Shaping the research agenda for ATES and BTES towards 2030

European Shallow Geothermal Energy days 2022 in Barcelona

During the European Shallow Geothermal days, experts on ATES and BHE systems and EU policy makers from across the EU gathered to talk about developments and existing challenges to identify possible solutions to be addressed in future research and developments.

The event was organised by EGEC and hosted by the Geological Survey of Catalonia in Barcelona.

Heat pumps still underexposed

During various parts of the workshop, speakers provided adoption rates of ATES and BHE systems across EU and individual countries. They showed a coherent story of significant growth across Europe. Sweden and Germany are absolute front runners, mainly BHE systems, there are about 100 000 BHE and 3 500 ATES systems in NL. The market penetration: is highest in Sweden and Finland (11%, and 6% respectively), while in NL it is around 1%. The trend is that average system capacity is increasing.

Eric Lecomte and Eva Hoos – EC DG Energy: EC has full focus on reducing Russian gas import and rely heavily on any local renewable energy supply technologies, including BHE and ATES. However, in the numbers presented, the intended share of heat pump contributing to energy reduction was very minor, so that was a bit disappointing. Unfortunately there was no clear explanation for this discrepancy. The European Energy Directive (EED) is going to be set at a higher target for final end use and primary energy use. Also taxation is going to be changed, concrete plans were not available yet.

Increased dT and heat delivery while required pump volume (and with that subsurface footprint) reduces at the pilot of Koppert Cress.

They also pointed out the main challenges for ATES and BTES which will be reflected in the new energy and climate policy package for 2030. These challenges were then discussed during a plenary discussion. Important issues and goals for geothermal heat pumps are:

  • Low installation costs: guidance on best practices
  • Easy to deploy / purchase
  • Legal issues have to be solved: speeding up procedures, “go-to areas”
  • Strengthening and enabling District Heating and Cooling role in energy system integration. Via national frameworks to utilize waste heat/cold and/or consumer based DHC push from EU
  • Modernize existing district heating networks à large scale heat pump systems and seasonal (HT-) storage in the subsurface

Innovation and good practices

In the afternoon there were various contributions from across Europe. From most countries this were examples of BHE systems. Contributions varied from site and result descriptions from existing systems to research and demo project results/updates. Nice to see was that the dynamic closed loop system I helped developing in the climate-kic project is now being adopted in Spain and some other countries.

In the session on innovation and good practice I presented about our work on increasing the temperature level of “regular” ATES systems like we did at Koppert Cress. With increasing attention on performance as well as reducing subsurface footprint of these systems these results clearly need some follow-up research for more widespread adoption of such approaches.

Market capacity is not sufficient

An important issue we discussed during Wednesday morning is capacity in the market to build and design the many many systems to be made. Like in the Netherlands, across the EU there is lack of capacity to build ATES/BHE systems, especially in the drilling market. So in general it is important to increase market capacity with promotion and training. The recently finished GEOtrainet, is a good first step in offering a vocational training framework for ATES/BHE system. In the roll-out focus should be on the elements of the framework on the installation of the systems. In order to increase capacity in the market. At the same time it should also be arranged that drillers can easily operate in neighboring countries, to have some flexibility in the market.

There is new momentum in the market, there is potential everywhere in Europe, so we need to scale-up and unify / standardize, don’t reinvent the wheel, and lose time on complex projects. ATES and BHE has been around for many decades, this is proven and widely applied technology, keep design simple.  So availability of knowledge and training for companies entering the market is crucial, as well for authorities and policy makers.

Main issues that remain to be solved/improved:

  • Legal / authorization of the system à uniform traffic maps easy clarity on applicability. It is ok that we have some areas where we do not apply ATES/BHE and reserve subsurface space for other functions. But where ATES and BHE can be applied, procedures for permitting or registration should clear, uniform and easy
  • Financing opportunities for low income house owners
  • Optimization of planning in dense setting