Geothermal Energy Weekly’s leading news of the industry

In Geothermal Energy Weekly’s leading news, the U.S. Congress has reached a deal on FY2014 budget appropriations, while Senator Baucus’s new presidential nomination could mean a shuffle in Senate committee leadership; and a Senate panel weighs Obama’s Climate Action Plan. But first, our Graph of the Week.

Graph of the Week: A Look at Utah’s Geothermal Resources and Planned Transmission Routes

Utah Geothermal Resources and Planned Transmission
Images Courtesy of Robert Blackett, Utah Geological Survey. Left: Geothermal Uses in Utah. Right: Planned Transmission Corridors in Utah. Geothermal power currently developed in Utah goes to Arizona and California.

Above: Our Graph of the Week shows geothermal resource locations in Utah compared with new transmission plans. USGS reports six known areas with ~1500 MW unidentified resource potential, and any new geo power project must consider transmission feasibility. “Utah is a rising star in terms of its geothermal power potential and development,” says GEA’s Ben Matek. The state is also planning for new transmission lines: the TransWest Express (TWE), a 600-kV DC line; the Zephyr Transmission, a 500-kV DC line; and Energy Gateway, a 500-kV AC line are expected to be completed in 2016, 2020, and 2022, respectively. They are expected to increase capacity and make connections between Wyoming, Las Vegas, and on to California.

Since the TWE project and the Zephyr project are HVDC lines, connecting to HVAC lines (typically used for geothermal and other energy projects) would be an added cost, as a converter station would be necessary. As far as existing geothermal plants, a new 25-MW power plant at Cove Fort came on line in the state in 2013 with power slated for Arizona, the Hatch Geothermal Power Plant in Beaver County delivers power to Anaheim, California, and the Blundell plant connects to PacifiCorp lines.

Capitol Hill Update: House-Senate Budget Deal Cuts EERE Programs but Increases Geothermal, While Baucus China Nomination Creates Senate Finance/Energy Leadership Shuffle
Senate Hearing Will Discuss Presidential Climate Action Plan as New Climate Action Task Force Takes Shape

Capitol Hill Update: House-Senate Budget Deal Cuts EERE Programs but Increases Geothermal, While Baucus China Nomination Creates Senate Finance/Energy Leadership Shuffle
By Karl Gawell, GEA Executive Director ~ House and Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee leaders just announced they have reached agreement on “the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014” (PDF). The legislation provides funding for all federal agencies through the end of FY 2014. “It’s truly a bipartisan agreement that a significant number of Members worked day and night over the holidays, and I thank them all for their dedication,” Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced. “The bill reflects careful decisions to realign the nation’s funding priorities and target precious tax dollars to important programs where they are needed the most,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers.

The final bill proposes to cut DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs by over 30%, but the geothermal program fares better than average. The Administration’s FY 2014 Budget Request for the Geothermal Technologies Program was $60 million, and the final deal approves $45.8 million. Perhaps as significant as the program increase (from the $30 million in FY 2013), the language of the report from the Appropriators is positive about DOE’s geothermal initiatives.

The Report Language in FY2013 from the House of Representatives precluded funding for key EGS activities. In the final report on the Consolidated FY 2014 bill, the Appropriators say:

Geothermal Technologies. – For future awards, the full spectrum of geothermal technologies as authorized by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 shall be eligible for the funds appropriated for Geothermal Technologies by this Act. The Department shall continue its support of comprehensive programs that support academic and professional development initiatives. The agreement includes funds for site selection and characterization for the Enhanced Geothermal Systems Field Observatory project.

Congress is expected to take action on the appropriations bill this week.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, possible changes in key committee posts have the attention of many following tax and energy issues. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has been nominated by President Obama to become the U.S. Ambassador to China. If that nomination goes through and Senator Baucus steps down from his Senate seat, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is expected to take over the gavel of the powerful tax-writing (Finance) committee. That would open up Senator Wyden’s position as Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and it is expected that Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) would become the next Chair of the Energy Committee. Finishing out the series of dominoes, Senator Landrieu would step down as Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, a position that Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) would likely assume.

Presently, there is no date set for a confirmation hearing on Senator Baucus’ nomination as U.S. Ambassador to China. However, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has indicated that it will seek to expedite the process and could hold a hearing and vote before the end of the month.

Senate Hearing Will Discuss Presidential Climate Action Plan as New Climate Action Task Force Takes Shape
On Thursday morning, January 16 the full committee of the U.S. Senate Panel on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to review the President’s Climate Action Plan, which was announced in June 2013. The first panel of witnesses for the hearing will include Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy and three other senior administration officials: Nancy Sutley, Council on Environmental Quality; Dan Tangherlini, U.S. General Services Administration; and Daniel M. Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The second panel will include Bill Ritter, Colorado State University; Dr. Andrew Dessler PhD, Texas A&M University; Dr. Daniel A. LaShof, Natural Resources Defense Council; Dr. Judith Curry PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Kathleen Hartnett White, Texas Public Policy Foundation. This week also marks the launch of the newest congressional climate change caucus, the Senate Climate Action Task Force.

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