Deep Geothermal Energy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 8 June 2023.

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Photo of Jacob Young Jacob Young Assistant Whip 3:34, 8 June 2023

Like me, my hon. Friend is a keen advocate for green energy, and Teesside can indeed be home to many green energy sources. I thank him for pointing that out.

While geothermal is a relatively new source of energy in the UK, we need only look to Cornwall, as my hon. Friend said, for an idea of its potential to provide clean and secure power for our households and businesses. The UK’s first geothermal plant, operated by Geothermal Engineering Ltd at its United Downs site near Redruth, is set to begin generating next year, with a baseload capacity of 2 MW, rising to a combined power and heat capacity of 25 MW after four years. Geothermal Engineering Ltd has plans to develop other plants across the UK by 2028, producing enough energy to power 70,000 homes.

We recognise that the widespread construction of these plants could help to create thousands of skilled jobs in areas where those are lacking, from Cornwall to Cumbria, but what makes this technology even more exciting is that it enables decarbonisation in many other sectors, too. For example, we see the potential to decarbonise heat through clean heat network schemes or to scale up zero-emission vehicle production through battery-grade lithium extraction. Indeed, the potential for battery-grade lithium extraction from the waters pumped at the United Downs site shows promise, with Geothermal Engineering Ltd predicting that 15,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium could be produced a year, which is approximately a quarter of domestic demand. The firm has also been successful in its £12 million application to the automotive transformation fund to provide battery-grade lithium.

As my hon. Friend’s report notes, this technology is not without its challenges. Current departmental analysis suggests that its relative price is substantially higher than that of other renewables, largely due to the high cost involved in drilling safely. The potential capacity of geothermal power is significantly smaller in comparison with other renewable technologies, and is currently estimated to be between 170 MW and 2 GW. This means that large-scale deployment is likely to be limited, and there are also uncertainties concerning geological risks that must be taken into account.

The reality is that every renewable energy source has its strengths and its weaknesses. In the months and years ahead, we are going to leave no stone unturned in our quest for the cleanest, most cost-effective energy available. That is why the Prime Minister set up the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero earlier this year. We are working closely with industry to ensure that the right support is in place to develop new technologies, including geothermal, whether that with is the green heat network fund, which has allocated Cornwall council £22 million to work with Geothermal Engineering Ltd to develop the Langarth deep geothermal heat network—the UK’s first heating system to use geothermal energy to heat nearly 4,000 local homes and public facilities in the area, as my hon. Friend mentioned —or with the contracts for difference scheme, which is the Government’s main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation. Geothermal technologies that generate electricity are eligible for the scheme, and the bidding process is currently under way. We will continue to review the support we provide to ensure that all these technologies can reach their full potential.

I want to finish by reiterating to the House our determination to make the most of every home-grown green technology available in our unprecedented transition to a net zero economy so that we can secure our long- term energy supply, keep bills down for consumers and raise the bar on tackling climate change. The report by my hon. Friend—he is known as Mr Geothermal—will undoubtedly help us consider whether there is a bigger role for deep geothermal energy and how we could support it. I am confident that the geothermal industry will continue to develop across every viable corner of the United Kingdom, and I look forward to seeing the Energy Minister continuing to engage with my hon. Friend on this vitally important issue.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.