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Pannonian Basin as a platform for geothermal leadership – interview with Arctic Green Energy’s COO, Eirikur Bragason

Eirikur Bragason, Chief Operating Officer of Arctic Green Energy will be one of the speakers of the Budapest Geothermal Energy Summit to be held on 5 June.

Approaching the first-ever Budapest Geothermal Energy Summit, we sat down with Eirikur Bragason, Chief Operating Officer of Arctic Green Energy, a renewable energy developer specialising in geothermal, solar and wind power. During our conversation, we discussed the challenges and opportunities for the European geothermal sector, regional leaders and laggers and the company’s geothermal developments in Central and Eastern Europe.

Amidst the EU’s energy paradigm shift following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we asked Mr Bragason about the biggest opportunities and benefits of expanding geothermal district heating networks in Europe today. “The greatest opportunities lie in the energy transfer from fossil fuel to renewable energy for household heating which is approximately 50 per cent of the energy use of cities. Central Europe is to a large extent suitable for some geothermal utilisation and large areas are simply ideal for geothermal development,” he says.

Conversely, we asked about the most acute challenges in this area. “The biggest challenge is for the municipalities or operators of heating grids to prepare heating grids for renewable heating, for example, using geothermal energy or waste heat. This means they need to lower the operational temperature of existing heating grids and plan new grids with lower operational temperature,” says Mr Bragason.

“The best way is to plan the energy transfer in steps. New residential areas can be planned for lower operational temperature and maintenance work of existing grids can be planned for stepwise adapting to renewable energy. Simply by lowering operational temperature in the summer period can make a significant impact.  The house owners can also include the heat transfer into their long-term maintenance work by either upgrading their heating radiators or by installing floor heating,” he adds.

Pannonian Basin: a platform for geothermal leadership?

“Arctic Green is working on multiple geothermal heating projects and geothermal power projects in Central Europe, for example, in Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia and further countries. In total Arctic Green has some 15 projects in our project portfolio,” Mr Bragason notes.

One of the projects is in Budapest in cooperation with the city’s utility company, Fötav, the Arctic Green Energy COO says. “The first construction is scheduled to begin this year by drilling a production well in the city. The goal is to stepwise increase the use of renewable energy, but already the first phase will have a significant impact on air pollution. Long term the cost of household heating will also be lower.”

Considering the company’s extensive experience in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), we asked about the regional leaders and laggers in adopting geothermal district heating. As Mr Bragason tells us, the countries in the Pannonian Basin (Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia) where geothermal utilisation is most suitable can be leaders in using renewable energy for household heating. “The municipalities with operating distribution grids are in a unique position to transfer rapidly from fossil fuel to renewable energy,” he points out.

Long-term prospects for geothermal energy

Approaching the end of our discussion, we asked Mr Bragason about the long-term prospects for geothermal energy and the role of Arctic Green Energy in the sector’s developments. “In 10 years, we would like to see most cities in Central Europe heated with geothermal energy or waste heat and so with lowering the CO2 pollution in Central Europe significantly,” he highlights.

“We foresee a few players in the business that have good access to funding since obviously, geothermal utilisation is very cost intensive. Most of the countries in Central Europe are adapting their regulatory framework for renewable heating which makes the funding of geothermal projects easier,” he concludes.

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