Euractiv recently published an article on the growing number of cities in Europe turning to geothermal energy, or as it’s otherwise known, ‘sun beneath our feet.’ Since 2003, Munich has been among European cities pioneering the deployment of geothermal energy.
The local municipal utility, Stadtwerke München (SWM), already operates five geothermal plants. In its vision for 2040, the city plans to continue tapping into deep geothermal to provide 100% renewable heating to residents. They suggest that approximately 560,000 households could be powered by geothermal energy in two decades.
Geothermal energy is attracting renewed interest in Europe as local governments step up to decarbonize their heating systems. Italy has the highest number of geothermal plants in Europe, all of which are located in Tuscan cities.
The main hurdle standing in the way of geothermal energy is the lack of political will. The revised Renewable Energy Directive is seen in the industry as a first step in the right direction to support geothermal. However, the proposal currently falls short of boosting renewable heating and cooling.
Daniel Moelk, the country manager for Germany at the Canada-based startup Eavor Technologies Inc., says getting the green light from local authorities can be a long and frustrating process. “If you look at municipalities, they want to decarbonize today. And permitting and land issues slowing us down come with a risk. We can only wait until a certain point of time, but if it takes too long, municipalities might have to choose a less favourable solution, like prolonging the offtake agreement with coal-fired power plants or building a gas turbine.”
While installing a geothermal plant is not cheap, once in place, geothermal offers a cheap and reliable energy source compared to oil and gas. Reform will be difficult to agree on as decisions regarding taxation are taken by unanimity at the EU level.