Description of impactEconomic impact: Defining a sector vision
Northern Ireland Geothermal Energy Week (#NIGeothermalWeek) was held between June 13th – 17th 2022 at Riddel Hall, Queen’s Management School, Queen’s University Belfast. This inaugural event for the geothermal community in Northern Ireland could not have been more timely. The backcloth of geopolitical events – Northern Ireland Climate Act legislation mandating action on net zero targets, geopolitical conflict on the edge of the European Union leading to energy insecurity and strong inflationary pressures – has produced a window of opportunity for accelerating energy market transitions.
Northern Ireland Geothermal Energy Week inspired, energised and focused attention. Under the stewardship of the Department for the Economy (DfE) and the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI), and in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, it provided policy makers, industry and research communities with the opportunity to come together, and create the conditions for defining the vision for the future of geothermal energy in Northern Ireland.
Underpinned by the themes of partnership and inclusion, NI Geothermal Energy Week elicited the international experiences and insights from the International Geothermal Trade Associations; International Geothermal Association (IGA) – International, European Geothermal Energy Council (EGEC) - European Union, and Geothermal Rising (formally Geothermal Resources Council, GRC) - USA. This dialogue took place on the opening stakeholder day. Further to this, an awareness-and understanding-building public webinar with an expert panel, sought to highlight how geothermal energy outcomes can deliver to all communities across Northern Ireland.
Working together across the week and agreeing the way forward yielded important insight for defining a vision for geothermal energy in Northern Ireland; revolving around communities, people, customers, environment, investment and operations. This cocreated vision aligns with the NI 10X economic vision, the World Energy Council’s energy trilemma vision, local geology as well as geothermal energy sensory experiences for heating and cooling.
Northern Ireland Geothermal Energy Week was rich with information, social engagement and network encounter feedback. Taking stock, some things we learn from this inaugural event, not least with the survey feedback indicating perceptions of knowledge increasing, improving attitudes towards geothermal and reassuring points on the event organisation and a strong willingness to attend further geothermal sector events for organising and galvanising action. This report and reporting practice helps support industrial policy evaluation. It also showcases aesthetic innovation processes of sensory and evaluative forms of policymaking practice. Significantly too, this vision-making practice shifts the geological vocabulary towards a wider business sectoral understanding.
Looking forward, the challenge now is to commission, run and deliver demonstration geothermal projects, showcasing their results to the general public with a simple geothermal value proposition, while also cocreating a roadmap to deliver our future geothermal vision for Northern Ireland. We believe that this vision reflects an emerging shift towards a lingua franca for building the geothermal sector.