Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is the natural heat stored within the Earth. It can be used for water and space heating and may also be used to generate electricity.

In 2016 we developed regulatory guidance in partnership with the relevant regulatory authorities to help promote awareness of the regulatory framework for deep geothermal projects in Scotland.

We have supported a number of studies to explore the potential of geothermal energy in Scotland as a source of low-carbon heat. These are detailed below.

Potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland

In 2013 we commissioned AECOM, in partnership with the British Geological Survey (BGS), to study the potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland. They identified three geothermal energy sources with significant potential:

  • abandoned mineworkings, such as those in Scotland’s Midland Valley
  • hot sedimentary aquifers, which are bodies of permeable rock that can conduct significant quantities of groundwater
  • hot dry rocks , which in Scotland are likely to exist in high heat production granites such as those in East Grampian and to the north of Inverness

Since the report was published we have been working with stakeholders to build on these findings to help develop a geothermal energy industry in Scotland. Read the two volumes of the study report below.

Feasibility studies

In 2014 we established the short-life Geothermal Energy Expert Group to provide advice on how to kickstart the geothermal industry in Scotland. The group recommended that we fund feasibility studies to collect further data on Scotland’s geothermal resource and identify potential local markets for that resource.

We launched the Geothermal Energy Challenge Fund in March 2015 as part of the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme (LCITP). From 2015 to 2016 we made a grant of almost £200,000 available under LCITP to explore the technical feasibility, economic viability, and environmental sustainability of the geothermal resource in sites in:

  • Fife
  • North Lanarkshire
  • Aberdeen
  • Aberdeenshire
  • Clackmannanshire

Further work at the Fife site received a £37,000 grant from the LCITP.

A life cycle assessment of the carbon intensity of low enthalpy deep geothermal heat systems has been undertaken, building on the findings of the feasibility study exploring the potential for a deep geothermal heat project at the Hill of Banchory, Aberdeenshire.  The results are available as an open access article in ‘Science of the Total Environment’.

Learning journey

In March 2016 we and Scottish Development International (SDI) sponsored a learning journey for stakeholders in the public, private and academic sectors to the Heerlen project in the Netherlands which is exploring the potential of geothermal energy from stored water in abandoned coalmines.

A learning journey report was produced to detail observations from the trip.

Research site in Glasgow

The Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site is one of three sites which form the BGS UK Geoenergy Observatories Programme. The site is owned by Clyde Gateway, a partnership between Glasgow City Council, South Lanarkshire Council and Scottish Enterprise, backed by funding and direct support from the Scottish Government.

Following receipt of planning permission from both councils, drilling of a total of 12 boreholes started in November 2018.

Find more information on the Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site on the BGS website.

Scottish Enterprise commissioned Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site (GGEFRS) company demand analysis. The key finding is that the presence of the GGERFS in Scotland, and the adjacent Clyde Gateway 5th generation district heating network, could be an opportunity to create a platform for collaborative action that will maximise benefits to Scottish companies, provide the evidence for wider replication and attract key players from other countries.


For more information on geothermal energy, contact Johann MacDougall at