EU ministers mull business case for geothermal energy in Budapest

EU ministers mull business case for geothermal energy in Budapest

EU energy ministers are due to discuss the business case for financing geothermal energy next week during an informal meeting in Budapest, according to an agenda seen by Euronews.

Each national delegation will be asked to suggest new ways to “improve the commercial viability” of geothermal investments, notably incentives and cooperation between EU countries related to district heating and cooling — a system for distributing heat and cool generated in a centralised location through insulated pipes for residential and commercial use.

Ministers will visit an operational geothermal drill in Tököl, south of Budapest, next Monday (15 July) followed by talks on Tuesday (July 16) on the potential for extracting subterranean heat.

The Hungarian Presidency of the EU Council touted boosting geothermal energy in its work programme, by creating new business models bolstered by risk mitigating measures — a proposal that has received mixed reactions according to two EU diplomats and a national ministry.

“The idea [geothermal energy and possible financing] is currently still being discussed internally but no decision has been taken so far,” an EU diplomat told Euronews.

“Our overall position is that we don't want to pre-empt the multiannual financial framework (MFF) discussions with proposals for new funds,” a second EU diplomat told Euronews.

Austrian minister Leonore Gewessler plans to attend the informal ministerial meeting in Budapest, the ministry told Euronews, adding that “geothermal energy is an important part to boost renewable and clean energy” both for Vienna and at EU level.

“We support the idea of funding programs, especially because there are relatively high investment costs to locate promising geothermal areas and tailored instruments are needed as well,” the ministry said.

Sanjeev Kumar, head of EU policy at the European Geothermal Energy Council, welcomed the upcoming debate among ministers in Budapest: “This is the first step towards a European geothermal strategy, growing our economy and make our energy system affordable again.”

“While geothermal energy still represents a minor share of the EU’s renewable energy production, it holds significant untapped potential, as a stable, reliable and local energy source, which could make an important contribution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to increase the EU energy sovereignty and energy security by replacing imported fossil fuels,” read a background document seen by Euronews.

Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Portugal already rely on geothermal for energy production, according to Eurostat, a reality the Hungarian Presidency wants to expand to help the bloc’s 2030 climate target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55%, the Presidency’s document read.

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