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27th Feb 2024

EU Parliament united in call for first-ever geothermal strategy

  • Steam rising from the Nesjavellir geothermal power station in Iceland (Photo: Wikimedia)
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The EU Parliament approved a report that calls on the EU Commission to accelerate the deployment of geothermal energy, during a vote in Strasbourg on Thursday (18 January).

Geothermal energy is heat generated in earth's crust and is used mainly for electricity generation, district heating and industrial processes and could be Europe's next big thing in renewable energy.

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According to the resolution adopted on Thursday, underground heat can supply 75 percent of all of the heating and cooling consumed in Europe by 2040 and provide 15 percent of its power needs.

But while the technology has been around for decades, so far, it has not been applied for home heating at scale.

Over 60 percent of the energy we use to heat our homes still comes from fossil fuels. Replacing this with geothermal energy could help Europe achieve its ambitious emission reduction targets of 2030 and 2050.

However, high initial cost and the lack of an EU-wide strategy is holding back development. That is why, in 2022, a coalition of 151 businesses called on the commission to formulate a strategy.

This was followed on Thursday by MEPs which voted in favour of the resolution with a majority of 531 against two. "The consensus across political groups on this topic is remarkable," justice commissioner Didier Reynders said when addressing the parliament.

"The European Parliament has put geothermal energy firmly on the EU policy radar," said Philippe Dumas who is the secretary general of the European Geothermal Energy Council. "The European Commission cannot ignore such a powerful endorsement."

MEPs have called on the commission to explore various use cases for underground heat, including the production of renewable hydrogen and lithium production.

But before an EU-wide strategy can be rolled out, the EU commission will have to make an assessment of the potential of geothermal energy across all 27 members.

But some countries are already taking the lead. The world's first geothermal power plant was built in Tuscany, Italy — which is responsible for most of the EU electricity production coming from geothermal resources (6,026.1 GWh).

In Aarhus, Denmark, drilling started in November last year to supply large-scale district heating for 36,000 homes.

"This helps us liberate ourselves from our dependency on gas from [Vladimir] Putin," said Danish socialist MEP and shadow-rapporteur on the file Niels Fuglsang.

Rapid expansion is also hampered by high upfront costs, long development times and high risk during exploration due to a lack of available data.

To help create the conditions for the industry to flourish, commissioner Reyders said, "More finance must be made available."

"We have solutions for this. And we are at the right moment to propose measures", he added.

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