ENERGY sourced from tapping into underground heat could produce up to one-fifth of the UK's electricity, and heat millions of homes.

Deep geothermal energy could be exploited across the UK, with "hotspots" including Scotland, Cornwall, East Yorkshire, Hampshire and Northern Ireland, according to a study for the Renewable Energy Association (REA).

However, subsidies for geothermal are not enough to attract international investment, which can develop the industry and create thousands of jobs, the report by engineering consultants Sinclair Knight Merz found.

Deep geothermal systems can generate electricity from water heated by rock deep underground to create steam that drives turbines.

They could supply almost as much power as nine nuclear reactors, the report found, and supply enough heat to warm all the UK's homes and buildings.

REA wants deep geothermal to receive the same level of support as other new technologies, such as wave and tidal power, to drive development.

Such a move would cost an estimated £11 million a year, which is the equivalent of adding less than 50p to the average household electricity bill.