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Deep geothermal resource has potential to produce up to 20% of UK electricity

01 June 2012

A new independent technical report on the potential to generate heat and electricity in the UK from deep geothermal has been published by engineering consultants Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM). It concludes that deep geothermal resources could provide 9.5GW of baseload renewable electricity – equivalent to nearly nine nuclear power stations – which could generate 20% of the UK’s current annual electricity consumption.

Charles Hendry
Charles Hendry

The resource is widely spread around the UK with ‘hotspots’ in Cornwall, Weardale, Lake District, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Worcester, Dorset, Hampshire, Northern Ireland and Scotland. In addition the the electricity generation, the report suggests that deep geothermal resources could provide over 100GW of heat, which could supply sufficient heat to meet the space heating demand in the UK. Despite this significant potential, the UK support regime is uncompetitive with other European countries.

The publication of the report coincided with the signing of an agreement between the UK and Iceland that could pave the way for geothermal power from the latter country to supply electricity to the UK. This came as UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry (pictured) visited the Hellisheidi geothermal field, located on an active volcanic ridge in the south west of the country.

The SKM report also comes ahead of the Renewables Obligation (RO) Banding Review. This will determine whether or not the coalition government will back the UK industry. The industry has been shocked by initial proposals to freeze support for deep geothermal power at 2 ROCs, a level too low to stimulate domestic investment. Deep geothermal power is a new technology in the UK and it requires similar support to wave and tidal in its initial development phase. The sector is now growing rapidly internationally and support in the UK needs to be comparable to other countries in order to attract investment.

SKM’s report states that: “risk reduction support is the most critical in developing a cost effective large utilisation of the geothermal resources in the UK. This is particularly needed to enable the early development of sedimentary aquifers for direct heat use as this offers the potential for the most significant and early contribution to meeting the UK commitments to the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.”

Dr Ryan Law, Chair of the Renewable Energy Association, Deep Geothermal Group sai: “We don’t want to be left out of a global industry which is estimated to be worth £30 billion by 2020. We could be at the forefront of this industry given the strength of British engineering skills. 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.”

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