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Senate Bill Would Extend Expired Provisions for GHPs

The Senate Finance Committee passed by voice vote a number the “Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act.” Proposed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), the bill extends a number of energy related tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013 or will expire at the end of 2014. The bill must still be considered by the full Senate and House. The House may not consider its own tax extenders bill until November or December of 2014.

The legislation includes credits for plug-in electric vehicles, alternative fuel vehicle refueling property, cellulosic biofuel production, renewable diesel, coal production on American Indian land, construction of new energy-efficient homes, alternative fuel production and fuel cell motor vehicles. A last-minute provision includes Production Tax Credits for renewable electricity generated by wind, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, and waste-to-energy facilities. The legislation would extend the PTC for two years, the same period as most of the credits in the bill.

DOE Officials Positive about GHPs

Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) President Doug Dougherty, accompanied by GEO advocacy team members Ed Krenik, Scott Segal, and Salo Zelermyer (Bracewell & Giuliani) met with senior officials at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Their topic of discussion was the recent propane price and supply crisis triggered by hypercold temperatures across the United States.

The group met with Melanie Kenderdine, Director Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis and Dr. Karen Wayland, Deputy Director Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis—and Leader of the agency’s taskforce on propane. “We discussed the benefits of switching out propane furnaces with geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) as both short- and long-term solutions,” said Dougherty. Director Kenderdine noted that in recent conversation with former Oklahoma Energy Secretary Mike Ming (currently leading GE’s Global Research Center in Oklahoma City), he said, “The fix for the propane issue is geothermal heat pumps.”

Dr. Wayland, who is also in charge of DOE’s Quadrennial Review, agreed to give GHPs more emphasis in the next report. In the interim, she agreed to accept supporting documentation on the economic, social and environmental benefits of GHPs.

Overall, said Dougherty, the meeting was very positive and their reception of GHPs was refreshing. “Our message was simple,” he said. “GHP technologies have no funding and little, if any recognition by DOE, especially compared to ‘hot’ geothermal electric technologies. GHPs offer the ‘low hanging fruit’ for reducing the thermal loads of buildings which are the largest user of energy in the country. And clearly, GHPs are the short and long-term solution to the propane (pro-pain) problem faced by too many citizens this winter.”

GEO Pledges Assistance to Arizona

Several geothermal heat pump (GHP) businesses and interests in Arizona recently reached out to the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) for technical assistance to help them expand state’s definition of renewable energy to include the technology.

“Commissioner Bob Burns of the Arizona Corporation Commission late last year opened a Docket (E-00000J-13-0375) to explore ‘Innovation and Technical Developments’ that could impact the state’s current energy model,” explains GEO President Doug Dougherty. “GEO believes this is a door opener for our industry. We plan to submit formal comments either directly or through our new friends in the state.”

In addition, Arizona Public Service Company—the largest electric provider in Arizona— is required to submit an annual update to their Renewable Energy Standard, and the current open Docket (E-01345A-13-0140) requests no change to that standard. “GEO believes there is an opportunity to include GHPs in their standard,” said Dougherty.

“We get excited when a local group of interested companies initiate changes to existing state policies that encourage deployment of GHP technology” he said. “We’ve already sent supporting documents to our local champions in Arizona, and stand ready to give additional technical assistance.”

NRECA Honors WFEC GoGoGeo Challenge

Western Farmers Electric Coop CEO Gary Roulet (right) accepts the NRECA Community Service Award for Youth Programs from NRECA Board President Curtis Nolan.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) honored Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC – Anadarko, OK) with its Community Service Award for Youth Programs. The cooperative, which has been actively promo-ting geothermal heat pumps, won the award for a unique outreach program to students in two states heightening awareness of geothermal technology. WFEC is a member of the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO), which co-sponsored the GoGoGeo Scholarship Video Challenge.

On behalf of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, WFEC sponsored the scholarship contest for junior and senior high school students requiring the applicants to produce a video on geothermal technology. Students living in the service territories of WFEC’s member cooperatives in Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico were eligible.

“By investing in students and education, Western Farmer Electric Cooperative’s unique scholar-ship program not only increased awareness of geothermal technology, but also strengthened bonds between the cooperative and the community. This program is a shining example of the fifth cooperative principle—educating members—in action,” said NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson.

“Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are thrilled to have partnered on this exciting project for high school juniors and seniors,” said Mark Faulkenberry, WFEC’s manager, marketing and communication. “Whenever you get young people involved, it simply supports the longevity of the industry itself and builds an awareness of energy choices.”

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