A Glasgow Caledonian University academic is calling on the Scottish Government to embrace the benefits of geothermal energy.

Dr Keith Baker has co-authored a paper which sets out how he believes investing in geothermal energy, particularly heat recovered from flooded mine workings, could play a valuable role in tackling climate change and providing low-cost, renewable heat to Scottish households.

The paper is a collaboration between the Built Environment Asset Management (BEAM) Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, Douglas Chapman MP, Alex Neil (former SNP MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities of Scotland) and Common Weal.

Dr Baker said: “The Coal Authority estimates geothermal resource can provide around 7,920 petajoules of heat to households across the UK, with the potential to store more. For comparison, natural gas supplied 1,080 petajoules for domestic heating in 2020. Furthermore, the potential is greatest among post-industrial communities, which suffer from particularly high levels of fuel poverty.

“Scotland has a wealth of available resources and specialist expertise, with Glasgow being home to the UK’s state-of-the-art Geoenergy Observatory. And it’s not just flooded mine workings that are ideal for exploitation. Pioneering work by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian has demonstrated the potential for recovering heat from the Glasgow Subway – providing cheap heat while also helping keep travellers cool – and further potential exists where deep geothermal technology can be used to access ‘hot rocks’ deep underground.”

The authors cite recent papers from Dr Kieran Mullan MP (Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich) and All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Coalfield Communities, and call for greater cooperation across the political parties and across national divides to re-examine mechanisms for financial support, planning and regulation to reduce risk and break through barriers to kickstart Scotland’s domestic geothermal sector.

Dr Baker added: “All that’s needed to get the domestic geothermal sector off the ground is to get the technology in the ground. The technology is proven, and the economics add up, so we only need the political will. Otherwise, we will continue to drag our heels while continuing to burn fossil gas and leaving households at the mercy of the international energy markets.

“We have already seen where tinkering at the edges gets us and, while rebooting geothermal today won’t avert the potential for another energy bills crisis this winter, our governments need to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that, one day soon, householders won’t have to worry about paying exorbitant energy costs and contributing to climate change.”