Building the institutional infrastructure for the geothermal sector in Northern Ireland

Impact: Public Policy Impact, Environmental Impact, Societial Impact

Description of impact

From 2019, Palmer, Ofterdinger and colleagues’ research has significantly influenced geothermal energy sector in Northern Ireland, to enable the development of a policy and regulatory framework that supports and promotes opportunities to unlock Northern Ireland’s geothermal resource which is contained in the Department for Economy policy.The research is interdisciplinary between the School of Natural and Built Environment and Queen's Management School.  

The NI Department for Economy in conjunction with the Geological Survey of NI commissioned myself and colleagues to write a report on building the NI geothermal sector. We are organising a #geothermalheatweek at Riddel Hall in June 2022 with 120 key stakeholders where our report will be launched. 

In 2022, the research team is due to complete a commissioned report for the Department for Economy (NI) and provides an assessment of the market scaffolding of the geothermal sector in Northern Ireland, identifying several areas including the building of (i) protective niche scaffolding for the sector, (ii), multiple narratives and value systems, (iii) building and maintaining temporary sector clusters, (iv), evaluation to enhance institutional geothermal authority, (v), organising with government partners, (vi) ensuring high standards in the geothermal sector, (vii), Legislation, regulatory framework and procedurality, and (viii) Social licence: people and a sense of place.


This research outlined a series of recommendations on how Northern Ireland can accelerate the development of its geothermal resources with a particular focus on those sectors that where geothermal resources can have the biggest impact on decarbonisation of energy in NorthernIreland.  Moreover, the team’s work will contribute greatly to stakeholder debate on energy strategy and heatde carbonisation in particular.  

Who is affected

12 groups of stakeholders have been identified.
All end-users/customers of heat and cooling.
A full stakeholder mapping exercise has been completed as part of the research and in the building engagement.


Queen’s University is an institutional pioneer in geothermal technology and it is deployed within the new Management School build at Riddel Hall with 38 boreholes drilled and awaiting connection. This is a very visible example of Queen’s University leading civic society and decarbonising heat within our university estate. This university civic leadership is noteworthy to showcase and measure the impact of this activity.
Impact statusOngoing
Category of impactPublic Policy Impact, Environmental Impact, Societial Impact
Impact levelEngagement