A ground-breaking new report delivered to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has named Shropshire as one of 45 potential future locations for a network of underground hot water plants that could heat homes and buildings through natural heat energy found deep underground.
Backbench MP Dr Kieran Mullan was asked to conduct a review of the potential of deep geothermal energy for the UK by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and asked to continue the review by Prime Minister Sunak.
Published this week, it reveals a scientific analysis by Durham University has identified Shropshire as one of 45 local authority areas across the country that could host a plant.
Deep Geothermal energy is a carbon neutral resource that uses the heat from naturally occurring underground water sources to generate a large amount of usable energy. Whilst used historically via naturally occurring hot springs like the famous Roman Baths, modern technology can allow it to be accessed artificially through drilling into aquifers to access warm water below.
Deep Geothermal energy is already being utilised internationally, generating two-thirds of the energy in Iceland, and contributing to heating homes and businesses in Germany, France and the Netherlands.
Dr Kieran Mullan, MP for Crewe & Nantwich visited Munich as part of his review to see first-hand how it works and the impact it is having.
Commenting he says “Deep geothermal energy is heating more than 250,000 homes in Paris and many more across Europe. It is a clean, green, reliable resource that we have fallen behind in making use of. I got to see for myself how quietly and efficiently this hot water can be utilised. No one would know the little building I visited next to a park and a school was heating the local swimming pool, businesses, town hall and hundreds of homes.”
The report highlights previous research that building a network of plants could contribute 35,000 jobs to the economy by 2050. But it goes further, revealing that there is a strong overlap with the identified high potential sites for deep geothermal and areas identified as suffering from deprivation as part of the levelling up agenda.
Dr Mullan added: “In a stark finding, of the top 10 local authorities found to be most in need of levelling up, 6 are included in the list of high potential locations for a deep geothermal plant. 44% of the list of high potential locations for deep geothermal fall within the top 100 levelling up locations. That is 3 times the amount you would expect as a result of chance. This highlights that investment in deep geothermal is investment that is likely to contribute to the levelling up agenda which remains a key government priority.
“The remarkable findings about deep geothermal and levelling up were unexpected. But they give us yet another reason to look again at how we can support this technology. Unlike wind or solar this technology provides baseload-it is there constantly. And our expertise in drilling in the North Sea mean we are well placed to motor ahead. But we have catching up to do because across Europe there has been much stronger government intervention to support nascent deep geothermal industries in those countries.”
This energy source also has wide support from academic and environmental groups, such as Greenpeace and the United Nations.
The report also includes findings of a sector survey that found some form of tariff guarantee decided by auction or at a set price was needed to kick start investment until the industry grows to be cost effective. This approach shifts the risk to industry instead of the taxpayer.
Commenting Kieran said:
“Our historical approach has been grant based which can be slow and bureaucratic and pushes the risk onto the taxpayer. A tariff based approach would let industry invest and put its money on the line. But I am confident, that as with solar and wind, the industry would quickly be able to stand on its own two feet.”
Commenting on the report Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
“We have made rapid progress on switching to homegrown renewable electricity and have made energy security a key priority. Success is going to depend on pulling all the levers at our disposal. I want to thank Kieran for producing this excellent report which will help us consider whether there is a bigger role for deep geothermal. The findings on how developing this technology overlaps with opportunities to level up really add to our understanding of the possible benefits and I know Grant will look at this closely.”
Commenting on the report Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps MP said:
“Every renewable has its strengths and weaknesses, and this report highlights how deep geothermal is working well in Europe and how it can potentially contribute in the UK. I welcome this report because I want to be sure we aren’t missing any opportunities here in the UK. Thank you to Kieran for championing the cause and producing this work to help us better understand the possible benefits and how we might move forward.”
This opportunity for Shropshire could provide energy and employment for years to come and Dr Mullan has written to Council leaders and local MPs to arrange a meeting to discuss how they can take the opportunity forward.