The COST Action Geothermal DHC organised a digital workshop on 1st October 2020 about the opportunities and limitations of using geothermal energy in European touristic volcanic islands.
The digital event comprised key note presentations from Portugal, France, Spain, Iceland and Greece. It also discussed barriers, recommendations and solutions to make the most of geothermal energy potential.
Opening of the workshop and welcome address by Gregor Goetzl, chair of the COST Action CA18219 Geothermal-DHC
Welcome address and keynote by Attila Kujbus, European Geothermal Energy Council: “Geothermal energy use on (volcanic) European Islands from a market and policy point of view”
About geothermal energy use on volcanic islands
Due to unique landscapes, volcanic islands like the Canary, Azores, and Aeolian or in the Aegean Sea are very attractive for tourists, which in turn put stress on the islands’ energy supply. In the context of climate change mitigation as well as for economic reasons, measures need to be taken to substitute the import of fossil fuels for energy production by on-site resources, which are able to provide base load supply. Active or post-active volcanic islands offer elevated geothermal heat flux, which could be used for combined heat and power production at base load level. However, especially in arid or semi-arid volcanic islands, major constraints for using geothermal energy are given by lack of groundwater, which acts as a heat carrier fluid.
Conclusions of the workshop
Starting in the early 1970s due to the global oil crisis, geothermal energy use on volcanic islands has been investigated for over 40 years. Although exploration started at the same period in most European volcanic islands, some of them, like the Azores, already managed to introduce geothermal energy for electricity production – others, like the Canary- or Aegean Islands still struggle to do so. In this context islands face various barriers, such as low local community trust into the safety and environmental impact of the technology, limited demand or missing incentives. Moreover, low and substituted price for fossil fuels from the 1980s on diminished the interest of local governments in geothermal investments. Other islands like Iceland pursued in developing geothermal energy despite of the economic boundary conditions for fossil fuels and managed to decarbonize the electricity and heating sector by applying locally available energy resources. Nowadays, more than 90% of Iceland’s heat and more than 25% of its electricity demand is supplied by geothermal energy.
In the light of the green energy transition geothermal will play an important role in supplying communities with on-site renewable electricity and heating on volcanic islands. The key success can be summarized as:
In 2018, the EU started the “Clean Energy for European Islands” initiative, which may help to boost geothermal energy use on islands. As the next 20 years will be crucial to achieve the clean energy transition, actions need to be done now to stimulate investments in geothermal energy!