Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Newspaper column 23 September 2015 - Deep Geothermal Energy

I recently welcomed the changes that the Government has made to the subsidies to wind and solar farms.  In my view Cornwall already has too many that blight parts of our countryside.  However, we still need to develop new and innovative energy solutions and it is for this reason that I am a strong supporter of the development of a geothermal industry in Cornwall. 

For me, geothermal power represents one of the next generation of renewable, sustainable, energy sources that we are well placed to pioneer in Cornwall.  

Geothermal energy is often referred to as “hot rocks” and the idea is to harness the power of the heat that lies within the rocks far below the surface of the earth.  Cornwall’s ancient granite makes our geology suitable for this technology and it is not dependant on either the wind blowing or the sun shining.

The industry is in its infancy and the exploratory part of its development makes it very risky for investors.  For that reason the government and other agencies such as the EU must step up to help bring this technology to fruition.   The issue has thankfully been recognised in the Deal for Cornwall unveiled by the Prime Minister in July this year. 

The industry could bring a number of benefits.  Firstly, the energy created by these projects would provide hot water or electricity to local business and communities at low cost.  This energy would have been created locally, not far away in coal-fired power stations.

Next, as the industry grows, Cornwall could become a centre of excellence nationally and even internationally.  Apart from the jobs created by the geothermal projects themselves, companies supplying the geothermal industry could base themselves in Cornwall, further adding to our employment base.  These would be the higher-paid jobs that we so desperately need.

Finally, the spin offs for education would be the opportunity to create industry-specific courses at our local colleges and to support the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths or “STEM” curriculum.  The industry would allow our young people to train in Cornwall and then pursue a career in an innovative and growing industry.

It is my role to assist in turning these ideas into funding and action.  The first step I have taken is that I have met with the leaders of two projects in the constituency to listen to their concerns and challenges.  

Secondly, is to request a meeting with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to discuss how the Government will support geothermal energy in Cornwall. I can then champion the potential of the local projects with the Secretary of State and hopefully gain her support. 

Geothermal energy represents an exciting opportunity for Cornwall and I look forward to positive results in the coming months and years.

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