WATER in disused mines warmed by the heat of the earth could be used to create a new energy source under plans by the country's first geothermal power company.

The Edinburgh-based firm hopes to help establish a new industry in Scotland that one report suggested could supply up to a third of the country's heating needs.

The firm called Town Rock Energy is one of the founding members of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation's Low Carbon Ideas Lab and is also a family venture that is to pitch its idea as an alternative to fracking.

The water that has flooded the hundreds of disused mine shafts that lie below areas of Scotland including Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Fife are heated by the warmth of the earth, which averages 17C at such depths, with higher temperatures at deeper levels.

Town Rock Energy founder and managing director David Townsend, a 24-year-old geology graduate from the St Andrews University, has set up the company with his father Phil, who has experience in exploration geology and North Sea oil field management.

Mr Townsend jr said: "Geothermal energy uses the same skillsets and the same technology as the oil and gas industry, so it would make absolute sense for oil and gas companies to be exploring for geothermal energy, but they're not."

He said he believes Scotland's natural geothermal resource addresses the search for affordable, low-carbon energy that doesn't rely on imported fuel.

He has been asked to prepare a paper on the difference between geothermal and fracking for the Scottish Renewables conference in Edinburgh.

He said: "Our vision is to see the geothermal resources that Scotland is blessed with used as an integral part of the future energy mix, positioning Scotland as a global leader in carbon neutrality.

"We're establishing a whole new industry that doesn't exist in Scotland.

"The legislative and planning permission framework needs to be adapted effectively. So there are huge obstacles to overcome.

"But once the first couple of projects are established and successfully heating customers, I think we'll start to see these systems rolled out all over the country."