South West leads support for hot rocks energy technology
Westcountry politicians have founded a Parliamentary group to champion "hot rocks" energy technology that is set to boom in the region after ministers signed a key accord with Iceland.
Sarah Newton, Tory MP for Truro and Falmouth, and Cornish Liberal Democrat peer Lord Robin Teverson have formed the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Deep Geothermal Energy, which has just held its inaugural meeting.
The technology, which uses the heat of the Earth's core to generate power, is being pioneered in the Westcountry, with planning permission granted to two major projects in Cornwall, including a £35 million scheme at the Eden Project.
The group was formed after ministers this year struck a deal with counterparts in Iceland, which has been leading the world in harnessing power from the ground for decades. The two countries will share technical advice, drawing on Iceland's experience in capturing the power of their geysers.
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Boasting a rich source of natural heat energy because of its centuries old granite, Cornwall is poised to be the UK's home of geothermal technology.
But despite a geothermal research project running in Cornwall between 1976 and 1991, the sector has yet to take off in the UK while it has thrived in the US, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland.
One problem has been the UK being one of the few countries in Europe where it is not possible to obtain exploration licences.
At the group's first meeting, MPs and representatives of engineering firms questioned Energy Minister Greg Barker over deep geothermal energy, which has the potential to generate electricity for one-fifth of UK homes.
Mrs Newton said: "Wind, solar, marine and other technologies already have powerful lobbies within Parliament and I feel that deep geothermal needs to have its case made and its voice heard in order for the UK to have a healthy and diverse mix of energy supply."
Mr Barker told the meeting: "Let's get to the heart of the matter right from the start – does Government still care about deep geothermal as a clean energy technology? Yes we do.
"Earlier this year (then minister) Charles Hendry went to Iceland and secured an historic agreement with the world's leading user of geothermal energy.
"I am really excited about this sort of opportunity to expand the UK's capacity and reach globally."
In July, a partnership of EGS Energy and the Eden Project said the potential to exploit the region's underground heat sources is virtually limitless as it unveiled plans for the UK's first deep geothermal pipes early next year.