Durham geothermal energy expertise at Conservative Party conference

Conservative Party annual conference delegates have heard how Durham’s research could provide a long-term, sustainable source of low-carbon energy.

Professor Jon Gluyas, Director of Durham Energy Institute (DEI), took part in a fringe event alongside the conference in Manchester, which explored engineering and technology solutions for a decarbonised world.

Geothermal potential

Jon explained the DEI’s research into geothermal energy (energy that comes from the heat produced at the Earth’s core and mantle) which could provide a source of low-carbon heat for the UK.

Heat production accounts for over half of the UK’s energy demand and currently most of this demand is met using gas.

The DEI is leading research into geothermal energy potential in Britain. Our experts believe that geothermal energy could help to provide reliable, low-carbon heat, reducing the country’s dependence on imported gas and increasing our energy security.

The UK has a range of geothermal energy sources, from sedimentary basins and buried caves at deeper levels (1km deep or more) to flooded abandoned coalmines at shallower levels.

Upfront costs and perceived risks are the biggest barriers to geothermal development. But the DEI believes that the shallower depths and existing infrastructure of abandoned coalmines significantly reduce development risk.

Recommendations for government

Jon made a clear set of recommendations for how the UK government could unleash the geothermal energy potential. These include:

  • An urgent focus on developing a clear strategy for developing low-carbon heat supply, as a key part of meeting the UK’s carbon reduction plans.
  • Inclusion of geothermal in all new developments as part of local and national planning policy, where possible.
  • Development of a licensing system for geothermal energy, similar to that applied to oil and gas, to attract investment and reduce development risk.
  • Extension of the Government’s Contracts of Difference scheme, designed to incentivise investment in renewable energy, to include large heat schemes.
  • New regulation for heat so that markets can develop whilst protecting consumers.
about the DEI’s research into geothermal energy potential

Read a Q&A with our researcher, Dr Charlotte Adams, into the energy potential in abandoned coal mines

Watch a video of Professor Jon Gluyas discussing the potential of geothermal energy in Davos ahead of the 2019 World Economic Forum

Contracts of Difference scheme


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