Philippe Dumas Secretary General European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC)
Geothermal energy can play a crucial role in our future energy mix: providing affordable decarbonised energy for society and giving European industry a competitive edge.
Geothermal heating & cooling can supply energy at both low and high temperatures and for different requirements (e.g. heating and cooling: from less than 10 kWth to a tenth of a MWth). It can also provide electricity and heat at different loads (base load and flexible).
Geothermal is a renewable energy source which is local, manageable, flexible, and improves security of supply. It should be integrated in a systemic regional approach, which reduces costs for society and improves industrial competitiveness.
Geothermal will be a key energy source both in smart cities and in smart rural communities, being able to supply both heating and cooling, and electricity, as well as solutions for smart thermal and electricity grids via underground thermal storage.
Currently, geothermal energy sources provide more than 46,520 GWh per year for heating and cooling in the European Union, to which geothermal heat pump systems contribute the largest share. However, the potential is huge. Geothermal can be used virtually anywhere in residential and tertiary sectors, but also in industrial processes requiring temperatures in the range of up 200-250°C. Following current trends, in the European Union (EU-28), the contribution in 2020 will amount to around 40 GWth installed, corresponding to production of about 116,300 GWh.
The total installed capacity for geothermal power in the EU now amounts to around 1 GWe, producing some 5.56 TWh of electric power yearly. Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants are marginal, with less than 1 GWth capacity for heating, but the development of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) will provide further opportunities for CHP systems.
The technological challenges for an accelerated deployment of geothermal energy across Europe are to develop:
innovative solutions especially for refurbishing existing buildings, but also for zero and plus energy buildings, with systems that are easier to install and more efficient at low temperature for both heating & cooling than current solutions;
low-temperature geothermal District Heating (DH) systems for dense urban areas;
competitive heating & cooling solutions, allowing for the decarbonisation of industry;
EGS technology. Deployment will make this technology competitive and keep production costs for electricity from geothermal resources low, by decreasing the installation and operation cost of power plants, by increasing the longevity of installations, and by optimising efficiency and power output; and to
include geothermal power in grid-optimisation schemes, and use its advantages as a base load, flexible, sizable, controllable, and local resource.
The R&D&I support dedicated to geothermal energy in the EU is negligible compared to other energy technologies. In 2012, geothermal only received EUR 70 million, compared to EUR 14.7 billion for solar PV and EUR 6.6 billion for nuclear. Geothermal cannot live up to its promises without adequate support. EGEC therefore calls for the swift rebalancing of support across all energy technologies.