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Harnessing the Heat Below our Feet

Promises, pitfalls and spatialization of geothermal energy as a decarbonization strategy.


This project is a collaboration between University of Groningen (Ethemcan Turhan), KTH (Marco Armiero) and University of Chile (Marco Billi). The overarching aim is to identify and compare different socio-technical pathways to geothermal energy across different cases, particularly distinguishing transitional and transformative approaches to geothermal power and the socio-technical system dynamics and assemblages they bring forward. The ultimate goal of the project is to improve our understanding of promises, pitfalls and diverse spatializations of the energy transition to pave the way towards transformative change in decarbonization across urban energy landscapes.

Harnessing the energies of steaming hot waters pumped from deep underground aquifers with high pressure, geothermal energy is one of the much-lauded forms of sustainable energy in a time of climate crisis. Often praised concerning its 'untapped' potential, the promise of geothermal resources is to provide high quality, climate-friendly, reliable and cheap energy for societies on their green growth pathways. Transnational initiatives such as the Global Geothermal Alliance as well as other regional strategies such as the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan also indicate the crucial role geothermal plays towards global decarbonization. Nonetheless, this enthusiasm in harnessing the heat under our feet through geothermal investments is not shared equally and unequivocally.

Following geothermal power as a socio-technical regime, an assemblage of objects, infrastructures, and material-discursive practices, this project focuses on the spatialization of geothermal as a decarbonization strategy in three distinct contexts: Sweden, Chile, and Turkey.

The project will investigate three complementary dimensions with a transdisciplinary comparative focus:

a) institutional / policy context
b) assemblages and materialities of geothermal energy
c) sociotechnical trajectories and imaginaries through multi-method approach including comparative policy analysis, Q-methodology, in-depth case studies, and Metalogue, a participatory tool for decarbonization.

Funding Agency: Formas/the Swedish Research Council
Period: 2021-2023

Collaborating Universities