Geothermal energy could help central and eastern Europe break away from coal and gas, but it needs a quicker uptake and government backing to help meet renewable energy targets, advocates say.
Countries like Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Romania and Croatia sit over the Pannonian basin, which has huge potential for geothermal energy and is over 10°C per kilometre hotter than the European average, making them a prime location for geothermal deployment.
Moreover, district heating systems inherited from Soviet times mean much of the infrastructure required for geothermal heating already exists.
Martin Hojsík is a member of Renew from Slovakia. According to him, geothermal has massive potential in the region, not just to replace coal, but as a primary source of energy, particularly for heating and cooling.
“We can cash in on it and leapfrog to green technologies rather than sink investments into gas. But there is a risk and there is massive pressure from the gas lobby in central and eastern Europe [to say that] gas is a bridging technology,” he said.
Gas emits around half the amount of carbon dioxide spewed by coal when burned in a power plant. For that reason, it is often touted as a transition fuel for coal-reliant countries in central and eastern Europe.
But according to advocates, geothermal could accelerate the coal phase-out, and shorten the intermediary step of natural gas.
“If we intend to fulfil climate targets, we need to start working on a larger number of geothermal projects as soon as possible to reduce the time necessary for shifting from natural gas,” said Igor Kocis, co-founder and CEO of GA Drilling, a deep geothermal company based in Slovakia.