Enhanced Geothermal: A Low-Cost Hedge on Carbon Sequestration

Canada has committed to spending $4 billion to demonstrate carbon capture and storage (CCS). The International Energy Agency estimates there between $26 and $34 billion committed to CCS demonstration projects. That’s a big bet on keeping coal plants open.

My pitch to COP17 on EGS, played in Durban on Dec 9, 2011 as part of the Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI) blueprint to a low-carbon future.

We might want to hedge that bet. There is another way to replace coal as baseload power. Enhanced Geothermal (EGS) drills deep to get at a huge resource of heat, which can be converted to electricity. Thousands of times our primary energy needs sit beneath our feet. I have written about EGS here.

EGS is one recommendation that came out of the Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 (held at the Perimeter Institute in June of 2011). There, we articulated three pathways to low-carbon baseload power: renewables plus storage, next-generation nuclear (breeder reactors) and EGS. From this Summit emerged a blueprint to get us there. This blueprint was formally introduced at COP17 in Durban this week.

Above is a short video that was my pitch to COP17 on how to get EGS to market: generate an international consortium of public and private players (finance, energy, engineering, government) to pony up $1 billion to build 10 commercial-scale demonstration projects around the world. This would de-risk the technology at commercial scale, generate a shared set of best practices, and map the resource.

EGS is like nuclear or CCS: it is of such a scale that without a push by the public sector, it will remain in the shadows.

Want to replace a coal plant? CCS is one way. EGS is another. In order to have the EGS card to play in 5 or 10 years, we need to make this investment. It would be prudent to hedge our bets.

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