Geothermal district heating (GDH) in the Paris Basin was initiated, in the late
1960s, on the emblematic Melun l'Almont site, South of Paris, pioneering the
well doublet concept of heat mining. This design was extended later to the
Paris suburban areas, leading to the completion of 53 GDH grids of which 34
remain on line to date, supplying yearly 1,000 GWht to over 100,000 equivalent
dwellings, thus suppressing ca 500,000 tons of CO2 atmospheric emissions.
The initial stimulus was provided under a private enterprise scheme, a joint
venture associating a heating service company and an equipment
supplier /installer, irrespective of any energy price crisis whatsoever.
Development follow-up, further to the first and second oil shocks, could be
achieved thanks to a thorough, massive, involvement of the French State
addressing relevant pre-feasibility /feasibility assessments, legal/institutional,
mining risk/insurance, loan/financing, supporting measures. GDH grids, most of
them operated by public entities (townships, social dwelling agencies), serviced
social dwelling buildings and public offices and educational/recreational facilities.
From early infancy diseases to teen and mature age, GDH experienced a critical
learning curve period (mid 1980s-mid 1990s). Only could the "stakeholder"
supporting policy, pursued during the early exploitation stages, enable GDH to
survive and overcome severe technical, and more over, managerial and
financial shortcomings in an adverse, high debt/equity ratio, low income,
Needless to say, during this critical period GDH built a poor image. It was
perceived by end users as an expensive, poorly reliable technology leading
occasionally to troublesome, noisy, smoky and foul-smelling heavy maintenance
(well workover) operations. Simultaneously, GDH, delicate euphemism, received
a weak support from two major stakeholders, public energy (power, natural
gas) utilities, sought as competitors (electric, individual gas heating) rather
than partners in spite of profitable returns from GDH supplies/sales (ca 70,000
MWhe and 350,000 MWht respectively).
Summing up, until recently, there had been little interest from the public and
the media towards geothermal energy and GDH issues. Indifference, at the
best, prevailed instead. Long regarded as an exotic curiosity of limited energy
impact, GDH is progressively gaining consideration from authorities and
stakeholders, sympathy and awareness from the Public, echoes from the media.
This is a consequence of growing environmental clean air concerns, oil and gas
prices escalation, correlated GHG emissions vs global warming evidence and,
last but not least, a credit paid to both managerial and entrepreneurial maturity
of GDH operators and efforts of the geothermal community at large in bridging
a long noticed communication gap and attracting wider social acceptance.
The latter resulted in increased lobbying among concerned, local/regional
authorities and national/EU institutions and communication streams via open
door events, stakeholder informative meetings, news/press releases, well
documented topical websites/homepages, training/educational short courses
and lectures (universities, engineering schools), school teaching staff briefings,
primary/high school "initiation to GE "games and tests…
Worth mentioning are the changes, compared to their previously, poorly
motivated, wait and see attitude, noticed within the energy utilities, advocating
their, recently discovered, dedication to REs. As a result, (i) attractive natural
gas prices could be negotiated by GDH operators to meet their relief/back up
natural gas demands, and (ii) support to heat pump designed systems
provided by the power utility.
Such actions should be maintained and further initiatives promoted in order to
perpetuate and extend the present GDH scheme in a sustainable geothermal
resource management vision, targeted fifty years ahead from now. This
requires an increased participation of all concerned parties, ad-hoc policy
makers/executive agencies, enlarged stakeholders' involvement, local township
commitments and interactive communication between the operators and the