Leading news: Geothermal’s Role in Carbon Reduction Considered by EPA, California, Colorado, others

California is a geothermal energy trendsetter; it is recognizing the ways geothermal can be a key component in the energy future for the state and nation. Keeping reading below for this week’s top news from the Geothermal Energy Association. This week’s stories include EPA carbon reduction plan and how geothermal fits in; an update on GEA’s annual conference; news from Hawaii and Colorado; and an update from GEA member Alternative Earth Resources.

Design by Rob Chester.
Design by Rob Chester

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*EPA Releases Proposal on Reducing Emissions, Leaves Details to the States
*Geothermal Can Play a Significant Role in State Carbon Reduction Plans
*Senate Unlikely to Take Up Tax Extenders Before Election
*GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo To Convene World’s Largest Geothermal Industry Gathering
*Colorado Takes Steps to Expand Geothermal Development
*Ratepayers Prevail In Lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, State of Hawaii & Its Governor
*Alternative Earth Resources: Company Provides Financial Update

EPA Releases Proposal on Reducing Emissions, Leaves Details to the States
On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the Clean Power Plan proposal seeking to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2005 levels. The proposal is the first to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. Later that day President Barack Obama mentioned geothermal energy to evening news reporters. He said, in part, “[This proposal] sets carbon targets and gives states and regions the flexibility to meet them, using the mix of energy resources that work best for them — whether it’s natural gas or cleaner coal or solar or wind or hydropower or geothermal or nuclear. And it provides a huge incentive for the states and consumers to become more energy efficient.” (Read GEA’s comments about geothermal energy and the EPA proposal in the next story below, “Geothermal Can Play a Significant Role in State Carbon Reduction Plans”).

The EPA’s statement accompanying the proposal called it “an effort to protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy added, “EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source–power plants,” McCarthy said. “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment–our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs.”

McCarthy emphasized, as the President did, that the plan recognizes each state’s current goals and the status of their goals, and that states can choose how they meet the goals and how they treat different types of plants. Each state would have different reduction standards, the national average would be 25% by 2020 and 30% by 2030. (Click here (PDF) for an EPA Fact Sheet on the options states will have for cutting carbon emissions.)

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. weighed in on the proposal. “American businesses, farmers, ranchers and families are experiencing the effects of climate change in the United States today,” Wyden said. “Inaction on climate change is no longer an option, so those who would criticize EPA’s plan have a responsibility to put forward their own ideas on how to move to a low-carbon economy.” He added, “Climate change is the most important environmental challenge of our time. Without immediate action, its effects will only get worse. EPA’s proposed rule offers an opportunity to put our country on the road to lower emissions and put each state in the driver’s seat to determine its own best course.”

In a statement from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Executive Director Carol Werner said, “As an organization concerned about providing solid information to inform pragmatic policy solutions to solve difficult problems, EESI is pleased that EPA is seeking to encourage innovation and multiple approaches for states in the quest to reduce carbon emissions. Recognizing that states are all different, this approach provides opportunities to encourage smart actions that can enhance economic competitiveness and improve public health while reducing emissions.”

Geothermal Can Play a Significant Role in State Carbon Reduction Plans
By Karl Gawell, GEA–The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) urges states to take advantage of the carbon emission reduction available through expanding geothermal power portfolios.  Doing so makes sense in light of the U.S. EPA’s proposed regulations for existing power plants that require states to substantially reduce carbon emissions.  The regulations proposed June 2, 2014, would give states significant leeway in designing plans to reduce their emissions contributing to global warming, including adopting or strengthening policies to expand clean energy production, like geothermal power.

As a baseload source of clean energy, geothermal power is already helping to reduce the power system’s carbon emissions.  GEA estimates that current geothermal energy production in the U.S. offsets about 14 million metric tons of CO2 from coal or 5 million metric tons from natural gas per year.  The developing projects identified by GEA in April 2014, with estimated planned capacity additions of 978 MW, could help 11 states displace an additional 7 million metric tons of CO2 per year from coal or 2.3 million metric tons of CO2 per year from natural gas.

There is significant potential for geothermal power to expand its clean energy role, particularly in the West.  Most of the nation’s geothermal resources are still undeveloped.  The USGS estimates that “the electric power generation potential from identified geothermal systems is 9,057 Megawatts-electric (MWe), distributed over 13 states.” In addition, USGS concludes that “the estimated power production potential from undiscovered geothermal resources is 30,033 MWe.” Evenin the three leading geothermal states, a majority of the identified resources are still untapped: 50% of California’s, 60% of Nevada’s, and 60% of Utah’s resources.

Geothermal power matches electrical power systems needs.  It can provide baseload generation, allowing it to substitute for coal-fired power plants without raising reliability and related concerns.  It can be engineered to provide a range of services not limited to baseload, including power regulation, load following or energy imbalance, spinning reserve, non-spinning reserve, and replacement or supplemental reserve.

The geothermal industry is committed to working with states to implement effective policies on a state by state basis to expand their geothermal production, including assistance and information on how to include geothermal in a §111(d) compliance plan under the EPA carbon regulations.

For more information about geothermal energy and climate emissions, including recent GEA reports, visit the GEA website at http://geo-energy.org/reports.aspx.  You can also contact Karl Gawell (karl@geo-energy.org) or Ben Matek (ben@geo-energy.org).

Senate Unlikely to Take Up Tax Extenders Before Election
It now appears unlikely that the Senate will take up a package to renew dozens of expired tax breaks, including key incentives for geothermal energy, before November elections. The package was brought to the floor last month but was filibustered by Republicans in a political move. [www.governorswindenergycoalition.org]

GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo To Convene World’s Largest Geothermal Industry Gathering
Press Release (Portland, Oregon) May 29–With the international geothermal power market booming, with a sustained growth rate of 4% to 5% and almost 700 projects currently under development in 76 countries, the GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Geothermal Energy Expo is expected to be an exciting international gathering of geothermal companies, academics, financiers, policy leaders, students, and other individuals. The international geothermal community is marking their calendars to attend or exhibit at the event, to be held from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 at the Oregon Convention Center, Portland, Oregon, USA.

This is the premier gathering to learn about the latest developments in geothermal energy. Last year, the GRC Annual Meeting & GEA Expo hosted representatives from more than 37 countries. Participants from six continents were present. In 2014, an even broader attendance is anticipated.

The GRC Annual Meeting will offer technical, policy, and market conference sessions, educational seminars, tours of local geothermal and renewable energy projects, and numerous networking opportunities.

“Portland was chosen as the site for this meeting because it is the gateway to a new geothermal frontier in the US Pacific Northwest,” said GRC Executive Director Steve Ponder. “Impressive geothermal sites and volcanoes are in the immediate vicinity and Portland itself has a vibrant downtown area with world class shopping and dining.”

The GEA Expo floor features a unique opportunity for leaders in the business to showcase their projects, equipment, services and state of the art technology to the geothermal community. Exhibit space still remains but is selling quickly.

“The GEA Expo will showcase the latest innovations that are taking geothermal technology to the next level,” said GEA Executive Director Karl Gawell. “We look forward to dialoguing with the many industry leaders expected from nearly every continent, making Portland one of the hottest venues for geothermal in 2014.”

While still a few months away, GRC and GEA reminds international participants to plan early to have enough time for processing required visas or other travel documents. For information on U.S. State Department requirements for business travel, go to: http://travel.state.gov/pdf/BusinessVisa.pdf.

In addition to the GRC Technical Sessions and GEA Expo Hall, special presentations for international visitors are being planned. These sessions will be announced soon, but will focus on presentations on international geothermal market developments, opportunities and presentations on U.S. company technology and project capabilities.

Geothermal energy is a firm yet flexible renewable energy source that can bring the reliability of 24/7 baseload power or complement other energy technologies by firming up more intermittent power generation. It can also provide distributed power generation from small co-production projects, with one of the smallest environmental footprints of any technology. Geothermal has the potential to help meet many U.S. states’ Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goals as an alternative to fossil fuels. Recent breakthroughs in Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) technology for exploiting geothermal resources around the world raise bright prospects for the industry.

As one of the country’s leading geothermal prospects, Oregon has spearheaded new initiatives that move to recognize the values of geothermal power, leading the industry to be optimistic that state policies such as these could spark another period of growth in geothermal power over the next decade. In addition, Oregon Public Utility Commission changed its current methodology for calculating standard renewable avoided cost prices that might more fairly calculate the cost of geothermal power. Southern Oregon boasts a cluster of developing geothermal power projects that fall in a highly desirable Klamath Basin that geothermal developers are actively pursuing.

For more information about exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities, please visit geothermal.org or geothermalenergy2014.com. Student registration is complimentary with valid student ID.

Join the conversation on Twitter by following the GRC @GRC2001 and #GRC2014 or GEA at @geoenergist and #GEAExpo2014.

For GRC Annual Meeting information or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Estela Smith, 530 758 2360 or grc@geothermal.org. For GEA Expo exhibitor or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kathy Kent Schott, 202 454 5263 or kathy@geo-energy.org.

To request press credentials, please contact Shawna McGregor, The Rosen Group, 917 971 7852 or shawna@rosengrouppr.com.

Colorado Takes Steps to Expand Geothermal Development
Press Release (DOE)–Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed a geothermal bond bill May 30, providing $1.98 million in state funding and matching the Energy Department’s investment in geothermal energy exploration at Pagosa Springs.  The project, which demonstrates Colorado’s strong support for geothermal energy development, leverages a $3.8 million award from the Department for evaluating and exploring the geothermal resource potential at Pagosa Springs.

Pagosa Springs has long been recognized as a potential target for geothermal energy development, based on surface evidence and assessments such as geophysical exploration conducted by the Colorado School of Mines. The Pagosa Verde project proposes a cost-effective, phased approach for locating and evaluating the viability of geothermal resources in the southern end of the Pagosa Springs area. The project will assess the potential for power production as well as direct use applications for residential, industrial and other purposes.

The collaborative framework at Pagosa Verde provides a replicable model of public-private partnership and grassroots support. The company has engaged the local community to garner support and promote future geothermal development that could create jobs and generate clean, renewable energy for the region. Landowners, city and county officials, utilities, and private investors worked with the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado Energy Office to demonstrate the value of this project and its vital role in bringing geothermal energy development to the state.

Ratepayers Prevail In Lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, State of Hawaii & Its Governor
Via Ed Wagner, Mililani, HI–On Thursday, May 29, Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto ruled in favor of the plaintiffs ( ratepayers ) during a 2 hour hearing about attorney John Carroll’s class action Breach of Public Trust lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, the State of Hawaii, and Governor Neil Abercrombie.

Contrary to the defendants request for a Motion To Dismiss the lawsuit for lack of merit or Motion For Summary Judgement, the Court accepted the amended lawsuit as a valid complaint.

The defendants argued that electricity is NOT a natural resource but a manufactured commodity. However, the judge ruled otherwise, stating that because electricity can be produced by using several natural, renewable resources such as solar, wind, and geothermal sources, electricity and its production are constitutionally protected.

In other words, the State of Hawaii IS in violation of our Public Trust Doctrine in the State Constitution because electricity IS natural, not a commodity created by HECO.

This ruling sets a precedent for our country in regard to electricity being a constitutionally protected natural resource under Article XI of Hawaii’s State Constitution, Conservation, Control, and Development of Resources. http://lrbhawaii.org/con/conart11.html

Judge Sakamoto further ruled that the 2008 Lingle-HECO Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative ( HCEI ) MOU agreement IS a contractual agreement, not merely a non-binding MOU as claimed by Hawaiian Electric and the State.

He stated that “decoupling” and the “filed rate doctrine” are beyond the scope of his normal involvement and the statute ( HRS 269-6 ) requires that exclusive jurisdiction be with the PUC.

He therefore ordered that the lawsuit be heard under the PUC’s jurisdiction because it is both a regulatory body AND a quasi-judicial body.

A copy of the May 29 hearing transcript will be available from the court within the next 2 weeks, and a Court Order will follow within another week.

Alternative Earth Resources: Company Provides Financial Update
Press Release (Vancouver, B.C.) May 30–Alternative Earth Resources Inc. (formerly Nevada Geothermal Power Inc.) (“Alternative Earth” or “the Company”) (TSX.V: AER) today announced results for the three and nine months ended March 31, 2014. The Condensed Consolidated Interim Financial Statements and Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) are available at http://www.sedar.com and on the Company’s website at http://www.alternative-earth.com.

As at March 31, 2014, the Company’s assets (consisting primarily of cash and cash equivalents of $1.2 million and resource property interests carried at $1.5 million) exceeded its liabilities (consisting primarily of asset retirement obligations) by approximately $2.8 million.

On April 2, 2013, the Company changed its name from Nevada Geothermal Power Inc. to Alternative Earth, and completed a five for one share consolidation, which leaves the Company in a position to maintain and develop its current geothermal project portfolio (consisting of the Crump, North Valley, and New Truckhaven projects) and pursue other opportunities.

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