An increased use of renewable energy within the European energy system is on the
political agenda already since decades. The reasons therefore are manifold; e.g.
beside an increasing independency from fossil fuel energy to be imported to Europe
from politically unstable regions an improvement of the environmental situation
concerning unwanted local effects on nature as well as a reduction in greenhouse gas
emissions to reduce the impact on global climate is strived for.
This is basically true for all options for the provision of useful energy from
renewable sources of energy as outlined within the White Paper on Renewable Energy
published by the European Commission some years ago. But from all possibilities to
provide useful energy from renewables some options are characterised by considerable
advantages compared to others. This is e.g. true for biomass and geothermal energy
because these two options can cover the actual given energy demand easily (in
comparison to e.g. wind and solar energy).
And the existing potential of biomass and geothermal energy in Europe is huge and the
technology needed for the provision of useful energy is already available to some extend.
These are some of the reasons why the market introduction of biomass and geothermal
energy is strongly supported by the European Commission as well as various member
On this background the aim of this paper is it to discuss various policies and
strategies for the increased use of geothermal energy exemplarily for several member
states of the European Union. This is realised for the use of geothermal energy for
electricity provision only because the provision of heat from shallow geothermal
energy (i.e. heat pump application) as well as from deep geothermal resources is
market mature where the geological conditions are promising (like in the Paris basin
or in the North German basin) and the conditions on the demand side are well
developed (i.e. where district heating systems exist).
The introduction of a new energy technology within the energy system can be promoted
by the government based on measures in two areas. On the one hand side research and
development (R&D) activities are carried out mainly to improve the performance of the
conversion technology and to reduce the costs. On the other hand market introduction
measures are put into force to overcome market introduction barriers typically
existing for new energy technologies. Ideally activities in both areas should be
linked closely to form an overall strategy.
Within the European Union R&D-activities concerning geothermal electricity generation
are performed very broadly in countries where the geological conditions within the
underground are more or less promising. Often these R&D-activities are realised by
base funded research institutes mainly dedicated to cost intensive basic research and
research programmes where universities, research institutes, research companies and
other companies can apply for; the latter are in most cases dedicated to applied
research. These R&D-activities realised in some EU member states on the national
level are supported by the European Commission providing additional funds especially
for multinational research projects with a focus on basic research as well as applied
research. Such R&D-measures usually ends when demonstration plants are operated
To bring such a new energy technology into the market beside these R&D-activities
market introduction measures are needed; therefore in recent years the integration of
each new energy technology into the national energy system has been strongly
supported by political measures. Therefore market introduction measures are put in
force in several member states of the European Union. By analysing these measures one
can basically distinguish between measures reducing the investment costs and measures
to support the operation of plants; often one can find combinations (e.g. the
construction of a geothermal power plant is supported by an investment subsidy and
the operation by a defined feed-in tariff).
Additionally supporting measures can be introduced e.g. to reduce the risks connected
with the development of e.g. geothermal power plants (i.e. insurance packages
covering the geological risk which are supported by the government).
The measures outlined above are mostly part of an overall market introduction policy.
Within member states of the European Union one can find basically two different
approaches: the quota model and the reimbursement model. The former defines a quota
of e.g. electricity from renewables to be fulfilled within a certain period of time
and the latter a guaranteed feed-in tariff covering basically the electricity
generation costs. Both approaches – also in combinations and with various supporting
measures – can be found in Europe; but the feedin reimbursement model prevails in
Europe due to certain advantages.
Additionally the market introduction of geothermal electricity generation can be
promoted by so called supporting measures. This type of support from public bodies
includes e.g. PR activities to a wider public, conferences for project developer,
guide books for the development of projects for electricity generation based on the
use of geothermal energy, and the provision of geological data. These type of
activities are carried out mainly based on public money spend from regional or
national governments as well as from the European Union. But also non-governmental
organisations as well as federations financed by industry might realise such measures
striving often for very specific aspects.
To sum up various policies and strategies can be found within the European Union to
support an increased use of geothermal energy for the provision of electricity. They
are spread over the overall range from basic research via applied research and
various market introduction measures covering a wide variety from investment support
measures to information campaigns. Based on this and the different geological
conditions in different member states of the European Commission one can find very
different strategies based on quite varying combinations of these different measures.
These strategies on the national level are supported by additional measures on the
European level. But due to very different geological conditions and varying energy
policies on a national level the overall frame conditions for the further development
of a geothermal electricity production are very different in different member states
of the European Union.