Congress Acts on Tax Extenders, While California, Nevada, and Djibouti Leaders All Talk Geothermal

The relationship between geothermal energy and innovations in mapping the subsurface of the Earth was discussed at the recent “Geothermal Best Practices for Risk Reduction Workshop,” hosted by the U.S. Department of State and the Geothermal Energy Association. Experts in the field of geothermal energy conducted four workshops on policy, legal, and regulatory structures; exploration practices; cost-effective drilling; and project management. The graph below was shared by Ann Robertson-Tait, Business Development Manager / Senior Geologist, GeothermEx in order to illustrate the importance of land position as a geological team determines the best location for drilling exploration wells in a cost-effective manner. As Robertson-Tait explained, the geology team takes into account the location of surface manifestations (in the bottom right corner of the grey area pictured), knowing that the hottest, deepest points of the source are often located a short distance away (in the area circled in pink, here.)

Geothemex_HottestPointOfSourceMayBeLocatedAwayFromSurfaceManifestations

Continue reading for this week’s top news from the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA).

Congress Takes Action on Tax Extenders: Senate to Vote on Extending Geothermal and Other Renewable Tax Credits
California Geothermal Bill Moves Ahead in Legislature
NV Energy Charts Course for Nevada’s Energy Future, Reaffirms Commitment to Solicit Renewable Energy Proposals
Geothermal Industry Celebrates Awareness Day; Industry’s Annual Update Now Available Free to the Public
Djibouti President Guelleh Meets with President Obama, Stresses Geothermal Development
On Geothermal Day, Industry Readies for Summit, Calls for GEA Honors Nominations
New Government Report Says Climate Change Is Happening Here and Now
Greenpeace Renewables Report Says Geothermal is Key to Future Energy Transition
USEA 2014 Volunteer Award Honors SMUD’s International Energy Contributions
Alstom Power: Purchase Possible in Near Future
Berkshire Hathaway Energy: MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company Changes Its Name
Ormat Technologies: Company Explores Potential Minority Investment in a Few of its U.S. Power Plants
Ormat Technologies: Company Selected for Menengai Contract

Congress Takes Action on Tax Extenders: Senate to Vote on Extending Geothermal and Other Renewable Tax Credits
On May 1, the House Ways and Means Committee passed six separate extenders bills. The following week, the full House moved to approve HR 4438, the permanent extension of the R&D tax credit. This opened the door for the Senate to move forward on its tax extenders bill.

On May 13th, the Senate took up a package of tax extenders approved earlier by the Senate Finance Committee as the EXPIRE Act and moved quickly past the first filibuster hurdle. The Senate voted 96-3-1 to invoke cloture on proceeding to HR 3474, the legislative vehicle for the tax extenders bill. The Senate reconvened this morning, May 14, with that legislation on the floor. The three “no” votes were: Coburn (R-OK), Flake (R-AZ), and Lee (R-UT). Senator Boozman (R-AR) did not vote.

The Senate legislation would extend the tax credit for geothermal, wind, and other renewables for two years, as the Committee explained: “Under current law, taxpayers can claim a 2.3 cent per kilowatt hour tax credit for wind and other renewable electricity produced for a 10-year period from a facility that has commenced construction by the end of 2013 (the production tax credit). They can also elect to take a 30 percent investment tax credit instead of the production tax credit. The bill extends these provisions through December 31, 2015.”

Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (R-OR) said on the Senate Floor, “There’s one last part of this bill that I want to talk about–its incentives for clean energy. As the former chair of the Energy Committee, I know how critical investment in energy is for our nation’s economy. And it’s an area of our economy that’s been plagued by the stop-and-go nature of tax policy. Now is the time the U.S. should be investing in a low-carbon, energy-diverse future. And some of the provisions in the EXPIRE Act have been incredibly successful in doing just that. The production tax credit for renewable energy–including wind, geothermal, hydropower, and biomass–has helped drive massive growth in renewable, clean energy.”

Senator Wyden also qualified his support for tax extenders legislation, saying, “I am committed that on my watch, this will be the last time the Finance Committee considers a tax extender bill. Once this bill is behind us, the committee will look to the next challenge–tax reform.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation in the immediate future. At press time it was not clear how many amendments would be offered and allowed during Senate consideration. Without a definitive agreement about Senate votes and amendments, a second filibuster vote–to close debate–remains a possibility. Given the recent failure of the Senate to pass a relatively non-controversial, bi-partisan energy efficiency bill shows that nothing should be taken for granted in Congress today.

California Geothermal Bill Moves Ahead in Legislature
California Senator Ben Hueso and Assembly Member V. Manuel Perez have authored SB 1139, which calls for the development of 500 MW of geothermal power by 2024. This legislation was introduced shortly after an April 3 hearing in Sacramento on the status of geothermal in California.

Senator Hueso states in the Bill Summary: “SB 1139 requires retail sellers and all electric utilities, no later than December 31, 2024, to procure 500 megawatts of electricity from baseload geothermal powerplants. Plans for complying with this requirement must be filed with the Public Utilities Commission for retail sellers and the Energy Commission for local publicly owned electric utilities no later than January 1, 2016.”

SB 1139 passed out of the Senate Energy Committee when it was heard on April 29 with a 6-2 vote. The bill is set for its next hearing, scheduled for on May 19 before the Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee is expected to act on it quickly. For the bill text, information on it status, and other information, visit leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.

NV Energy Charts Course for Nevada’s Energy Future, Reaffirms Commitment to Solicit Renewable Energy Proposals
On May 1, NV Energy filed for the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to approve its comprehensive power generation plan for southern Nevada. The plan implements the goals of Senate Bill 123, including competitive solicitations in the works for three separate 100-MW renewable energy proposals. These would be issued in 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively, and represent one of the newest opportunities for new geothermal energy development and production in the U.S. See also NVEnergy.Mediaroom.com for NV Energy’s full release, and a previous GEA article for more on SB 123 and other U.S. states’ geothermal initiatives.

Geothermal Industry Celebrates Awareness Day; Industry’s Annual Update Now Available Free to the Public
May is Geothermal Awareness Month, and May 5 was Geothermal Awareness Day in California. Members of the geothermal industry, including GEA members (representatives from Calpine Corp., Ormat Technologies, and others) participated by visiting California’s Capitol Hill in Sacramento to impress the importance of geothermal power on state decision-makers and to provide them with educational information on the state’s top renewable source.

The GEA office celebrated Geothermal Awareness Day by circulating free geothermal educational content to hundreds of California agency staff, environmental educators, professionals in related fields, and the public at large in order to expand their knowledge of geothermal and to point out the many resources that are available.

In late April, GEA released the results of its new U.S. and International Market Update exclusively to attendees of the International Geothermal Showcase in Washington, DC. Now, the publication is available online, free to access, at geo-energy.org/reports.aspx.

Geothermal power has historically played a large role in California’s renewable power mix. In 2012, geothermal power generated 4.4% of total system power in California but could have generated substantially more. California’s unique geology contains a significant amount of geothermal resources that can provide renewable, firm, and sometimes flexible power to the state’s power grid. Geothermal power:

  • produces some of the lowest life-cycle emissions when compared to almost every other energy technology and even some renewables;
  • can be engineered to provide firm and/or flexible power depending on the resource characteristics and plant design;
  • is a competitive renewable energy source when you compare all of the values it brings to the power system;
  • has substantial untapped potential in California, with about half of the state’s identified geothermal resources still untapped, and significant resources yet to be discovered.

Geothermal power can be a significant part of the California vision that “economic prosperity and environmental sustainability are one and the same.”

Djibouti President Guelleh Meets with President Obama, Stresses Geothermal Development
On May 5 and 6 the President of Djibouti, His Excellency Ismail Omar Guelleh, met with President Obama to discuss a range of mutual issues including extension of the lease for a major U.S. military base in the country. The two Presidents issued a joint statement that pledged to work together to advance their shared vision. The statement specifically calls out their mutual interest in developing renewable energy, particularly geothermal, in Djibouti.

The following day, President Guelleh spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa. In his remarks, President Guelleh was even more explicit, focusing much of his presentation on his call for U.S. aid in developing Djibouti’s geothermal resources. Assistant AID Administrator for Africa, Earl Gast, spoke at the event and stressed U.S. plans to help Djibouti with geothermal and other renewable energy development.

Industry representatives Andrew Palmateer, East African Geothermal Partnership, and Karl Gawell, Geothermal Energy Association attended by invitation. “We hope that AID will support expanded efforts to involve U.S. companies in harnessing Djibouti’s geothermal resources,” noted Gawell, GEA’s Executive Director. “This should include the major, untapped resources in the Afar area, but should also look into other areas, such as whether the Navy can utilize geothermal resources to support the U.S. military base in the country.”

On Geothermal Day, Industry Readies for Summit, Calls for GEA Honors Nominations
GEA Press Release, Washington, D.C. (May 2, 2014)–-ON GEOTHERMAL DAY, GEA CALLS FOR GEA HONORS 2014 ENTRIES–On Monday, May 5, the geothermal industry [recognized] Geothermal Awareness Day in California (#GeothermalDay2014) with a slate of activities in Sacramento and beyond, including a call for entries for GEA Honors, the Geothermal Energy Association’s annual awards program.

“There is a growing need to educate Californians about the benefits of geothermal energy, and Geothermal Awareness Day is a great opportunity to make progress on understanding geothermal power,” Karl Gawell, GEA’s Executive Director said. “May 5 is Geothermal Awareness Day in Sacramento, and GEA is making key information available at its website free to the public to encourage Californians to learn more about the benefits of geothermal to the state,” he added.

Reports of interest include: “Report on the State of Geothermal In California,” April 2012; “The Values of Geothermal Energy: A Discussion of the Benefits Geothermal Power Provides to the Future US Power System,” October 2013 (published jointly with the Geothermal Resources Council); “Geothermal Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” November 2012; and the recently updated “Geothermal Basics.” These reports, and more, are available free of charge at: http://geo-energy.org/reports.aspx.

As the industry recognizes sector accomplishments during Geothermal Awareness Day, GEA calls on geothermal business leaders to nominate the best and the brightest for GEA Honors, which recognizes the contributions made by companies and individuals in the past year that have advanced technology, business and environmental sustainability through the field of Geothermal Energy.

“It’s amazing to see the success being achieved in the geothermal sector, from cutting edge technology that are bring projects online to valuable research that are bringing us closer to a sustainable future. GEA Honors offers a moment to pause and celebrate the positive developments in the geothermal energy industry,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell.

GEA Honors is accepting nominations in the following categories:
• Technological Advancement (GEA members only): awarded to an individual or company that has pioneered new ideas or innovative technology in the field of geothermal energy.
• Economic Development (GEA members only): awarded to an individual or company that has contributed to the development of local, regional or national markets through geothermal systems.
• Environmental Stewardship (industry wide): awarded to an individual or company that has promoted environmental sustainability through the use of geothermal systems.
• Special Recognition (industry wide): the GEA will additionally be accepting nominations for special recognition of an individual or company that has outstanding achievements in the geothermal energy industry.

The deadline for GEA Honors submissions is July 7. Winners of GEA Honors will be announced on August 5 at the National Geothermal Summit at the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno, Nev. To submit a nomination, visit http://geo-energy.org/GEAHonors.aspx. For more information on the National Geothermal Summit, please visit http://www.geo-energy.org/nationalgeothermalsummit/Main.aspx. Join the conversation with #GeothermalDay2014. For information about Summit sponsorships, please contact Kathy Kent Schott at kathy@geo-energy.org. To schedule an interview or request press credentials, please contact Shawna McGregor, The Rosen Group, 917 971 7852 or shawna@rosengrouppr.com.

New Government Report Says Climate Change Is Happening Here and Now
Story via EESI Climate Change News ~ On May 6, the federal government released the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA), a comprehensive examination of peer-reviewed science on climate change impacts in the United States. The NCA echoes the findings of the latest reports from the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, which state with high certainty that emissions from human activities are causing global climate change. The NCA reveals that climate change is already impacting Americans across the country, and its effects are predominantly negative. “For a long time we have perceived climate change as an issue that’s distant, affecting just polar bears or something that matters to our kids,” commented Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist, professor at Texas Tech University, and an author of the NCA. “This shows it’s not just in the future; it matters today. Many people are feeling the effects.” Mandated by the Global Change Act of 1990, the report examines climate change over a long-term timescale, observing past trends, current changes, and projecting future scenarios. Thirteen federal agencies oversaw the completion of the work under the auspices of the Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). More than 240 scientists from across public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors volunteered their time as authors.

In related news on the same day, President Obama gave eight rare individual interviews with TV meteorologists from across the country, in order to bring more widespread attention to the NCA. While polls have revealed that local television meteorologists are some of the most trusted scientists in the country, a 2011 George Mason University poll found that only 18 percent of American television weathercasters agree the climate is changing due to human activities. The President also recently gave an hour-long interview on climate change to the Showtime documentary series, “Years of Living Dangerously.” For more information see: The New York TimesThe Washington Post

Greenpeace Renewables Report Says Geothermal is Key to Future Energy Transition
A major new report from Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council, “Energy [R]evolution–A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook,” argues that the United States could be doing much more to transition from coal, nuclear, and other traditional power sources, and could achieve nearly 100% renewable energy generation by mid-century. The authors found that geothermal is key in the plan: “Because of its non-fluctuating supply and a grid load operating almost 100% of the time, geothermal energy is considered to be a key element in a future supply structure based on renewable sources,” they wrote. “Up to now we have only used a marginal part of the potential.” The authors discussed geothermal’s potential in terms of scenarios for a future energy supply, including deep geothermal applications; employment in geothermal power and heat pump heating; geothermal cost assumptions; capacity, generation and direct jobs; and more.

The Sustainable Energy Coalition/SUN DAY Campaign covered the report in their News Story Excerpts: “[R]enewable energy sources (without nuclear) could provide around 97% of electricity produced in the U.S. and 94% of total heating and cooling demand, accounting for around 92% of final energy demand. The blueprint would lead to about 1.5 million energy-related jobs in 2030 – 35% more than projected under the “business as usual” scenario outlined by the Energy Information Agency “2013 Annual Outlook.” By phasing out coal and oil, fuel cost savings in the scenario described would be $6.1 trillion, or $153 billion per year, and overall costs would be about 50% lower than the government outlook. The U.S. would reduce carbon pollution 39% by 2025 and 60% by 2030 (below 2005 levels).” See also Greenpeace.org [PDF].

USEA 2014 Volunteer Award Honors SMUD’s International Energy Contributions 
Via USEA ~ John W. DiStasio, former General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) was the recipient of the 2014 USEA Volunteer Award. The award honors outstanding contributions to the USEA/USAID International Energy Partnership Program established by the United States Energy Association and sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Using his superior and extensive background in utility best practices, Mr. DiStasio has been actively participating in the USEA partnership program since 2003 when he traveled to Botswana on a utility technical exchange with Botswana Electric Power Company (BEPCO).

Under Mr. DiStasio’s leadership, SMUD developed a sustainable power supply that was 24% renewable energy and 47% carbon-free while maintaining rates amongst the lowest in California. Mr. DiStasio oversaw the successful implementation of 600,000 smart meters and a fully enabled smart grid on 18% of all distribution circuit. He also guided the development of some of the most aggressive energy efficiency goals in the United States – an annual 1.5% annual reduction in load over ten years.

Additionally, the Platts Energy Week television program recently interviewed Mr. DiStasio about SMUD’s aggressive clean energy programs. To access the video, visit:  www.plattstv.com.

Alstom Power: Purchase Possible in Near Future
Press have stated that French manufacturer Alstom, a GEA member, is the subject of a possible buy with at least two potential purchasers: Siemens (Germany) and General Electric (U.S.). The latter has apparently made a $16.9 billion offer, while Siemens has until the end of May to make a proposal. [Reuters]

Berkshire Hathaway Energy: MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company Changes Its Name 
GEA Member Press Release, DES MOINES, Iowa, April 30 – MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company is pleased to announce it has changed its name to Berkshire Hathaway Energy, effective immediately. This new name more accurately reflects our growing, diversified mix of businesses and the customers they serve. It also reinforces the company’s strategy to own and operate a portfolio of high-quality assets, grow and diversify through a disciplined acquisition strategy, and build and maintain strong stakeholder relationships. The businesses of Berkshire Hathaway Energy will continue to be managed locally, and the names and operations of our businesses will not be affected.

“Our new name reflects the benefits we gain from Berkshire Hathaway’s ownership, particularly our ability to reinvest in our businesses and take a long-term view of our customers’ needs, which have helped us become a leader in the global energy industry,” said Greg Abel, chairman, president and CEO. “Our vision remains unchanged – to be the best energy company in serving our customers, while delivering sustainable energy solutions.”

Ormat Technologies: Company Explores Potential Minority Investment in a Few of its U.S. Power Plants
GEA Member Press Release (RENO, Nev.) April 30, 2014, With reference to reports appearing in the international media today, Ormat Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: ORA) clarified that, as part of a previously-announced ongoing strategic planning review, it continues to explore, with the assistance of an investment bank recently engaged for this matter, a possible transaction, whereby the Company might sell a minority stake of up to 49% in a small number of its power plants located in the U.S. to one or more institutional investors, with the Company continuing to consolidate and operate such plants.

The process is still in an early stage and no binding investment offers have been received. As such, there can be no assurance as to whether this process will lead to any such investments, the timing thereof and, if consummated, what the terms would be, including the terms of any securities that might be issued or valuation of the plants.

The Company does not intend to make any further comment, or respond to any inquiries, until a binding agreement, if any, is reached with respect to such transaction.

Ormat Technologies: Company Selected for Menengai Contract
GEA member company Ormat Technologies and two other firms have been shortlisted by Kenyan Geothermal Development Company for geothermal work in Menengai, according to www.businessdailyafrica.com. Ormat subsidiary OrPower 4, as well as companies Quantum Power and local firm Sosian Energy will each build a 35-MW geothermal plant under a build–own–operate model. 

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2 thoughts on “Congress Acts on Tax Extenders, While California, Nevada, and Djibouti Leaders All Talk Geothermal

  1. Anna Carter

    Are these workshop presentations available online or otherwise?

    “The relationship between geothermal energy and innovations in mapping the subsurface of the Earth was discussed at the recent “Geothermal Best Practices for Risk Reduction Workshop,” hosted by the U.S. Department of State and the Geothermal Energy Association. Experts in the field of geothermal energy conducted four workshops on policy, legal, and regulatory structures; exploration practices; cost-effective drilling; and project management.”

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