Should UK exploit geothermal potential to help energy crisis?

Green Britain: Geologist explains how geothermal site works

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As energy prices continue to rise, MPs are urging the Government to explore the potential of the UK’s vast geothermal reserves. But do you support the exploitation of geothermal energy? Vote in our poll.

Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source which uses water and steam within the earth’s crust to power turbines and generates electricity. The low-carbon source has the potential to heat millions of homes in the UK but currently accounts for less than 0.3 percent of the UK’s annual heat demand.

Last week, on October 19, Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee wrote to then-Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg calling for him to provide an update on the review of the potential of geothermal technology in Britain.

The cross-party body predicts that much of the UK’s heating demands for the next century could be met by geothermal heat pumps, district heating systems, and power generation. It claims that the sector could offer 25,000 jobs by 2050 and help the UK reach net-zero emission climate targets.

At present, the UK has a number of geothermal projects in operation, but these are small-scale ground source heat pumps across Cornwall. The Eden project is already investing in geothermal technology with the site’s full geothermal heat network expected to be operational by early 2023. More are in consideration across the southwest of England and in the Cairngorms as both regions have prime access to potential geothermal sources.

The UK’s only existing geothermal heat-generating station is located in Southampton, which provides energy for many major city centre buildings including WestQuay Shopping Centre and the Royal South Hants Hospital.

However, the committee warned: “The Government has been slow to exploit the potential of geothermal, and has not integrated it fully into the net zero strategy: this appears to be holding back a sector which could be transformative for the UK’s capacity to meet climate goals, use homegrown energy and grow the economy.”

Director for the Centre of Waste Management at the University of Central Lancashire, Karl Williams, told earlier this year that the UK has “excellent potential” for geothermal energy.

He said: “We are fortunate that we can utilise all the different types of geothermal energy recovery. From ground source heat pumps providing low-level heat, to the recovery of mine water energy – a legacy of our industrial heritage – all the way up to granite infusion and temperatures in excess of 130C.”


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He added: “If we are serious about energy security, then all of these have a role to play. Ground source heat pumps are easy to install for new build housing developments and would help to offset the energy demand from consumers.”

However, as with fracking, there are concerns about the seismic activity resulting from geothermal power generation, which one expert suggests could be stalling investment.

A senior geologist from the British Geological Survey, Darren Jones, said: “The main stumbling block at the moment is getting the Government to buy into. Deep geothermal in particular, is costly, you’re looking for a few million pounds to drill a well so having an insurance incentive scheme, loan incentives, and things like that to attract investment to explore is the only way it’s going to start.”

So what do YOU think? Should the UK exploit geothermal potential to help the energy crisis? Vote in our poll and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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