The UK has set ambitious targets for renewable energy production; it expects 15% of its energy to come from renewable resources by 2020. In 2010, just 3.3% of its energy came from renewable resources.
Heat makes up 47% of the UK’s energy consumption. With almost 80% of people in the UK living in an urban area, it is an ideal location for geothermal heat generation and supply.
The UK Department of Energy and the European Commission funded a two-phase programme between 1977 and 1984 to estimate the potential of the UK for geothermal energy. These studies were used by Downing et al to estimate the total amount of accessible geothermal energy stored in individual Permo-Triassic aquifer formations.
The analysis showed that the stored geothermal energy would provide sufficient energy to supply all of the UK’s heating needs many times over.
Even though the total energy stored in the potential geothermal reservoir formation indicated cannot be entirely economically exploited, it represents a quantitative measure of the potential of geothermal reservoir formations in the UK.
In 2011, a report identified a number of locations throughout Britain that have both potential and existing geothermal resources. It found:
- The UK has a potential heat output of 100GW of geothermal energy, up to 2.2GW of which could be developed by 2030
This represents about 15% of the UK’s 2020 renewable heat target.
Renewable heat incentive
The UK government has acted. In 2011, it introduced the Renewable Heat Initiative, the world’s first incentive for renewable heat. Anyone who installs a qualifying renewable heat system will be eligible for the initiative.
The development of geothermal energy towards 2030 would require an investment of more than UK£3 billion. It would create thousands of jobs in construction, civil engineering, drilling, operation and maintenance, making the UK the global leader in geothermal heat development.