The EU faces a geothermal boom as the bloc delves deep to replace Russian gas

Policymakers and investors are paying closer attention to the once-niche sector as part of a larger rethinking of Europe’s energy infrastructure in the rush to replace Russian gas.

In Germany, which relied on Russia for more than half of its gas until last year, increasing costs last year were “a mind-changer” for the public and industry, according to Ingo Sass, a professor at Darmstadt Technical University’s Institute of Applied Geosciences.

According to Philippe Dumas, secretary-general of the European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC), geothermal energy is now used in only 2 million of the EU’s 100 million home heating systems.

It is divided into two types: shallow geothermal, which connects heat pumps to wells up to 500 metres below the surface, and deep geothermal, which can require drilling 5 km into the ground.

He stated that the goal is for geothermal to meet a quarter of Europe’s energy needs by 2030.

Opportunities to substitute Russian gas with geothermal energy

In November, Berlin revealed a plan to increase the country’s geothermal potential by tenfold to ten terawatt-hours and add 100 geothermal projects by 2030.

In a May visit to a geothermal facility, Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the resource as a “future technology in Germany that can work in many places.”

According to the Rystad energy consultant, geothermal will never completely replace gas and may only account for 4.4 percent of heating in Germany’s district heating network by 2030. 

However, the country’s geothermal market is expected to grow from €50 million to €750 million by 2030, according to forecasts.

And it is not the only European country that is turning to geothermal energy. 

France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Hungary have also used geothermal energy, according to Rystad expert Henning Bjrvik.

Rystad believes that the market in the Netherlands, which traditionally relied on Moscow for one-third of its gas supplies, will more than treble to €170 million by 2030.

According to David Bruhn, professor of geothermal engineering at the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology, much of the interest stems from the country’s energy-intensive farming sector, particularly for vegetables and exotic plants.

The energy crisis caused by Russia’s war, he claims, has “had a major impact” on the Dutch geothermal business, which saw government subsidies jump last year since they are linked to petrol costs, which have also skyrocketed.

The country now has approximately 30 geothermal projects, and the industry declared last year a plan to triple output by 2030. Private investors got interested by this project as well.

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