The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recently adopted a report, followed by a resolution, on the theme: “Geothermal energy – a local answer to a hot topic?”
Since it was founded some 15 years ago, the European Energy Forum has devoted, on average, one major event every two years to the issue of geothermal energy. In particular, a seminar entitled “European Geothermal Energy Day”, which brought together experts as well as national MPs from all over Europe, was held on 12 May 1998. The seminar ended with a dinner-debate on the energy potential of “hot dry rocks”. Among the participating national MPs – who were members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – was Thomas Olrich, who represented Iceland and who went on to become the Foreign Minister of his country and, subsequently, Ambassador to France and to several international institutions. As a matter of fact, it was Thomas Olrich who invited the Forum to visit Iceland, which we did in October 2001 and again in May 2005.
Here is a summary of the above-mentioned report.
Geothermal energy, which is energy sourced from the Earth's heat, has long been known to man and exploited by him. Its use goes all the way back to antiquity. It is now used by ninety countries, in twenty-four of them for electricity generation. In certain cases it accounts for a fairly substantial – between 15 and 22% - proportion of all the electricity produced.
Geothermal energy is sustainable and non-polluting and also has the advantage of being widely available and not dependent on climatic conditions. The gradual depletion of reserves of fossil fuels and efforts to combat climate change make geothermal energy a potentially interesting method of meeting our energy needs. It is also likely to be more cost-effective than other sources of renewable energy.
However, the exploitation of geothermal energy still suffers from certain legislative and regulatory, and financial and economic, weaknesses.
The Parliamentary Assembly therefore recommends the use of geothermal energy as a means of combating climate change and stresses that in order to achieve this objective local elected representatives and political decision-makers must take the necessary steps to inform the general public and, above all, potential investors, of its benefits. It also calls for strategic research programmes, financing and insurance schemes and adequate training.
Even more recently, the weekly “The Economist” published an outstanding article on the subject “Hot rocks and high hopes”. Lastly, the European Geothermal Energy Council held a high-level scientific seminar in Brussels on 14 September this year.