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Geothermal energy has potential to fulfil much of UK’s current heating need

20 October 2022

The possibility to fulfil the UK’s heating needs without causing emissions is beneath our feet and ready to be utilised, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) argues.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, EAC sets out its view from evidence it has received on the potential of geothermal technologies. EAC observes that 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.

Geothermal energy is energy stored beneath the surface of the Earth. When used with a heat pump, geothermal offers small scale heating anywhere in the UK: the Committee explored the potential for heat pumps in November 2020. The range of geological formations available in the UK can serve many different purposes on a larger scale, such as in district heating and in power generation. The opportunities offered by harnessing geothermal technologies can offer considerable economic benefits: it is estimated that the sector could support as many as 25,000 jobs by 2050.

The current policy, funding and regulatory landscape does not appear to the EAC to be conducive to optimising this potential: the Government did not acknowledge geothermal technologies in either the British Energy Security Strategy or the Net Zero Strategy.

The Committee has therefore written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with a number of questions on current Government policy, and urges him to investigate an appropriate licensing regime for geothermal projects in the UK.

Chair's comments

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: 

“In its efforts to make the UK’s energy market more resilient, it is surprising that the Government appears to have overlooked the potential of geothermal energy. The Committee heard that geothermal energy could more than satisfy the UK’s current heating demand, a contribution which could result in a 20% saving on the UK’s current greenhouse gas emissions.

“This energy is beneath our feet and is ready to be explored to test its commercial viability. I expect Ministers will wish to reflect carefully on the evidence the Committee received and reconsider the potential role of geothermal energy in heating UK buildings and providing power while aiding the drive towards net zero emissions targets.”

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