CTGEO Testifies for Connecticut Geo Legislation

CTGEOGuy Wanegar, President of the Connecticut Geothermal Association (CTGEO), testified before the Energy & Technology Committee on House Bill 6535, an Act Redefining Class I Renewable Energy Sources. CTGEO supports the legislation, and believes that it provides revenue opportunities that Connecticut residents need to offset the relatively high capital costs associated with geothermal heat pump system installations. These capital costs have acted as a barrier to consumers who wish to take advantage of this long-standing efficient, renewable and cost-effective heating and cooling technology.

“The REC program was created to spur the development in-state clean and renewable resources,” said Wanegar. “Although traditionally dedicated to electricity project development, more and more policy makers have realized the net energy benefits provided through the inclusion of geothermal heat pumps in REC programs. CTGEO believes the inclusion of geothermal heat pumps as a Class I resources is right for Connecticut now because:

  • Geothermal Systems Result in Less Energy Use: Although geothermal system heat pumps run on electricity, the pumps are only required to run to produce the difference between the outside ground temperature and the temperature indoors. As a result of this efficient transfer process, geothermal systems can save on average 30 to 70 percent over conventional fossil fuel heating and electric air conditioning systems.
  • Geothermal Systems Provide Electric System Benefits: Electricity prices are largely driven by natural gas prices in New England. In the winter, geothermal systems remove entirely the need for natural gas (or oil) for heating, thereby reducing demand on the natural gas system. In the summer, geothermal systems directly reduce electricity consumption (air conditioning load), thereby reducing annual peak demand, which drives price spikes that distress electric customers.
  • Geothermal Systems Provide Jobs to Small Connecticut Businesses: There are currently 28 CTGEO members and 135 certified International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) installers in Connecticut. Many members are in related fields, from trades-people to system educators. With installations of approximately 3,000 systems in the past 15 years, the attractive operating cost and environmental benefits of geothermal heat pumps have created a budding industry comprised of green jobs in Connecticut. This is in spite of the fact that these systems are capital intensive. Additional incentives to consumers through participation in the REC market will help grow small jobs for local contractors.”

Wanegar asked that new terminology be included in Section 1 of the bill that separates geothermal from air-source heat pumps, distinguishing clearly between the two technologies. While both technologies provide benefits, they are significantly different and require separate evaluation, measurement and verification standards, among other things.

Wanegar also suggested language changes that replace the word “metering” with “measuring” (in sections 4 and 5). These changes are meant to avoid heat pump technology implementation problems in Connecticut that have occurred in New Hampshire surrounding the status of meters. Currently, the industry (through ASTM – the American Society for Testing and Materials) is in the process of certifying standards for meters to measure heat energy conversion to megawatts. The anticipated completion for these standards is late-2014.

“However, metering standards do exist today for BTUs. By applying the conversion formula [see CTGEO’s insertion at Section 5 (NEW) (h)], metered BTUs can be ‘measured’ and converted into megawatts. CTGEO is concerned that, like the New Hampshire law, references to ‘metering’ will slow the regulatory process until the ASTM metering standards are developed,” said Wanegar.

CTGEO offered new language (in a new section) calling for the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to evaluate and determine the appropriate standards by which geothermal heat pump installers shall be certified. CTGEO offered the language to ensure that ratepayer investment dollars that fund the REC program ultimately result in well-functioning, quality geothermal system installations.

Finally, CTGEO notes that solar thermal is not included among the technologies covered by the bill. We believe that the bill should apply to those proven efficient, verifiable, renewable in-state re-sources and that solar thermal fits within this category. “Therefore, we support its inclusion as a Class I resource,” said Wanegar.