Ernst Huenges: Farewell to retirement

Pioneer of geothermal research: Ernst Huenges retires after 27 years at the GFZ.

Ernst Huenges, a pioneer of international geothermal research, is retiring. For more than thirty years, he has been working in many different capacities to explore and exploit the potential of heat from underground for a climate-friendly, sustainable and regional energy supply.

The process engineer and geophysicist came to the GFZ in 1994 after holding positions at the Continental Deep Drilling Programme (KTB), RWTH Aachen University and the Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics (LIAG). Here, he took over as head of the project area dealing with the physical properties of rocks. Via the sections Rock Physics, Reservoir Technologies and the International Geothermal Centre ICGR, he developed the current Geoenergy Section. Since the beginning of the Helmholtz Association's Programme-oriented Research Funding (PoF), he has been Topic Spokesperson for Geothermal Technologies and Geothermal Energy Systems. In addition, he taught as a honorary professor for Geothermal Technologies at the TU Berlin.

Significant contribution to the research and realisation of geothermal energy

In numerous national and international projects, Ernst Huenges and his team have developed scientific principles for the sustainable use of geothermal energy. He established the topic of geothermal energy as a research focus at the GFZ and led the development of research infrastructures such as the rock physics laboratories and the geothermal research platform Groß Schönebeck. In this way, he contributed significantly to the development of key geothermal technologies and their transfer to application, the latter realised, among other things, by a low-temperature geothermal demonstration power plant in Indonesia. At the end of 2020, he was able to successfully conclude the major European research project DESTRESS, which he led.

Overcoming borders between countries and subjects

Ernst Huenges is a committed networker in the scientific community, across national and subject boundaries: as early as 1991, he was one of the co-founders of the German Geothermal Society. He was one of the leading co-initiators of the European Energy Research Alliance EERA and its joint programme for geothermal energy, which he chaired for many years. In the framework of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ("Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change"), Huenges contributed to the Special Report on Renewable Energies and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN). He is convinced that international partnerships and the use of synergies are the key to expanding the use of geothermal energy worldwide.

Inspiration for the next generation and exchange with the public

He also enjoyed sharing his knowledge with the next generation and the broader public: Ernst Huenges inspired and trained numerous young colleagues from Germany and abroad. Equally close to his heart was the exchange with politicians and citizens wherever the opportunity arose. The GFZ has also greatly benefited from this.

"Ernst Huenges has shaped geoenergy research for decades, and not only at the GFZ. For example, he has played a decisive role in ensuring that research into the safe energetic use of the terrestrial subsurface makes an important contribution by the Helmholtz Association to a sustainable energy supply," pays tribute to Stefan Schwartze, Administrative Director at the GFZ. "In solving pressing issues, Ernst Huenges never tried to avoid difficult problems, but understood them as challenges to be overcome. May this continue to guide him now in retirement."  


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