Committee launches inquiry on geothermal technologies

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

In the latest stage of its Technological Innovation and Climate Change inquiry, the Environmental Audit Committee has announced their intention to look at the role geothermal technologies can play in the UK’s journey to net zero.

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne MP, commented on the announcement: “Harnessing the heat beneath our feet could play a material role in decarbonising our energy system.

“For a low carbon future, we should be considering all possible options to change how we heat and power our homes. Geothermal energy could hold part of the answer, and our new inquiry will explore this potential and any risks to rolling out the technologies at scale.

“I invite anyone with views on geothermal technologies to contribute to our inquiry.”

In addition to ground source heat pumps, examined by the Committee in December 2020, the technologies available to access energy stored in the Earth include:

  • Mine energy systems, which can extract water from disused mines to provide heat on a large scale. There are currently no UK mine water heating systems in operation, though a number are in development.
  • Enhanced geothermal systems, which takes the heat from radioactive decays in granite deposits deep underground to provide energy. No systems are currently in operation, but there are some in development, such as the Eden Geothermal project and the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power Project.

The Committee invites written submissions addressing any or all of the issues raised in the following terms of reference, by 5pm on Thursday 21st July 2022:

  • What role can geothermal technologies take in the transition to net zero in the UK?
  • What barriers (technological, regulatory, or otherwise) are there to deploying operational geothermal technologies in the UK?
  • What is the scale of the potential market for geothermal energy sources and which geographic or other geological types are most suitable for exploitation of this natural resource?
  • Are current government support schemes sufficient to grow geothermal energy deployment in the UK?
  • What environmental concerns are associated with geothermal technologies, and are they appropriately accounted for in regulations?
  • What risks are there to investors, operators, and consumers of geothermal energy? How can these be mitigated?
  • How does the density of mine water systems affect their efficiency? Could widespread uptake of geothermal systems in dense population centres lead to a reduction in their ability to provide heat?
  • What economic impact could the deployment of mine water geothermal systems have on the areas in which they are deployed?

More information about the ‘Technological Innovations and Climate Change: Geothermal Technologies’ inquiry is available on the UK Parliament website.