Cascade Institute receives major funding for geothermal energy

Thomas Homer Dixon and Rebecca Pearce

Donations totaling over $3 million from three vital philanthropic funders—Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, Founders Pledge’s Climate Change Fund and Rethink Charity Foundation’s RC Forward Climate Change Fund donors—are seeding a first-of-its-kind-in-Canada ultradeep geothermal (UDG) research program through Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University.

The funding massively upscales Canada’s research and development efforts in geothermal power and supports its national commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 to address the climate crisis. The program focuses on deep geothermal systems in hot, dry rock five to 10 kilometers below Earth’s surface. 

“I am pleased to see these leading donors recognize the incredible potential of this ultradeep geothermal research at the Cascade Institute,” says Royal Roads University President Philip Steenkamp. “The world needs creative solutions to address the great challenges of our time and these donations will enable Cascade to advance a critically important climate innovation for Canada while supporting our vision of inspiring people with the courage to transform the world.”

The Cascade Institute is a research centre at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC, where researchers study high-leverage interventions with the potential to rapidly shift humanity’s course. A focus of the institute’s research—along with projects including Polycrisis, Anti-polarization, and Permafrost Carbon—is the promise of ultradeep geothermal energy, which has the potential to provide an unlimited, renewable supply of net-zero power, nearly anywhere on earth. 

“There’s enough energy beneath us to power the entire world thousands of times over, indefinitely into the future—enabling any kind of society humanity may want to build. This energy is close by, but hard to get to. The Cascade Institute is working to tap that power,” says Cascade Institute Executive Director Thomas Homer-Dixon.

The leap to connect possibility to practical application of UDG technology requires not just research, but knowledge mobilization and coordinated efforts across industry, academics and government to implement solutions.

Why support ultradeep geothermal?

“Grantham Foundation, Founders Pledge’s Climate Change Fund and Rethink’s RC Forward Climate Change Fund donors have come together to make ultradeep geothermal power possible in Canada,” says Cascade Institute Ultradeep Geothermal Research Fellow and geophysicist Rebecca Pearce. “The Cascade Institute’s Canadian geothermal findings will contribute to the global program to release Earth’s deep energy.” 

Pearce co-wrote an op-ed piece published in The Globe and Mail advocating for Canada to seize its geothermal opportunity, as other countries are already doing. The Cascade Institute’s recent position paper is a strategic roadmap for Canada to capture this technological opportunity. The Cascade Institute will bring together a consortium to develop the test site model; identify and seek out financial resources for the project; provide research and analysis to guide tech companies, investors and the public sector in ultradeep geothermal development; and where appropriate, secure intellectual property rights to promote stakeholder collaboration. Philanthropic funding allows vital ultra deep geothermal research to proceed and reach these important next steps.

“The Grantham Foundation is pleased to support the Cascade Institute in this transformation project to unlock the potential of geothermal in Canada. Geothermal is one of the most important levers we have in developing clean power resources for the energy transition,” says Caroline de Bossart, Director of the Grantham Foundation.

“We think that ultradeep geothermal research is widely neglected compared to other climate change solutions and has a great potential to be a solution to our climate woes,” says Soonkhen OwYong, Co-Executive Director of the Rethink Charity Foundation. “We hope that this grant will help encourage more collaboration between public-private investments in Canada.” 

“We're thrilled to be increasing the bets for clean firm power solutions by supporting Cascade Institute's Ultra Deep Geothermal Program. Ultra-deep geothermal is a solution towards a decarbonized energy supply which remains comparatively neglected by mainstream funding efforts, and, according to our research, highly cost-effective. Our Climate Change Fund is committed to strengthening the energy innovation ecosystem and hedging against worst-case scenarios. We're keen to see where this research leads,” says Johannes Ackva, Climate Lead, Founders Pledge.

Through philanthropic partnerships, community engagement and in harnessing the power of a global community, Royal Roads University and Cascade Institute will continue to collaborate to find solutions and connections that transform lives—and the world. 

Media can arrange interviews by reaching out to Royal Roads Communications or Cascade Institute Communications.