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Energy from the Earth - Deep Geothermal as a Resource for the Future?

Studie der TA-Swiss 62/2015

Geothermal energy is attractive because of the very large scale of the resource, its expected relatively low CO2 emissions, and its reliable, all-day domestic availability. However, the future contribution of deep geothermal energy is subject to major uncertainties: How much of this resource can be exploited and at what economic cost? What are the environmental and risk-related externalities that the public must be willing to bear? How does its overall performance compare to competing energy resources? Will the regulatory framework and public acceptance be sufficient to allow geothermal energy to provide a significant contribution? The TA-SWISS assessment attempts to answer these questions in a comprehensive and balanced way using an interdisciplinary evaluation approach.

Teaser: Energy from the Earth - Deep Geothermal as a Resource for the Future?

The most essential recommendations of the study are:

  • Geothermal energy is one of few “new” renewable options that could supply base-load power to the market and thus substantially contribute to security of supply.
  • Electricity from deep geothermal plants exhibits favorable environmental performance under normal operating conditions. From the environmental point of view, and with particular regard to climate protection, geothermal energy is an attractive potential contributor to the future Swiss energy mix and deserves to be seriously considered.
  • Further promotion of geothermal energy production is necessary to scale up the market.
  • Given the huge uncertainty about the potential geothermal reserves in Switzerland, a major use-inspired research initiative coupled to a program of pilot and demonstration projects is needed.
  • It would be a significant advance to link the locations of geological potential, political regulation, population (or sensitivity to seismicity), and heat markets to the economic model to map out the resulting costs of geothermal electricity generation and show where the best potential locations may be.
  • Seismicity risks can be assessed and mitigated, but not eliminated.
  • Use of the Swiss subsurface is regulated by the cantons. This creates certain difficulties for the potential operators of geothermal plants. A homogeneous regulatory framework or a federal regulatory competence centre could simplify and accelerate the process.
  • Some cantons have adopted a concentration model in which one authority coordinates the content of the various permits and issues them on a package basis. Such a model would serve to speed up procedures.
  • The entire process of planning, siting, and implementing geothermal projects must be closely followed by a carefully planned, continuously monitored, and precisely evaluated process of public and stakeholder engagement.

Source: Reference: TA-Swiss Study 62/2015, Stefan Hirschberg, Stefan Wiemer, Peter Burgherr (eds.), vdf Hochschulverlag AG, 524 Seiten, CHF 57.00 / EUR 49.80 (D) ; ISBN 978-3-7281-3654-1 (Buch)


  • Géothermie

The study was conducted by consortium with multi-disciplinary competences. The participants included the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI; coordinator of the study), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and University of Stuttgart/Dialogik. More than 30 researchers from these organizations contributed to the project. The study established an intensive interaction with the recently established Swiss Competence Center (SCCER) on Supply of Electricity, which has created synergies for the parallel development of a deep geothermal roadmap for Switzerland.