Geothermal Industry Engages Opportunities for Growth

Check out “This week’s top news for geothermal development and GEA members”:

The graph below shows that feed-in tariffs are an increasingly appealing trade tactic for geothermal goods and services in Europe. John Fox, who is CEO of ElectraTherm and a GEA Board member, said: “We have international interest and it’s mostly based on feed-in tariffs in Italy and Germany and Japan.” Fox was speaking to media at the GEA’s recent International Geothermal Showcase event. His company specializes in small power units and its geothermal work in Europe has grown. The policy model has also been seen in Japan, as he states, and China. The GEA event featured geothermal opportunities around the world, and along with ElectraTherm, panel speakers showcasing Europe and the Middle East were representing experts at Bestec, Geo Explorers Ltd., TAS Energy, and Starlight Investments. The following European countries were represented at the Showcase: Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

electratherm_europe_april2014

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


*National Geothermal Summit to Convene Industry Leaders and Policymakers 
*Senate Finance Committee Chair Wyden and Ranking Member Hatch Seek Agreement on Tax Extenders
*152 Organizations Ask Senate to Pass Expired Tax Provisions (EXPIRE Act) 
*Geothermal Bill Headed for California Senate After Agency Considers Fiscal Impact
*EPA Rules for Greenhouse Gases Support State Initiatives
*EPA Urged to Include GHP Option in New CO2 Rules

National Geothermal Summit to Convene Industry Leaders and Policymakers 
GEA Press Release (Reno, Nev.) May 21–The fourth annual GEA Summit will bring together policy makers, utilities officials, industry leaders and geothermal professionals to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing geothermal industry growth. The conference will be held Aug. 5-6 at The Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. “The Biggest Little City in the World” is the global business center for geothermal and is home to 12 major geothermal developers/operators. Additionally, the geothermal energy plants surrounding Reno produce enough power to support the city’s residential load.

“The United States is the leader in geothermal, and the Western States are trailblazers for the technology,” noted GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. “But there is much work to be done for geothermal to reach its potential. It is imperative to bring together policy makers and business leaders to examine the challenges that are holding back geothermal. GEA’s goal is to facilitate constructive dialogue on some of geothermal’s biggest hurdles.”

The GEA Summit is co-hosted by Ormat, and supported by City of Reno; Imperial Irrigation District; Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada; Nevada Geothermal Council; Western Area Power Administration; and the Geothermal Resources Council. Confirmed speakers include Commissioner David Hochschild, California Energy Commission; Karen Edson, Vice President, Policy and Client Services, California ISO; Barry Dong, Manager Geothermal/Biomass, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP); Carl Stills, Energy Manager, Imperial Irrigation District, Keith Martin, Partner, Chadboune Parke LLP; Randy Keller, Director of Development, Transmission & Land Assets, CalEnergy; and Bob Sullivan, Vice President of Business Development, Ormat, among others. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will provide a video greeting.

At the Summit, speakers and break-out sessions will address a range of topics critical to the industry today, including the future of the RPS policies; new U.S. codes and standards for geothermal energy; leasing and permitting improvements; the outlook for new renewable power procurements in the Western states; achieving the potential of the Salton Sea; next steps to move geothermal forward in Nevada; and the outlook for federal and state legislation to support geothermal growth.

During the Summit, the Geothermal Energy Association will announce the winners of its GEA Honors awards program. Geothermal business leaders can submit nominations now. The deadline for GEA Honors submissions is July 7. To submit a nomination, visit http://geo-energy.org/GEAHonors.aspx.

GEA Honors categories include:

  • 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.

Year-end data shows that Nevada has proven itself as one of the most business-friendly environments for the geothermal industry, with the number of developing projects (45) more than double that of California (25). U.S. additions in Nevada, as well as neighbors Utah, California, and New Mexico kept the industry on the map domestically in 2013, and future growth looks promising. The geothermal resource base is still largely untapped. With new initiatives in Nevada, California and Oregon moving to recognize the values of geothermal power, GEA is optimistic that state policies could spark another period of growth in geothermal power over the next decade.

Some myths have surfaced that geothermal power is reaching its potential capacity in states like California and Nevada. These states still have a significant amount of known untapped potential that could be used domestically or exported to surrounding states. Overall, GEA estimates about 50% of California’s known resources, 60% of Nevada’s, and 60% of Utah’s are still untapped.

For more information on the National Geothermal Summit, please visit http://www.geo-energy.org/nationalgeothermalsummit/Main.aspx. 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.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Wyden and Ranking Member Hatch Seek Agreement on Tax Extenders
Last week we reported that the package of tax extenders approved earlier by the Senate Finance Committee as the EXPIRE Act was again on the move in the U.S. legislative bodies. The House Ways and Means Committee had passed six separate extenders bills and had moved to approve HR 4438, the permanent extension of a Research and Development tax credit. While this opened the door for the Senate to move forward on its tax extenders bill, Republicans then blocked Majority Leader Harry Reid’s cloture motion to end debate. It now appears the legislation has stalled yet again. [nationaljournal.com]

While Senator Reid’s motion would have stopped Republican amendments, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden now says he is working on issues related to the amendments with committee ranking Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Senator Wyden said he expected the EXPIRE Act would not be considered again until next month. [energyguardian.net]

Under the package, the tax credit for geothermal, wind, and other renewables would be extended for two years. The Committee has stated: “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.”

As it stands, if the package does pass, the tax credit would be approved retroactively to the beginning of this year and would cover geothermal work that has been done in the meantime–as has been the case for extensions of this type of tax credit ever since the wind tax credit was first established in 1992.

152 Organizations Ask Senate to Pass Expired Tax Provisions (EXPIRE Act) 
A letter dated May 20, 2014, and signed by 152 associations and coalitions urges U.S. Senators to extend the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013, including support for geothermal energy. The letter was delivered electronically to each Senate office this week. The Geothermal Energy Association was a signing organization.

But after the letter was delivered, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden announced the tax extenders would not be considered before next month. The letter reads:

Dear Senator:

The undersigned organizations urge the U.S. Senate to pass the EXPIRE Act as soon as possible. The EXPIRE Act will extend the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. These tax provisions benefit a wide range of taxpayers, including associations, businesses, individuals, community development organizations and non-profit organizations and are important to U.S. jobs and the broader economy.

The lack of timely action to extend these provisions injects instability and uncertainty into the economy and weakens confidence in the employment marketplace. Moreover, the extension of the expired provisions should not be delayed until the end of the year since companies are making decisions right now related to taxes that will have an immediate impact on the economy.

We urge you to pass these important tax provisions as soon as possible.

Geothermal Bill Headed for California Senate After Agency Considers Fiscal Impact
California Senate bill (S.B.) 1139, which would require utilities in the state to procure 500 MW of energy from geothermal plants, was referred for further study this week. State legislators have said the bill should be on the Senate floor shortly. Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez was quoted in press, “Senator [Ben] Hueso and I have teamed up on this bill recognizing that the development of geothermal resources in the Salton Sea basin supports local economic development and job creation, while helping the state meet its renewable energy goals and creating a potential revenue sources for Salton Sea restoration.” Pérez added, “Together with geothermal energy stakeholders we … rally support as this bill heads to the Senate Floor.” [imperialvalleynews.com]

Bills with a fiscal impact of $150,000 or more are referred to the Senate Appropriation Committee’s Suspense File. An initial $272,000 cost would develop a methodology to determine utilities’ proportionate share of the energy procurement mandate. The review and approval process cost is anticipated at an additional $155,000 every year. Other expected costs such as market rise could incur additional costs in the low millions of dollars. [ivpressonline.com] “We expect that the net result of this legislation will be cost-savings for Californians,” said Karl Gawell, GEA’s ED. “As the E3 report [PDF] concluded in January, an RPS with greater diversity and more geothermal will benefit the state, consumers and the environment.”

Relatedly, southern California leaders have joined together to support an initiative at the Salton Sea area which houses geothermal production plants already and would likely be the site of further geothermal development in the state. Research shows that geothermal development would aid in efforts to restore the lakebed area and would bring economic support to the region. The joint authorities of the General Assembly of the Southern California Association of Governments’ new resolution supports the Imperial Irrigation District’s Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative. The joint powers authority represents six counties: Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura [imperialvalleynews.com]. The Geothermal Energy Association has previously adopted a resolution in support of the initiative, as well.

EPA Rules for Greenhouse Gases Support State Initiatives
EPA rules on greenhouse gas emissions are considered supportive of state-based initiatives, analysts are saying. An article on the Huffington Post notes that “By setting state-specific standards that take into account their different power plant fuel mixes, the EPA would be rewarding states that have already put in place measures to cut carbon emissions from power plants, such as cap-and-trade systems and renewable energy mandates.”

EPA Urged to Include GHP Option in New CO2 Rules
A member email from the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) states the GEO and the National Ground Water Association met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials in April to discuss how geothermal heat pump systems can be part of EPA’s proposed rulemaking for new limits for existing power plants emitting carbon dioxide (CO2). The email states, “Agency representatives were very interested in the technology and how it might be part of the rulema-king.”

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