Leading news: Updates on Congressional Actions and Geothermal Opportunities

In this post, read about how the Congressional Omnibus funding bill affects geothermal energy and other energy and environmental programs, as well as Congress’s next moves on tax extenders. GEA announces its upcoming State of the Industry Briefing, DOE’s geothermal office director gets promoted, and there are some international opportunities coming up.

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Above: The geothermal industry participated in this week’s Power Gen International conference in Orlando, Florida. GEA members exhibited at the show, and conference speakers included GEA members John Fox, CEO of ElectraTherm and CJ Arrigo, Patagonia Financial (who are both GEA Board Members) and Maria Richard, Southern Methodist University Geothermal Lab Coordinator.

Click below for this week’s leading geothermal headlines.

*Congressional Omnibus Bill Funds $10 Million Increase in DOE Geothermal Program
*Federal Funding Bill Affects Energy and Environmental Programs
*Congress Moves Tax Credit Forward One Space, Debate to be Rekindled in January
*Geothermal Peers to Gather in D.C. for State of the Industry Briefing
*Join GEA and Promote International Geothermal Development
*Stanford Prof. Confirmed as DOE Official
*DOE’s Geothermal Office Director has been Promoted
*U.S.-Indonesia Stakeholders to Meet December 17 in DC
*KenGen Invites EOIs for Consultancy Services at Olkaria

Congressional Omnibus Bill Funds $10 Million Increase in DOE Geothermal Program
The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 the House and Senate are taking up today/tonight provides for a $10 million increase in geothermal programs at DOE The Committee report sets out direction for the use of the spending as follows:

Geothermal Technologies.-Within available funds, the agreement provides $32,100,000 for Enhanced Geothermal Systems. For future awards, the full spectrum of geothermal technologies as authorized by the Energy Independence and Security Act of2007 shall be eligible for the funds appropriated for Geothermal Technologies by this Act. The Department is also encouraged to continue its support of comprehensive programs that support academic and professional development initiatives.

The recent funding for the program is:
Geothermal: FY 14 – $45.802 million
FY 15 Budget Request – $61.5 million
FY 15Final Bill – $55.0 million

See Omnibus Geothermal R&D Funding Provisions of HR 83 per Committee Report 113-59, PDF.

Federal Funding Bill Affects Energy and Environmental Programs
As of Friday December 12 the Senate was working on finalizing its decisions on the 2015 federal funding bill, which was passed in the House on December 11 in a 219 to 206 vote. The Senate has until midnight Saturday to take up the bill. The version the House passed takes no final action on two geothermal bills that had been the subject of hearings considered for the huge bill.

The bill also slashes $60 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some of the effects of this include blocking the U.S. pledge of $3 million to the global Green Climate Fund as well as decreasing EPA staffing, hampering the agency’s ability to work on important domestic programs.

The House Appropriations’ Bill Summary [PDF] retains “$1.9 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs – placing priority on advanced manufacturing and weatherization assistance. This funding is targeted to effective and proven programs, while holding the line on spending in other areas. This total is $380 million – or 16% – below the President’s request.”

Congress Moves Tax Credit Forward One Space, Debate to be Rekindled in January
This week the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5771, The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, which extends a series of expired tax credits through 2014 including the geothermal Production Tax Credit [PDF].

The Senate is expected to pass the House bill this weekend with no changes. As a result, the new Congress convening in January is expected to face the same dualistic pressures as the adjourning Congress: a desire to extend expiring tax credits while also wanting more extensive and politically complicated tax reform.

Belatedly, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp introduced his detailed Tax Reform legislation December 11. His press release explained: “At its core, the Tax Reform Act of 2014 is about making the tax code simpler and fairer for hardworking taxpayers. I believe every taxpayer should be able to do his or her taxes without fear that someone with better accountants or lawyers is getting a better deal. This legislation does that by ensuring that virtually all taxpayers would pay the least amount of taxes without having to keep track of every receipt and record and live in fear of an IRS audit. This legislation makes the Code more effective and efficient by getting rid of narrowly targeted provisions to lower tax rates across the board. This will enable small and large businesses alike to expand operations, hire new workers, and increase benefits and take-home pay.

“I hope that the formal introduction of this proposal in the House today will help spur further action on this critical issue in the 114th Congress,” said Chairman Camp.

Regarding renewable tax credits, the summary of Camp’s proposal explained as follows:

“Sec. 3206. Phaseout and repeal of credit for electricity produced from certain renewable resources.

“Current law: Under current law, a taxpayer may claim a credit a credit (the production tax credit or PTC) is allowed for the production of electricity from qualified energy resources. Qualified energy resources are comprised of wind, closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal energy, solar energy, small irrigation power, municipal solid waste, qualified hydropower production, and marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy. To be eligible for the PTC, electricity produced from qualified energy resources at qualified facilities must be sold by the taxpayer to an unrelated person. The base amount of the PTC is 1.5 cents (indexed annually for inflation) per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. The amount of the credit is generally 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for 2013. A taxpayer generally may claim a credit every year during a 10-year period for projects that begin construction before 2014.

“Provision: Under the provision, the inflation adjustment would be repealed, effective for electricity and refined coal produced or sold after 2014. Therefore, taxpayers’ credit amount would revert to 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for the remaining portion of the 10-year period. The entire production tax credit would be repealed, effective for electricity and refined coal produced and sold after 2024.

“Consideration: Businesses in the wind industry have represented to the Committee that that the industry could survive with a credit worth 60 percent of the current credit, implying that the credit provides a windfall that does not serve the intended policy.

“JCT estimate: According to JCT, the provision would increase revenues by $9.6 billion over 2014-2023.”

Geothermal Peers to Gather in D.C. for State of the Industry Briefing
Washington, D.C. – Registration is now open for the Geothermal Energy Association’s State of the Geothermal Energy Industry Briefing (#GEABriefing2015), to be held on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. This program will provide an update on the US and international geothermal industry featuring release of the 2015 Annual Geothermal Industry Report and presentations and panel discussions by key leaders in US and global development, finance, technology, policy and regulatory issues. The event will convene geothermal industry leaders, congressional staffers and government agencies.

This is an exciting time for geothermal power, with continued global growth and upwards of 12.7 GW of geothermal power operational throughout 24 countries. The event’s agenda will feature prominent geothermal industry, multilateral and government agency speakers discussing how to maintain and exceed this growth. Confirmed speakers include Yoram Bronicki, Chairman, Ormat Technologies, Carl Stills, Energy Manager, Imperial Irrigation District, Gunnar Orn Gunnarsson, COO, Reykjavik Geothermal, Pierre Audinet, Clean Energy Program Team Leader, The World Bank ESMAP Program, Andrew Palmateer, Acting Deputy Director, U.S.-East Africa Geothermal Partnership, Mike Long, Senior Project Manager-Strategic Consultant, POWER Engineers, Sam Abraham, Business Development Manager, Baker Hughes, the U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office, and more.

To register for the State of the Geothermal Energy Industry Briefing, please visit http://www.geo-energy.org/events/2015/Geothermal_Industry_Briefing_2015.aspx. For sponsorship opportunities or to request press credentials, please contact Kathy Kent Schott 202 454 5263. Join the conversation on Twitter with #GEABriefing2015.

Join GEA and Promote International Geothermal Development
This year the international geothermal market grew by about 700 MW! Government policies and international lending institutions supported this growth and GEA was actively engaged in promoting those efforts. In the year ahead, we need to work to sustain these policies and programs and make progress in having the value of geothermal power recognized by federal and state decision-makers.

To do that, we need your help. As we end 2014 and begin a new year, we ask for your support for GEA through your company membership. If you are not a member, please consider joining. If you are already a member, consider raising your company’s membership status.

In addition to providing the support needed for GEA to expand the geothermal industry, becoming a member yields many benefits including:

  • Networking opportunities
  • Email alerts about industry issues and opportunities
  • Listing in GEA’s searchable online database
  • Advance copies of GEA reports
  • Member-only access on GEA Web site to certain presentations and additional resources
  • Discounts to attend and exhibit at events

Join GEA today and help us achieve more growth for the geothermal industry in 2015! Contact Juliana@geo-energy.org or visit our Web site at geo-energy.org/become_member.

Stanford Prof. Confirmed as DOE Official
The U.S. Senate has approved President Obama’s nominee Stanford Professor Lynn Orr, confirming him as the new head of Science and Energy Research for the U.S. Department of Energy. Orr will oversee science research programs and national labs, including the Geothermal Technologies Program as well as Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

DOE’s Geothermal Office Director has been Promoted
It was with mixed feelings that GEA was notified that Douglas Hollett, DOE Geothermal Office Director, was promoted to become the Deputy Assistant Secretary for renewable programs. “Everyone is thankful for the great work he has done in the GTO, and we expect to still work with him in his new position,” said Karl Gawell, GEAs Executive Director.

U.S.-Indonesia Stakeholders to Meet December 17 in DC
The Departments of State and Energy are hosting the U.S.-Indonesia Energy Sector Stakeholders’ meeting to discuss priorities, goals, and objectives for the upcoming U.S.-Indonesia Energy Investment Roundtable. The meeting will take place on December 17, 2014 from 3:30pm to 4:30pm at the U.S. Department of Energy Headquarters in Washington, DC. Geothermal industry representatives who are active or interested in the Indonesian geothermal sector are invited to participate in the event. You can view the invitation here and the agenda here for more information. News from Indonesia says the government plans to tender 25 new geothermal sites, in addition to 31 geothermal projects under development.

KenGen Invites EOIs for Consultancy Services at Olkaria
KenGen is requesting Expressions of Interest for geothermal consultancy services at Olkaria Geothermal Field in two separate tenders: (1) 2 x 70-MW steam turbine power plants at the Olkaria V location, and (2) 70-MW steam turbine power plant at Olkaria I, Unit 6. Eligible, experienced and qualified companies, including joint ventures, from any country are invited to submit their paperwork before January 9, 2015, 14:00 Kenyan time. View the EOIs at www.kengen.co.ke

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