Geothermal as employment driver for the Campine and Limburg

Geothermal as employment driver for the Campine and Limburg

IDEA calculated the possible economic impact of geothermal energy expansion in Flanders. If the potential of geothermal stations in the Campine and Limburg can be realised, this will result in an average of 1,500 jobs per year in the 2015-2050 period.

Geothermal energy is a type of sustainable energy that is already being used extensively in many countries, but is as yet unexplored in Flanders.

In the framework of the Geothermal 2020 project of VITO, VOKA Kempen and IOK, IDEA calculated the direct, indirect and side effects connected to the construction, operation and maintenance of geothermal stations in Flanders. The calculation model used was designed dynamically so that new data and insights discovered by, among others, test drilling operations planned in the Campine, can be entered at a later date. The results presented in this study take into account the information that is currently available.

The calculations demonstrate that the economic impact in terms of employment is substantial. A geothermal station in which heat or a combination of heat and electricity is generated is, regarding employment, equivalent to a small SME (between 20 FTEs and 40 FTEs - depending on whether or not electricity is also generated in addition to heat) during the lifespan of the geothermal project (30 years).

If the maximum potential of these types of stations were to be realised in the Campine and North Limburg, this can lead to an average of 1,500 jobs annually between 2015 and 2050.
It is estimated that approximately 75% of these will be in Flanders. This does not take into account any increase in specialisations of Flemish businesses in geothermal-related activities, which can result in a higher percentage. It is however important to note that the degree to which this potential will be realised depends largely on a number of critical factors, such as the success of the pilot projects, the evolution of energy prices and the availability of government aid.

In the context of this study, no extensive comparison was made in the area of employment between the current energy generation of mainly natural gas and the alternative via geothermal energy. Foreign studies such as those carried out by the American Department of Energy did however calculate that geothermal energy results in a large number of jobs. This reflects our findings that geothermal energy has a structurally "longer" local value chain, that due to the small scale more stations are needed and that the economic activities associated with them are more labour-intensive. Due to the absence of fuel costs, geothermal energy remains competitive despite the substantial costs (capital and personnel).

The results of the IDEA study were presented on 4 May 2015 during a visit to the geothermal station in Grünwald (Munich) led by Ministers Muyters and Turtelboom. This visit also concluded the EFRO Project "Geothermal 2020" that is hoping to clear the path for pioneering geothermal projects in Flanders. Geothermal energy is more than just a sustainable, stable and affordable source of heat and electricity. Its use can give a powerful boost to the Flemish economy.

Read more about the Geothermal 2020 project (in Dutch) at:

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foto Bart Van Herck
Bart Van Herck
Senior Expert Regional & Urban Development / Managing Director


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