A recent study by the engineering industry consultants Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) has concluded that by spending just £11 million a year to raise geothermal energy subsidies the UK could help to develop an industry that has the potential to supply 20 percent of its electricity needs. They found that geothermal sources could provide 9.5GW of electricity and over 100GW of heat.
Water can be pumped into boreholes deep underground where the Earth’s natural heat warms the water and converts it into steam. The steam then returns to the surface where it can used as a direct source of heat, or to drive steam powered generators and create a steady supply of electricity which could support more unpredictable sources of renewable energy such as wind and solar.
The UK has several areas suitable for this form of geothermal energy in Cornwall, the North East and the Lake District, however the technology is expensive to set up and few companies are willing to take the risk. This is why SKM suggests that more governmental support is needed in order to achieve the 5,000GWh of electricity and32,000GWh of heat that they forecast is possible by 2030.
Currently the British geothermal industry receives the same support as other renewable energy industries, but it is not enough. Other countries such as Switzerland and Germany provide almost twice as much support, and SKM fear that without a similar level the UK risks missing out on a market that could be worth £30bn by 2020.
Dr Ryan Law, chair of the Renewable Energy Association’s Deep Geothermal Group, and managing director of Geothermal Engineering, said that the UK needs more generous proposals from the government in order to take advantage of the industries potential. “If the UK wants to seize a share of this booming global market we must prove our competence at home. Clearly investment at home could also go a long way to meeting our future energy needs cleanly and safely.”
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com