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As lawmakers hotly debate budget cuts and tax reform in Washington, DC, the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) has formally asked the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee to recommend extending federal tax credits for residential and commercial geothermal heat pump (GHP) installations beyond their Dec. 31, 2016 expiration date through the year 2020.
In comments to the committee, GEO President and CEO Doug Dougherty makes the case for continued federal interest in the health of the GHP industry: "Buildings are the largest single sector of total U.S. energy consumption. GHPs can efficiently and significantly reduce the heating and cooling loads of buildings, with positive benefits for our environment and economy," said Dougherty.
"Yet even though GHPs could achieve vast energy, economic and environmental benefits across America if installed for all suitable buildings, the technology is still relatively nascent and has been slow to catch a foothold in the broader HVAC market. At current rates of installation (<100,000 average 3-ton capacity residential units per year), GHPs represent less than 2% of the total HVAC marketplace. Reason? Higher 'first cost' incurred by drilling or excavation to place its ground-source heat exchange loop system near the building(s) which a GHP system serves.
"Recognizing the important and potentially far-reaching economic and environmental benefits of GHPs—and to assist broader and more rapid deployment by helping to overcome the first cost barrier— Congress amended the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code in 2008 with tax credits for residential and commercial GHP installations.
The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) provided comments to the U.S. General Services Administration, to help the agency "better inform its recommendations to the Secretary of Energy regarding the federal government's use of third-party green building certification systems."
"GEO believes that GSA is on the right track in using third party certification systems to measure the design and performance of the federal government's construction and major modernization projects. Such input will enhance your goal of an environmentally sound approach to the certification of green Federal buildings.
"To provide a recommendation to the Secretary of Energy that will most likely encourage a comprehensive and environmentally sound approach to the certification of green Federal buildings, GEO suggests that GSA support the adoption of all three systems identified in their Request for Information, allowing Federal facility managers to utilize the system(s) most appropriate to their specific situations. This approach would create incentives for each of these organizations to continually evaluate their own methodologies and align their systems with actual "real-world" energy and environmental results.
"We are pleased that the Energy section within the Green Building Initiative's Green Globes system includes a subsection on renewable energy, which includes ground source heat pump systems and recognition of Energy Star designations, which rate geothermal heat pump systems as a "most efficient" technology.
The Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Coalition continues to broaden its support for legislation that would expand the market for thermal energy in the Commonwealth. State Sen. Barry Finegold introduced coalition-crafted legislation in January that would add thermal renewable energy (including geothermal heat pumps) to the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. The coalition is comprised of geothermal associations, energy companies, fuel suppliers and forest products companies. The Geo-thermal Exchange Organization (GEO) is a member, and stands in full support of their goal.
The coalition is nearing its target for funding, with efforts now focused on signing up the solar thermal and bio-oil technology interests. The next few weeks will be important, because more money will be needed to sustain coalition work as action on the legislation revs up.
The coalition Executive Committee (Charlie Niebling, David Cox, Matt Wolfe, Chris Williams, Jeff Hutchins, David O'Connor) continues to seek consensus on key questions, including the status of thermal RPS efforts elsewhere in the Northeast and around the country. Additional questions include meeting sustainability challenges of the biomass industry without creating unreasonable/unattainable criteria. A new website will soon provide information and updates on the coalition and its legislative objective.
Coalition lobbyist David O'Connor is seeking support by the national Solar Heating and Cooling Alliance and three environmental organizations, including the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Environment Northeast, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Finegold's bill (SB 1593) has been officially referred by the Clerk to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Coalition representatives sought support from Massachusetts Department of Environmental Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia and his staff on March 26.
The New York State Senate and Assembly have proposed legislation that would amend current law to exempt sellers and purchasers of geothermal heating and cooling systems from sales and use taxes for materials (labor involved in such installations is already exempt from taxation). The bills would mandate sales and use tax breaks similar to those that have helped the solar photovoltaic industry to prosper in New York.
According to the Long Island Energy Organization (LI-GEO), "The change in the law will make the geothermal industry within the state—including geothermal engineers, installers, designers, service providers, equipment distributors and manufacturers—more competitively priced and profitable."
Visit the LI-GEO website to read all about the legislation. The bills are available at the following links: Senate Bill S01343; Assembly Bill A01411. LI-GEO urges its members to email their state assembly members and senators, asking their support of the bill. The association has prepared a sample letter for the Assembly, and a sample letter for the Senate. Both are posted on the website. Please print them on your letterhead, sign and mail ASAP!. Contact Brian at webmaster@LI-EO.org or Info@LI-GEO.org with any questions about access.
The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) will exhibit at the 2013 Efficiency Exchange conference, on May 14-16 at the Doubletree Hilton in Portland. For more information about the joint Bonneville Power Administration /Northwest Energy Efficiency Association event and registration, click here.
In addition, GEO is a proud sponsor of the American Ground Water Trust Geothermal Forum at the Portland Red Lion Hotel on May 14. Guest speakers will cover topics from geothermal heat pump (GHP) system design to regulation and financing. The workshop will feature a presentation by GEO on its political outreach at the state and federal levels. To learn more about the workshop, cost and registration, click here.
Finally, GEO will co-sponsor lunch at a meeting of the Oregon Department of Energy Geothermal Working Group on May 15 at the Port of Portland Headquarters, Portland International Airport. Speakers from GEO, the GHP industry and government will focus on GHP technology and policy. A field trip to the Port headquarters GHP system will follow the meeting. Contact Linda Ross by May 1 for information and registration.
PowerSaver is a FHS/HUD backed financing program that authorized contractors can offer to their customers. It offers below market interest rates for loans up to $25,000 and new options can cover even larger loans. Owner occupied, single family homes and HUD approved condos are eligible for geo, solar, HVAC, windows, doors, insulation and water heaters. To learn more visit the website.
If you're involved with a school, manufacturing facility, church or clinic retrofit project you may be eligible for energy efficiency financing with no upfront costs. Metrus Energy and CalCEF will provide financing for small and medium sized businesses through an Efficiency Resource Fund. The Fund is now accepting applications from facility owners who are looking at retrofit projects under $1 million. Click here for more details.