State Guidance for Incorporating Geothermal in Clean Power Plan Released, Energy Bill Advances, Nations Look to Shift Energy to Renewables


The Soufrière Hills’ volcano, which contains geothermal potential to power Montserrat.

Photo by Michael Utech

In this post:
*Press Release: Groups Collaborate to Support Geothermal Use in Clean Power Plan
*International Showcase Registrants Increase, Featuring Speakers from Around the World
*Senate Continues Work on Energy Bill, Senators Ask for Finance Committee Action
*Renewable Energy World Highlights 2016 Geothermal Outlook
*In Nevis, Island Nation Moves Towards Geothermal-Powered Future
*Esmeralda Minerals LLC Partners with SRI International to Develop Lithium Extraction Techniques
*New Year, New Name for Trans-Asia Oil, Now Phinma Energy
*Montserrat Recovers from a Volcanic Nightmare with Geothermal Energy
*Ethiopia Moving from Biomass to Geothermal Power

Press Release: Groups Collaborate to Support Geothermal Use in Clean Power Plan

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), Geothermal Resources Council (GRC), and Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) announce the release of guidance for states on meeting new clean energy standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The free state-by-state guides walk through the benefits and uses of three major types of geothermal applications: power generation, direct use and heat pumps, and initially cover Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, and Colorado.

The materials are available at no cost and provide state officials, regulators and the public with information about geothermal energy uses in their individual states as decision-makers choose which forms of energy will be deployed to meet the requirements of the U.S. Clean Power Plan. Geothermal power generation boosts jobs and the economy, according to the state guides. It is produced locally, reduces carbon emissions and has a small environmental footprint. For utilities, geothermal is a reliable, sustainable investment.
States now need to adopt and submit a state plan by September 6, 2016. The amount of geothermal that will be added to the grid during this opportunity for clean energy growth depends on key western states deciding to implement their potential for geothermal energy development. For a handful of states with high geothermal potential, building just one or two new power plants would offset all their emissions reductions.

“Geothermal can be an important part of state clean power plans, particularly when all of the benefits of firm and flexible geothermal provides are taken into account,” said Ben Matek, GEA Analyst and Research Projects Manager. “The Guides we are providing today will help overcome a major hurdle for geothermal – lack of recognition,” said Karl Gawell, GEA Executive Director. “We hope the states will recognize geothermal energy is part of the solution, and that each has potential it can tap.”

Large-scale geothermal power plants directly employ an estimated 1.17 persons per MW, according to the guides. They account for nearly $6.3 to $11 million dollars in property taxes over the lifetime of the power plant and provide multiple benefits to the environment including lowered emissions and water consumption compared to other forms of baseload generation. Geothermal energy is always available. Geothermal power projects are in development in Churchill, Washoe, Mineral and Lander Counties in Nevada and other locations in Western states.

“Geothermal energy is in an ideal position to help states meet emission reductions and their clean energy targets,” said Paul Brophy, GRC President.

The guides provide examples of current geothermal district heating consumers including the Sheriff’s Office, the old Post Office, Elko County School District and other residents and businesses in the city of Elko, Nevada.

“Geothermal heat pumps can have a significant impact on fossil fuel consumption and are well-suited for states seeking to meet emissions reduction and renewable energy targets,” said Doug Dougherty, GEO President and CEO. “We encourage regulators to use these guides to better understand the role the entire spectrum of geothermal technology can have in their plans.”

Geothermal heat pumps can operate efficiently at shallower depths and lower temperatures than power plants, making them available in any U.S. state or territory. Notable users of geothermal heat pumps include Pahrump Valley High School near Las Vegas, Nevada.

The guides are online at: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory provided the templates and data.

[Correction: The templates and data do not belong specifically to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, but a variety of collaborators.]

International Showcase Registrants Increase, Featuring Speakers from Around the World

As GEA’s 2016 International Geothermal Showcase approaches, foreign attendees continue to roll in, from students passionate about geothermal energy to embassies. To date, 30 countries will be represented from diverse locations, all with an interest in sustainable energy. With a hot-off-the-presses agenda, participants can anticipate speakers from IRENA and countries who constitute the rising stars of the geothermal industry, including nations like Kenya, represented by KenGen’s CEO Albert Mugo, and Japan’s Hiroto Kamiishi, Director of the Energy and Mining Group at JICA.

For more information including registration, confirmed speakers to date, and a tentative agenda, visit For questions regarding the 2016 Showcase or opportunities for sponsorships, please contact Rani Chatrath at To request press credentials, please contact Allie Nelson at

Senate Continues Work on Energy Bill, Senators Ask for Finance Committee Action

Under the leadership of Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) the Senate continued to work towards completion of the first national energy bill in years. The Senate is expected to vote on closing debate on the bill Thursday, tomorrow, and that motion, if adopted, would lead to a vote on final passage.

As reported earlier in GEW, the bill has important geothermal provisions to support exploration of the U.S. resource base, including expedited permitting. In addition, the Senate adopted an amendment by Senator Wyden to ensure that the national resource assessment called for in the base bill is conducted “collaboratively” with industry and is not just an academic exercise, but also involves cost-shared exploration drilling. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Numerous other amendments were still pending, including the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act, Amendment #3043, sponsored by Senators Heller, Heinrich, Risch, Tester, Gardner, Wyden, Bennet, Daines and Udall. This amendment would require BLM to prepare a new Programmatic Geothermal EIS as well as adopt other changes designed to improve processing renewable projects on public lands.

Also, Senate Finance Committee Democrats, led by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), wrote Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, urging the Committee to schedule action on a tax measure to address some of the issues and gaps created by the recently passed Omnibus bill – the bill that extended credits for wind and solar but left out other clean, renewable technologies. The Senators’ February 3rd letter said in part: “…there are several other tax provisions that expire this year that need a greater degree of certainty. It is critical that the Finance Committee move to address these issues in a timely manner…”

GEW will keep you up to date on these and other important developments.

Renewable Energy World Highlights 2016 Geothermal Outlook

Associate Editor Jennifer Deloney of REW recently covered the geothermal industry’s annual outlook. As Deloney reported, Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) president Paul Brophy said that the status and future of the 2016 geothermal industry is “positive.”
Brophy elaborated on his analysis: “While there has been some apprehension about the future of the [geothermal] industry as an industry, where it’s going and what the development rate is like is slowly becoming clearer.”

The forecast for geothermal energy through 2020 predicts that annual capacity installations will raise the 12.6 GW in existence to approximately 21.5 GW. Beginning with smaller increases from 2016 to 2017, these modest gains will give way to greater annual increases beginning in 2018 and continuing in successive years. These predictions are drawn from Ruggero Bertani’s data, as presented in April during the 2015 World Geothermal Conference. Bertani serves as geothermal business development manager for GEA member Enel.

Thanks to the 2015 Paris Agreement, all renewables are expected to gain traction, with geothermal technologies boosted by the COP21-launched Global Geothermal Alliance (GGA). GGA’s plan, with a goal date of 2030, is to aid the industry in reaching a global five-fold increase in installed geothermal capacity over the next decade-and-a-half. This would mandate the addition of 40 more GW beyond the 2020 target goal.

In Deloney’s analysis, three countries stand out as leaders in the geothermal industry – the U.S., Indonesia, and Mexico. These countries can aid the rising stars of geothermal including the Caribbean, Chile, and Kenya as other nations develop sustainably. GGA, an alliance of 28 countries and several organizations, intends to tackle the problems of implementing geothermal technology (among them policy uncertainty and steep upfront drilling costs) by promoting investment opportunities, improving operations and technology, and creating advisory services to support institutional and regulatory frameworks. Additionally, they will work to reduce the risks associated with geothermal projects.

The final hurdle in achieving these targets is financing. In September 2015, the Climate Policy Initiative determined that public financing for geothermal energy needs to grow from $7.4 billion to approximately $73 billion in order to spur private investments that would meet a 2030, 23 GW target – a level that is one third of GGA’s goal. Thankfully, geothermal funding is on the rise, with the Asian Development Bank starting a $500 million loan program in Oct. 2015, with similar funding in the Caribbean and Africa.

For a more in-depth analysis of leading countries’ geothermal prospects, follow the link below:


In Nevis, Island Nation Moves Towards Geothermal-Powered Future

Nevis officials have scheduled a date for when they will transition from diesel-fired electrical generation to 100% renewable energy, which will come from the island’s bountiful geothermal resources. The small island, whose population consists of only 12,000 individuals, now imports 4.2 million gallons of diesel fuel yearly, costing $12 million, a price that will be reduced significantly with the development of renewable technologies.

Mark Brantley, who serves as both Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism of Nevis and Minister of Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis, believes his country has unique geothermal resources that makes it stand out: “About 10 years ago we discovered that we have geothermal energy here. It has taken a while but we are now at a stage where all the exploration work has been done and we have been assured that geothermal goes live in December of 2017,” Brantley said.

Brantley elaborated on Nevis’ green aspirations: “What that means is that when that plant switches on in December of 2017, fully 100% of Nevis’ electricity will be supplied by renewables. Nowhere else in the world can boast that and so it will make us the greenest place on planet earth. That’s the new tagline – the greenest place on planet earth.”

As far as geothermal capacity goes, there are seven volcanic hubs that have been identified on Nevis. Exploratory drilling at three sites has demonstrated that the reservoir is capable of producing a maximum of 500 MW of constant base load power year-round, freeing Nevis of expensive imported diesel fuel. Brantley hopes the new geothermal reliance will boost ecotourism, with Nevis having the boasting privilege of being the greenest island in the world. Nevis will even have enough energy left over to export to its twin, St. Kitts.

Brantly also hopes to send energy to islands beyond his nation: “In fact we’ve already done the interconnectivity studies; but also islands that are within that radius so Antigua is a possibility because they have no prospects for geothermal energy there.

“Anguilla has no prospects there but we also have neighboring islands like St. Barts, Saba, St. Eustatius who have potential so Nevis can potentially, I think in a year become a net exporter of energy. And as a net exporter of energy we can change the whole economic paradigm in terms of what we rely on here so that we can wean ourselves even off tourism as a main stay and have energy and energy production instead. So I think there are some exciting times ahead for Nevis,” Brantley stated.


Esmeralda Minerals LLC Partners with SRI International to Develop Lithium Extraction Techniques

Esmeralda Minerals LLC, a subsidiary of Pure Energy Minerals Limited, has announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) has released the final funding for its partnership with SRI International (SRI), a nonprofit research center that works with government and industry. Esmeralda and SRI are developing innovative, price-competitive methods for lithium extraction from the brine produced by geothermal plants. A U.S. owned subsidiary of Japanese diversified materials manufacturer, Nitto Denko Corporation, called Nitto Innovations Inc. (NII) is also collaborating on the lithium-extraction project.

Fully funded by the DOE and partners, Esmeralda, SRI, and NII are working to refine, test, and commercialize a brand new generation of highly selective ion exchange resins to separate metals like lithium from geothermal fluids in a more efficient manner that would cost less than current procedures. The current joint research is being carried out using lithium-enriched brines, all sourced from the company’s Clayton Valley, Nevada lithium brine project. The release of these funds enables expanded testing utilizing Esmeralda’s resources.

Robert Mintak, Pure Energy CEO, stated, “We are delighted with the positive announcement from the DOE to release the remaining funding. The addition of Nitto Innovations Inc. will help unlock the potential commercialization opportunities that may exist for this technology.” As the collaborative project moves forward, the advances made may refine the lithium extraction process and ultimately make it a marketable technology for use at geothermal plants.


New Year, New Name for Trans-Asia Oil, Now Phinma Energy

Formerly Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp. (TA), the group has officially changed their name to Phinma Energy Corp. to more accurately reflect their role in the power sector. The group’s board approved the name change in a meeting on Jan. 25, as disclosed to the Philippine Stock Exchange.

“The company, being a part of the Phinma Group, would like to use the Phinma brand in conducting its business,” the firm said. The directorial board also extended the company’s corporate life by another 50 years, stating “TA’s corporate term will expire on Sept. 8, 2019. Hence, for business continuity purposes, the company is seeking the necessary approvals for the extension thereof.”

The group has a diverse energy portfolio comprising 500 MW, with an integrated 20-MW geothermal project under construction in Batangas in partnership with the Yuchengco Group and the Philippine National Oil Co. and the expansion of a 20-MW geothermal plant under Maibarara Geothermal Inc. (MGI), increasing capacity by 10 MW. The second project is predicted to be online by the beginning months of 2017.


Montserrat Recovers from a Volcanic Nightmare with Geothermal Energy

Twenty years ago, the capital, Plymouth. of the Caribbean island Montserrat was devastated by a volcanic eruption, creating a modern-day Pompeii, with the majority of the former capital buried in ash, slowly being reclaimed by nature today. In 1995, the Soufrière Hills eruptions nearly engulfed the British territory, a small island to the Caribbean’s east.
Now, two decades later, Montserratians are beginning to view Soufrière Hills in a new light. The government, newly elected in 2014, are looking towards the future of their island, considering the development of geothermal energy from their very active source.

“We have learned to live with the volcano,” stated Donaldson Romeo, the island’s premier. The “long, hopeless period” that started with the eruptions has come to an end. “Ash to cash,” as Romeo so fittingly said. Besides geothermal development, Montserrat’s government is looking to implement sand mining and boost island tourism.

“Before the volcano, we were standing on our own two feet,” Romeo elaborated. “Here we are 20 years later, with lots of money spent, but we don’t have the programs that will assist us in achieving [self-sufficiency].” Montserrat’s yearly budget is for the most part funded by the U.K. since the devastating eruption: over $ 574,740,000 has been provided by taxpayers in aid.

Romeo looks forward to harnessing Soufrière Hills’ unique energy and resources: “British taxpayers’ money will now be spent in the way where the people of Montserrat will be developed, and the infrastructure will be developed,” the premier stated. “We are actually in a place to fix several hundred years of history.”

Two geothermal wells were drilled since 2013, costing approximately $ 12,220,000, funded by the UK Department for International Development. The UK agency intends to drill a third well in 2016, slated to begin in March. “The energy is vast,” said managing director of Montserrat’s utilities David Thomson. “It’s there.”

The Department for International Development and the island’s government have set a goal to transform Montserrat’s grid to 100% renewable energy by 2020, with geothermal comprising a significant electricity source. Currently, the island has high-priced, unreliable electricity, which are prone to blackouts. Geothermal energy would provide a cost-effective, reliable alternative.


Ethiopia Moving from Biomass to Geothermal Power

Approximately 90% of Ethiopia’s energy sector is comprised of traditional biomass sources like firewood. These fuel sources have placed pressure on the country’s lackluster forestry resources, resulting in land degradation and lower quality or a complete loss of arable soil fertility. Geothermal offers an appealing solution to the country’s energy issues.

Geothermal reservoirs exist in many areas in Ethiopia, and when developed, would decrease supply risks, transport expenditure, dependency on imported fuel, and currency outflow. In order to harness their country’s geothermal potential, Geological Survey of Ethiopia runs a geological laboratory and two rigs that have been actively exploring geothermal resources. In fact, the country, thanks to the geologically active African Rift Valley, has an estimated geothermal production capacity of 10,000 MW, according to a recent study.

25 years ago, Ethiopia initiated a long-term geothermal exploration venture, allocating sixteen geothermal prospect areas, which now number 22. There is a call to develop the geothermal sites to shift the country’s power grid towards a renewable future. The selection of prospective areas should consider economic criteria and the sites’ closeness with to the existing grid and areas with high populations. Besides electricity generation, the prospective geothermal areas can be harnessed via in horticulture to stimulate production in flower farming and the agro-industry.

Currently, geothermal projects underway in Tendaho and similar locations will hopefully encourage development in this renewable, baseload energy source. In order to be successful in geothermal endeavors, there is a desire amongst stakeholders for Ethiopia’s government to incorporate a donations-based funding infrastructure to support surveys and geothermal exploration. If these actions are taken, Ethiopia can become the new Kenya of the African Rift Valley.


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