In a policy statement released today, the institution urges the government to play “catch up” with other European countries such as Germany and make the geothermal market attractive for investment.
With interest in geothermal electricity production growing, experts believe that geothermal generation could grow to 200 GW by 2050.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers says that in the UK there are several areas with the natural resources to benefit from geothermal production, including Cheshire, East Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Cornwall and Northern Ireland.
Dr Tim Fox, the institution’s head of Energy and Environment, said: “We know that both national and international geothermal energy sources could benefit the UK, but currently the exploration risks and electricity market regime mean that they are not attractive enough for commercial investigation.
“Despite a clear potential for geothermal in the UK, both in heat and power, the support regime here is uncompetitive compared with other European countries.
He said that the UK government provides “just half the level of support for geothermal energy seen in Germany”, where he said an industry has been developed that boasts 6000 employees and has attracted €4 billion of in investment.
“The UK needs to catch up and use its world renowned drilling and geoscience expertise to exploit the potential of geothermal source, to help secure energy supplies and provide UK investment and jobs,” he added. “Government needs to reassess its approach and stimulate growth in this area so that the industry can begin to fully exploit its potential.”
The policy statement also makes the case for importing geothermal power from Iceland in the short-term, as potentially a relatively low cost way of diversifying the UK’s energy supplies to low-carbon sources.
The institution is calling on the government to introduce three measures to fully exploit the potential benefits of geothermal energy:
● Make UK deep geological data available more widely and easily accessible to non-geologists, by producing and making freely available heat potential maps similar to those for heat demand already produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change for combined heat & power;
● Introduce licensing for geothermal heat resources and exploration risk mitigation for geothermal heat wells; and
● Secure an international treaty and structure a financially viable power purchase agreement, so that 1 GW of geothermal generation from Iceland can be delivered via a high voltage direct current interconnector.