Michelle O’Grady, from the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) reflects on the recent annual Geothermal Symposium held in London. 

Together with other members of the GeoEnergy NI project team, I was delighted to attend the 10th UK Geothermal Symposium organised by the Geological Society held in London last month.  

It was an exciting moment for the GeoEnergy NI team as Michael MacKenzie, from the Department for Economy (DfE) and Project Manager for GeoEnergy NI, took to the stage as a keynote speaker.  Michael gave a detailed overview and update on progress of the demonstrator project to date, whilst highlighting the potential of geothermal energy in Northern Ireland to support the decarbonisation agenda.  

After Michael’s presentation, attendees had the opportunity to try our virtual reality (VR) headsets and fantastic educational content in the different modules. The VR content we have produced allowed users to visualise the heat beneath their feet and better understand how geothermal energy can be accessed and utilised. The interactive geothermal content generated a lot of interest from our geothermal colleagues, one person even commented that the modules were better than the Oppenheimer movie! 

Michael MacKenzie, Project Manager GeoEnergy NI (DfE), speaking at the 10th UK Geothermal Symposium, London

Michael MacKenzie, Project Manager GeoEnergy NI (DfE), speaking at the 10th UK Geothermal Symposium, London

 

Throughout the Geothermal Symposium, two key themes emerged. Firstly, the importance of government and policy support for the geothermal energy sector and secondly, how open conversations and promotion of geothermal technologies through demonstrator projects such as GeoEnergy NI can prove beneficial for informing the public about this important renewable, sustainable energy source. 

Dr. Kieran Mullan, MP, spoke about how stakeholder engagement is vital to raise awareness of the potential of geothermal and debunk some myths about the technology. Kieran added that MPs have an important role to play in helping raise the profile of geothermal energy and what it offers in the pursuit of net zero targets. These thoughts were echoed by Marit Brommer, Executive Director of the International Geothermal Association (IGA), who noted that without political support there will be no meaningful geothermal progress. 

Dr. Kieran Mullan, MP, trialling a Virtual Reality headset at the 10th UK Geothermal Symposium, London. 

Dr. Kieran Mullan, MP, trialling a Virtual Reality headset at the 10th UK Geothermal Symposium, London.

 

Corrina Abesser, Policy Director at the British Geological Society (BGS) also presented findings from a new report highlighting deep geothermal energy opportunities in the UK. Corrina echoed the sentiments of previous speakers, stating that we need to improve the visibility of geothermal in government strategies and have a clear policy and vision on how to develop the geothermal sector across the UK. 

Demonstrating value  

Many speakers at the Geothermal Symposium emphasised that the most effective method for promoting the benefits of geothermal energy is through demonstrator projects. By having a demonstrator project that people can visit and talk about, key audiences can find out more information about geothermal, the technologies used, the drilling of the boreholes and what it means for the future.  

This engagement is at the very core of the GeoEnergy NI project. Our aim is to raise public awareness and interest in geothermal energy through the demonstrator project and key engagement tools including our GeoEnergy Discovery Centre, the GeoEnergy website and social media channels as well as our upcoming GeoEnergy Discovery Centre Roadshows in 2024. 

Future focused  

The Geothermal Symposium allowed the GeoEnergy NI team to reflect on the many geothermal energy opportunities available in the UK, and in particular share our experiences and learnings with others also engaged in the sector.

It was fantastic to hear about the geothermal projects in development and operation across the UK, and the different ways geothermal resources are being used to provide low carbon heat and, in some cases, electricity generation.

With focus, clear policy direction and active promotion, we can ensure that we harness that potential right across the UK. For our part, we were proud to showcase the progress of the GeoEnergy NI project and how we hope to unearth the heat beneath our feet in Northern Ireland.

Thanks again to the Geological Society of London’s Energy Group for an insightful few days. We hope to be back next year with some exciting updates on Northern Ireland’s geothermal sector!