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Filling in for coal – the potential role of geothermal energy in Germany

Open pit coal mine and power plant, Saxonia/ Germany (source: flickr/ gbohne, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 22 Sep 2018

Making a case for geothermal energy - an article by the German Geothermal Association on how geothermal energy can play an important role in the planned exit from coal fueled power and heat generation in Germany.

A recent article shared by Germany’s Geothermal Association highlights on how geothermal energy can make a significant contribution to planned exit from coal fueled power and heat generation.

The exit from coal is seen as requirement for climate protection reasons and inevitable in Germany. The generation of electricity and heat must then be replaced by renewable energy. Especially in terms of heat generation, geothermal energy can make a significant contribution, and in areas with resources, it can replace the heat supply from coal with geothermal energy.

Geothermal heating plants in Germany can replace heat generation by coal-fired power plants to a significant extent. A number of coal-fired power plants are located in geothermal regions of the Upper Rhine Graben and the North German Basin. Assuming 2,500 full load hours and an installed capacity of 40 MWth, a geothermal heating plant could provide about 0.1 TWh of heat annually and supply large areas with heat from renewable energies. It should also be emphasised that many regions already have a district heating network that can be used to provide geothermal heat.

According to the climate protection goals of the German government, the share of renewable energies in gross final energy consumption should increase by 60% by 2050. This will entail a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990. To achieve this, it is imperative that the coal is eliminated as soon as possible. The share of coal power in the German energy supply is still around 45% and even today, new coal-fired power plants are under construction and planning. In addition to emitting enormously high CO2 emissions, they also cause high costs if environmental and health damage is included.

Both in the area of electricity generation and in the supply of heat, the exit from coal requires a much greater expansion of renewable energies. Deep geothermal energy can generate heat in particular through the construction of heating plants and thus, partially replace the heat supply by coal-fired power plants. Geothermal heat is therefore key to the decarbonisation of the heating market by 2050. The expansion of geothermal energy is funded by the program “Heat grids 4.0”, published by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy in 2017. The aim is to provide heating and cooling through innovative and environmentally friendly heating systems from renewable sources To provide energy.

Source: German Geothermal Association