Page 37 - European Energy Innovation - Summer 2014
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Summer 2014 European Energy Innovation 37


exploitation of the Earth’s heat at European global energy by 2050. Advances in this area are urgently
remarkable depths, but require With the introduction in 2009 of needed so as to enable market
enormous amount of water. legally binding renewable energy actors to drive down these costs,
targets, most Member States have through improved research,
Despite the multiple benefits it experienced significant growth in industrialisation of the supply
provides, geothermal energy renewable energy consumption, chain and more efficient policies
has long been misunderstood but geothermal energy has been and support schemes. The UE
in Europe. It is only in the 1990’s neglected in the national energy must act now in order tap the
that the European Union started plans. Today, it accounts for only potential of geothermal energy
to support the sector. At that 4,4 % of the renewable energy and not to lose the competition
time, geothermal power was not consumption in EU. Significant with non-EU operators in the
even considered a renewable barriers to the development of sector. North and Central
resource in all Member States. geothermal energy need to be American and South East Asian
The EU Programme THERMIE, overcome. players are, in fact, quickly
provided financial support to expanding: most of the new
44 geothermal projects in ten The main obstacle remains global geothermal capacity was
Member States, ranging from the high cost of drilling, which added in the US, Nicaragua and
district heating and electricity accounts for at least one third Indonesia in 2012.
production to agriculture, of the total cost of a geothermal
desalinisation and balneology. installation. Subcontractors’ 13 Member States presently offer
remuneration has a heavy geothermal electricity feed-in
In 2000, the European Union impact on exploration cost, tariffs, ranging from 25 to 300
published a Blue Book on given the competition with the €/MWh. Furthermore, complex
Geothermal resources with the oil and gas industry for drilling administrative procedures for
aim of identifying measures expertise. The economic viability geothermal exploitation are
which could effectively promote of geothermal energy projects creating significant delays for
the use of geothermal energy is also strictly affected by site- obtaining the necessary permits
and increase the presence specific conditions (climatic and licences, thus generating
of European operators in the conditions, local heat demand, uncertainty for investors. Energy
world market. Under the 6th temperature or source depth) and regulators and competition
Framework programmes, EUR 20 the type of application used. Part authorities, at EU and national
million were dedicated to seven of the solution lies on financial level, need to act decisively to
projects and several initiatives incentives, tax exemptions, ensure that all companies are
were launched to stimulate the reductions or incentives along treated equally ensuring a level
creation of consortia in the field of with the funds by EU programmes playing field. Uniformity across
geothermal energy. The sudden as well as raising the level of Member States is a prerequisite
enthusiasm for this promising information for policy makers, for the completion of an open,
technology, however, faded public and private operators, integrated and flexible market
away under the 7th framework investors and the public. whose dynamics will drive
programme which covered investments rather than subsidies.
only two projects, aiming at Furthermore, geothermal This requires a real integration
understanding the seismic risk energy carries a relatively high of Europe’s energy networks and
associated with deep well drilling. commercial risk because of systems, and the further opening
the uncertainties involved in of energy markets to ensure
Yet, given the right conditions, identifying and developing the transition to a low carbon
geothermal resources could reservoirs that can sustain economy where geothermal
potentially supply 15% of long term fluid and heat flow. resource has a key role to play. l
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