More than ten years ago I was enthusiastic about the rapid adoption of geothermal energy in Gippsland. In particular, it was the idea that the coal beds would act as an insulator and the thermal energy resource beneath the coal would be high. The potential was there to replace the coal-fired generators with geothermal ones in the same or nearby locations, helping avoid some of the problems associated with a just transition. In my enthusiasm I ran as a climate independent in the seat of Morwell in the 2010 State election with geothermal energy adoption as my main policy, with far from satisfactory results.
In 2016 I noted “Most of Gippsland is still covered by geothermal prospecting licences which are best described as ‘inactive’. In East Gippsland Petratherm still holds the licence. This company, a ‘penny dreadful’, lingers at the bottom of the market and is obviously starved of capital.” Then there were at least two companies exploring geothermal options in Gippsland and one selling geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling residences was located in Traralgon.
A recent article from Earth Resources Victoria reminded me of the potential for geothermal energy: “More and more economies around the world are exploring geothermal as a renewable energy source. Gippsland isn’t being left behind, with the Latrobe Valley Authority working with the state’s geoscience agency, the Geological Survey of Victoria (GSV), and the University of Melbourne to carry out geothermal mapping of the region…Dr Graeme Beardsmore, says it is coal that makes the area a prime location for harnessing geothermal power.”
The report noted that “The Latrobe City Council recently opened the Gippsland Regional Aquatic Centre in Traralgon, the first public aquatic facility in Victoria to incorporate a deep bore geothermal heating system. The Centre taps into an aquifer more than 600 metres below ground where the water is above 60 degrees Celsius, heating the community pool naturally and cheaply…Earlier this year saw the announcement of the Metung Hot Springs after funding from the Gippsland Tourism Recovery Package and Local Economic Recovery program was confirmed in the wake of the bushfires.”
Whilst these advances are interesting, it is disappointing that this huge and sustainable energy resource remains untapped. Instead, our region remains stuck with the declining energies of the past and the criminal exploitation of our most valuable carbon store – native forests. Perhaps the Earth Resources mapping will assist the transition from old to new in some small way.