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Who Owns the Heat? The Scope for Geothermal Heat to Contribute to Net Zero

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Anna McClean, Professor Ole Pedersen



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Oxford University Press, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Geothermal resources can be used to produce heat or generate electricity. It has been estimated that the UK has sufficient geothermal resources to meet all its heating demands for the next 100 years and provide 9 per cent of England's and 85 per cent of Scotland's electricity demand. Geothermal resources therefore have the potential to make a significant contribution to the achievement of net zero carbon emissions, particularly in relation to the decarbonization of the heating and cooling of buildings, but are currently underutilised in the UK. This article examines the implications that the lack of clear definition of 'heat' and questions regarding its ownership have on the regulation of geothermal resources. It considers a number of possibilities for the ownership model for heat and concludes that a hybrid model of ownership in which geothermal heat is owned by the Crown but ownership of the land within which it is located remains in private ownership may create a regime in which geothermal heat can be used efficiently and sustainably and which helps the industry grow.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McClean A, Pedersen O

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal Of Environmental Law

Year: 2021

Online publication date: 08/12/2021

Acceptance date: 12/10/2021

Date deposited: 04/01/2022

ISSN (print): 0952-8873

ISSN (electronic): 1464-374X

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/jel/eqab038


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