Graph of the Week; New GEA/GRC report; NGDS industry feedback; State climate policies; Standard for GHP personnel

This week’s Graph of the Week shows the geothermal portion of non-hydro renewable electrical generation globally in 2012. A new report: “The Values of Geothermal Energy: A Discussion of the Benefits Geothermal Power Provides to the Future U.S. Power System” is available on the GEA Web site. The National Geothermal Data System team came away from the GEA Expo and related events with positive industry feedback. California, and other states, have pushed forward with public policies designed to address climate change. The 16-day shutdown of the U.S. federal government affected climate and energy programs. A new National Standard defines qualifications for Geothermal Heat Pump personnel.

Geothermal provides a substantial chunk (6.3%) of global non-hydro renewable generation in 2012
Geothermal provides a substantial chunk (6.3%) of global non-hydro renewable generation in 2012


Graph of the Week Shows Geothermal’s Piece of 2012 Global Non-Hydro RE Generation
New GEA/GRC Report Highlights Values of Geothermal in Today’s Renewable Power Market
National Geothermal Data System Finds Positive Industry Feedback at GEA Expo and Related Events
Climate Policy Means Learning from the States, Says Gawell
16-Day Shutdown Impacts Federal Climate and Energy Programs
National Standard Defines Qualifications for Geothermal Heat Pump Personnel

Graph of the Week Shows Geothermal’s Piece of 2012 Global Non-Hydro RE Generation
Above: Our Graph of the Week shows the various pieces of the technology pie that comprised global non-hydro renewable energy generation in 2012. Geothermal power, with 73 TWh of generation that year, provided a substantial chunk of global renewable power at 6.3%. Along with geothermal, the other non-hydro renewable technologies that generated power last year were (in TWh/y): wind, 570, 49.3%; solar PV, 109, 9.4%; solar CSP, 4.7, 0.4%; biomass, 397, 34.4%; and ocean/tidal 1.2 (0.1%). (Note: For biomass, the analysts provided a range of 265-529 TWh/y; for the graph, we used the median value of 397). The data comes from German engineering firm Lahmeyer International, as published in the July/August 2013 issue of Renewable Energy Focus (REFocus) magazine.

New GEA/GRC Report Highlights Values of Geothermal in Today’s Renewable Power Market
As states, such as California, move ahead with more aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, state officials are finding they need to consider the full value of the power sources they use. This is important to ensure that consumers get the most affordable overall system cost, as well as to recognize the many different reasons for choosing clean power sources.

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) and Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) have released a new, joint report titled “The Values of Geothermal Energy: A Discussion of the Benefits Geothermal Power Provides to the Future U.S. Power System.” Prepared by Ben Matek, GEA’s Industry Analyst, and Brian Schmidt, Librarian, GRC, the new report documents the many benefits of geothermal power. “Geothermal power offers both firm and flexible solutions to the changing U.S. power system by providing a range of services including but not limited to baseload, regulation, load following or energy imbalance, spinning reserve, non-spinning reserve, and replacement or supplemental reserve,” the report begins.

Looking beyond the benefits to the power system, the report also summarizes other key benefits of geothermal power including economic and environmental benefits. “We are often asked about the full range of services and benefits available from geothermal,” Matek noted. “So, we decided to join with GRC and put out a white paper that addresses these questions.”

“This is a timely report,” remarked Karl Gawell, GEA’s Executive Director. “The California PUC recently noted active questions before policy makers in California and elsewhere, specifically: ‘how increasing amounts of intermittent generation are impacting grid reliability, quantifying the impact and benefits of various resources to integrate intermittent generation, and what new policies should be adopted to manage the changing electric grid.’”

As the report indicates, these questions are gaining in importance as the United States expands its renewable power production, which today means “generating approximately 14% of the electricity” nationwide. Much of this is coming from wind and solar photovoltaic technologies that rely heavily on the prevailing weather conditions in order to generate power. “Geothermal energy is a renewable power source that can provide baseload and flexible power, quickly adjusting to fit the needs set by variable renewable energy technologies,” the report states.

National Geothermal Data System Finds Positive Industry Feedback at GEA Expo and Related Events
The National Geothermal Data System (NGDS) held its beta launch at the GRC Annual Meeting and GEA Geothermal Energy EXPO earlier this month:

National Geothermal Data System exhibit at 2013 Expo; photo via DOE staff
National Geothermal Data System exhibit at 2013 Expo; photo via DOE staff

NGDS brings together information from a national network of data providers including academic researchers, private sector participants, and state and federal agencies, mainly the Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE’s Geothermal Technologies Office and collaborative research partners participated in the IRENA meeting on Sunday and presented four papers in the Geothermal Database technical session. They maintained a presence in the GEA’s Expo hall where they conducted NGDS user testing, held a workshop in conjunction with the events titled “Drilling Down: How Legacy and New Research Data Can Advance Geothermal Development,” and found positive feedback from industry regarding participation in and contribution to the NGDS. DOE staff told GEA: “Preliminary results from our NGDS user tests conducted on-site at the GEA Expo [indicated] that of those who evaluated the NGDS beta interface, most indicated that they would use the NGDS frequently, found it easy to use and really liked the mapping and library functions!”

Climate Policy Means Learning from the States, Says Gawell
GEA’s Executive Director Karl Gawell provided the following comments to National Journal on the topic, “California’s Energy and Climate Agenda: Visionary Leader or Cautionary Tale?”:

California, and other states, have pushed forward with public policies designed to address climate change. The states are not waiting for Congress to act. But, whenever Congress decides to address climate change, we should be ready to adopt the most effective policies possible and that means learning from the states.

What have we learned in California? First, the good news. There is a lot of renewable power available. The renewable power solicitations in California have been over-subscribed with bidders offering much more power than the state needs to meet its goals. Wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and small hydropower all qualify in the state as renewable energy technologies, and there are substantial untapped resources available from all of them. In addition, natural gas both as a bridge fuel and as a lower-carbon alternative is ready to contribute as well.

But, it’s not all roses. California has embarked upon policies that are resulting in large amounts of wind and solar being added to the system and it’s not clear what the
impact will be on system reliability or the total system cost of achieving the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

As the California PUC recently noted, “how increasing amounts of intermittent generation are impacting grid reliability, quantifying the impact and benefits of various resources to integrate intermittent generation, and what new policies should be adopted to manage the changing electric grid” are active questions before policy makers in the state.

California is being Justice Brandeis’ laboratory for climate policies, and as they move forward there will be lessons learned that can only improve federal policy making. We believe one of those lessons will be how to value all renewable resources to find the best mix given their different attributes. Geothermal, which can provide firm and flexible power, should be an important part of the answer.

But we should also not ignore other states, too. While California may have passed the toughest law so far, some 36 states have adopted Climate Action Plans and several have emissions limits. Nevada has just passed legislation to retire its coal-fired generation. It looks like they will take a different path forward, and that may be good for the over-all national learning curve on how public policies can reduce carbon emissions in the most cost-effective manner.

16-Day Shutdown Impacts Federal Climate and Energy Programs
The Continuing Resolution by Congress that ended the 16-day government shutdown directs the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) budget of the Energy Department to the lower funding level proposed by the House.  GTO’s current funds are in place where needed but new activity will be restricted for the next three months, meaning GTO will hold off on new Funding Opportunity Announcements. Additional news of shutdown impacts on climate and energy programs are summarized in an excerpt by Sustainable Energy Coalition/SUN DAY Campaign, source: ClimateWire – The nearly three-week shutdown could delay EPA’s proposal of carbon dioxide emissions standards for existing power plants, expected by June 1 of next year. The shutdown also slowed the State Department’s work on a pending final environmental impact statement on TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. However, the idling government didn’t stop personnel changes; the U.S. Senate confirmed Bradley Crowell as assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs at the Energy Department. Crowell’s job will include coordinating with states to advance clean energy. Climate research from other agencies stalled, however. Over at the Federal Aviation Administration, the Next Generation Air Transportation System was completely frozen for the duration of the government shutdown, setting the air traffic efficiency program back by two weeks. The delay comes as sequester cuts have already stalled implementation of the $42 billion program. The Department of Defense’s ongoing field operations continued unabated by the shutdown, but the department’s forward-thinking energy programs did encounter bureaucratic speed bumps. Officials in the office of Operational Energy Plans and Programs, for instance, had to cancel meetings and postpone coordination efforts with DOE because so many federal workers had been furloughed.

National Standard Defines Qualifications for Geothermal Heat Pump Personnel
A new National Certification Standard for Ground Source Heat Pump personnel itemizes qualifications required for different tasks in the design, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance of a geothermal heat pump (GHP) system. The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) managed the project working with the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association at Oklahoma State University, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Building Technologies Research and Integration Center. Geoexchange.org

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