Advances made in EU geothermal heating development

The recent threat to European energy security posed by the Ukrainian crisis has led to an increased focus on securing energy independence in the bloc, with geothermal power being one such technology under the microscope.

Geothermal district heating (GeoDH) is one of the solutions touted as a valuable and immediate option for the alleviation of Central and Eastern Europe's dependency on Russian gas, while the rest of Europe is in various states of readiness for development of the power.

Over 25% of the EU's population lives in areas directly suitable for GeoDH, yet the significant potential of deep geothermal is not yet being fully exploited in Europe. The work of GEODH, a project funded under the European Commission's Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE), may help to change this.

GEODH has recently presented, for the first time, the potential of geothermal district heating in Europe on an interactive map.

The map, based on research undertaken by the GEODH team, reveals some interesting findings. For example, we see that GeoDH can be developed in all 28 EU countries and that geothermal can be installed with existing DH systems during extension or renovation, replacing fossil fuels.

Additionally, new GeoDH systems can be built in many regions of Europe at competitive costs. The map also shows that the Pannonian basin (Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Serbia) is a place of particular interest when looking at potential development in Central Europe.

Geothermal heating and cooling brings many advantages: not only does it provide local, baseload and flexible renewable energy, it also allows for a diversification of the energy mix, and protection against volatile and rising fossil fuels prices.

The GEODH project team is working to achieve increased awareness of the potential applications and benefits of DH&C with geothermal energy. The team is also working to develop a set of recommendations for removing barriers and improving regulatory frameworks, and it aims to nurture a better understanding of GeoDH related technologies, costs and financing, and to transfer best practices to national and local authorities.

The challenges to expanding the potential of GeoDH differ from country to country. In Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, the challenge is to remove administrative and financial barriers while in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, there is a need to both convince decision-makers and adopt the right regulatory framework.

Germany, France and Italy, meanwhile, need to simplify procedures and provide more financing in order to achieve the bold GeoDH targets that they have already set out. Finally, the 'juvenile' markets of the Netherlands, the UK, Ireland and Denmark are currently developing their first systems and there is a need to establish the correct market conditions.

The GEODH consortium is working with these different groups (juvenile, in transition and mature markets) which cover 14 countries in total.

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