Recent advocacy successes by the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) at the state level appear to be snowballing as a two-year effort to change the way geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) are regulated in Illinois rolls toward a successful conclusion.
With the Geothermal Alliance of Illinois, GEO has submitted final draft revisions to the Technical Resource Manual used by Illinois electric utilities to perform Total Resource Cost (TRC) tests of energy efficiency programs. Most GEO-recommended changes are included. If approved, Illinois electric utilities could immediately include GHP incentives in their Energy Efficiency (EE) programs.
For several years, the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) and several geothermal manufacturers have been working to include geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) in the federal definition of clean energy, and they are hoping this could be the year it finally happens. After receiving support on both sides of Congress, GEO president and CEO Doug Dougherty said GEO is optimistic it can accomplish that goal this year.
“The unfortunate reality is that Congress has not been able to pass any energy bill in that time, so we patiently wait for an alternative vehicle that suits our goal,” Dougherty said. “The good news is that GEO’s hard work on the Hill has produced an agreed-to amendment for the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill in the Senate that had bipartisan support and no opposition by energy committee members. We also worked on the House side and have a bipartisan bill ready to be introduced that is supported by members of the House Energy Committee.”
Steve Smith, president and CEO, Enertech Global LLC, said geothermal systems are the “unseen heroes” as opposed to their more visible solar and wind counterparts, which are very visible in open space rather than being buried underground. This is part of the geothermal industry’s uphill battle.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has signed into law a comprehensive renewable thermal energy bill that promises to promote clean renewable fuels and technologies for heating and cooling buildings. The State Senate unanimously passed S.2214 on June 19, and the House of Representatives on Aug. 1.
The new law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. It will provide financial incentives to people who choose among several thermal renewable energy alternatives for heating and cooling their homes and businesses, including geothermal and air source heat pumps; solar heating; and bio-fuels such as wood pellets, wood chips, renewable bio-oils, or renewable natural gas. By awarding credits to renewable heating and cooling technologies, the bill provides a powerful financial incentive to invest in and develop these technologies.
The Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Coalition, a group representing over 40 local businesses and regional trade associations, was primary advocate for the bill. Leading Coalition members include the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO), the New England Geothermal Professionals Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association, Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, and the Biomass Thermal Energy Council.
“Passage of S.2214 is great news, and a huge victory for the geothermal heat pump industry in Massachusetts and across the country,” said GEO President and CEO Doug Dougherty. “We called each of our manufacturer members’ distributors and dealers in the state, prompting at least 15 to personally call the Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means in support of the bill.”
According to Coalition leaders: “While the bill provides for powerful new financial incentives, it does so without creating new spending. Instead, renewable heating and cooling technologies will now qualify for Alternative Energy Credits (AECs) under the Commonwealth’s existing Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (APS).”
The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO), Geothermal Alliance of Illinois and ComEd are collaborating to amend the Illinois Technical Reference Manual (TRM) used by Illinois’ electric utilities to determine the efficiency of geothermal heat pumps (GHPs). “We changed state law last year to redefine energy efficiency as the reduction of energy consumed for an end use, and now we must change the rules used to determine product efficiency,” said GEO President and CEO Doug Dougherty. The group’s amendment would change four critical points:
- Allowing GHPs to be compared to 80%-efficient natural gas furnaces;
- Including the desuperheater water heating efficiencies of GHPs;
- Recognizing the true cost of air-source heat pumps, raising the average by 54%; and,
- Extending the useful life of a GHP from 18 to 25 years.