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.
Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) Outreach Manager Ted Clutter and GEO Member representative Paul Bony (ClimateMaster) met with Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy Director Paul Thomsen and Energy Efficiency Specialist David Gibson. Nevada claims a high level of geothermal development, including high-temperature power, direct uses from hot water aquifers, and geothermal heat pumps.
Thomsen explained that the state is several hundred megawatts ahead of its Renewable Portfolio (RPS) goal of 25% renewable power by 2025, limiting potential for legislating thermal energy (including GHPs) into the standard. In fact, last year the Nevada Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law that removed references to energy efficiency in the RPS.
Recognizing that geothermal energy for heating and cooling homes and buildings has been largely ignored in state policy, the California Energy Commission (CEC) released a major study in late July from the California Geothermal Energy Collaborative (CGEC – UC Davis) — Assessment of California’s Low Temperature Geothermal Resources: Geothermal Heat Pump Efficiencies by Region.
The project assessed the potential of geothermal heat pump (GHP) systems to reduce energy use and carbon emissions in terms of temperature and geologic regimes across the state. The study focused on GHPs helping California meets sustainable energy goals under the state Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for electric utilities, plus its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals under Assembly Bill 32.
In early August, geothermal heat pump (GHP) stakeholders put the finishing touches on a new trade association that promises to increase market penetration and sales across New York State—the New York Geothermal Energy Organization (NY-GEO).
“Our intent is to play an active role in quality assurance for the industry while raising the profile of GHPs among consumers through fresh, new marketing efforts,” said NY-GEO President John Franceschina (PSEG Long Island Manager of Residential Efficiency Programs). NY-GEO is a New York State not-for-profit corporation, with 67 Founding Members.