energy is expected in coming weeks, which will assess the potential in the UK and make policy recommendations.
MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee wrote to the Business Secretary last autumn, claiming that there is enough geothermal energy in the UK to meet the country’s annual heating demand for at least a century.
Sir Tim Smit, Co-founder of the Eden Project said geothermal was the “sleeping giant of renewables”. He added: “The Netherlands’ geothermal industry started with heating for greenhouses and they are now aiming for it to contribute to a quarter of all their heating by 2050.”
“The UK has a huge opportunity to benefit from a resource that can contribute to the decarbonisation and improved security of our electricity and heat systems.”
Philip Kent, Director at Gravis Capital Management said: “Geothermal is making a serious contribution to achieving net zero and energy security targets in the Netherlands and France. With the right policy support, the UK has a huge opportunity to benefit from a resource that can contribute to the decarbonisation and improved security of our electricity and heat systems.”
Professor Jon Gluyas, Executive Director of Durham Energy Institute said: “[The system at the Eden Project] will have a lot of eyes on it, and rightly so. It will demonstrate that deep geothermal can generate low-carbon heat.
“It’s extremely sustainable. It’s always on. It’s also, for the most part, ultra-low carbon or even zero carbon.”
However, Gus Grand, CEO of EGL, cautioned that this was only a “demonstration”. She said that drilling through granite is hard and pursuing the task during the pandemic proved to be expensive. “It is a research project. If you were doing a commercial project, you wouldn’t do it like this,” she said.
CIEH has long been calling for the expansion of renewable energy sources and a shift of energy supply away from fossil fuels.
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