E.ON plans to drill five to seven kilometres into the ground at Malmö to tap into maximum temperatures of 160 degrees Celsius to be fed directly into the district heating network of Sweden’s third-largest city.

The German utility is currently investigating the geological conditions through test boreholes. If all goes according to plan, the plant will supply the renewable heat to district heating customers from 2022.

E.ON hopes to have built five geothermal power plants in Malmö by 2028, each with an installed capacity of 50MWth (thermal megawatt).

“E.ON’s goal is to supply Swedish customers with 100% renewable and recovered energy. With deep geothermal energy, we’re tapping into a new energy source that can ensure renewable production in the long term,” E.ON Sweden chief executive Marc Hoffmann said.

“Deep geothermal energy is resource-efficient, emission free, noise-free and space saving, making it one of the best solutions for urban energy systems of the future.”

E.ON claims its pilot project is among Europe’s first geothermal power plants to extract geothermal energy from depths of several kilometres on an industrial scale.

Rival German utility Stadtwerke München (SWM) is already drilling boreholes at several locations in and around Munich that are between three and five kilometres long, to provide both electric energy and heat for the city’s district heating system. SWM plans to meet all of Munich’s district heating needs (the 1.5m inhabitant city has one of Europe’s largest district heating grids) with renewable power by 2040.

The heat from geothermal sources in Malmö is planned to replace biofuels and biogas for heat generation. Malmö aims to be climate-neutral by 2030.

The total budget for E.ON’s project is €5.4m ($6m). The Swedish Energy Agency is supporting the pilot project with €1.2m.

As a partner, E.ON is working with the energy company St1 on the drilling. St1 has already undertaken deep-heat power plant with conditions similar to those in Malmö in Espoo, Finland, where a plant is expected to go on stream this year.