Drilling tower symbolises the depth of geothermal energy; Source: BMWi

© BMWi

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy provides funding towards the use of geothermal power for heat or electricity generation. In the case of "deep" geothermal energy, heat is extracted from geothermal reservoirs at depths greater than 400m which are accessed by drilling. "Hydrothermal energy" means that the energy contained below ground in warm/hot water is used; petrothermal energy uses the energy stored in the rock.

Geothermal energy is a source of energy which, in contrast to the intermittently available wind and solar energy, can be used continuously. It can therefore play an important role in a future regenerative energy mix. Overall, the use of geothermal energy offers significant potential; in theory, Germany's energy needs could be covered by it several times over. However, at present it is more expensive to generate electricity from deep geothermal energy than from comparable renewable sources. For this reason, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is helping to fund research projects which aim to make the use of geothermal energy more reliable and cheaper (cf. funding announcement for the 6th Energy Research Programme (PDF: 1.12 MB)).

One important focus of the ministry's research funding is to keep developing exploration methods in order to find appropriate sites. In view of high drilling costs, the risk of failure to find a suitable water reservoir or enough hot rock must be minimised. A lower risk of failure would also make the technology more attractive for investors.

Research is also focused on improving the level of public acceptance of geothermal projects. By providing the public with better information about the technologies in use and the benefits of this form of energy, the conditions can be put in place for the launch of further projects. Above all, however, it is necessary to cut the project costs further so that the technology can be used on a truly economically viable basis in future. Here, a role is played by the development of technology in all the various project phases: planning and exploration, drilling/construction, and test/operation.