GEO 2013 – The Year in Review

geologoThe Geothermal Exchange Organization’s (GEO) efforts to grow the geothermal heat pump industry continued its focus on both federal and state issues.

Extension of Federal Tax Credits for GHPs
In comments filed on April 15, the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) 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 (IRS Code sections 25D and 48[a]) beyond their Dec. 31, 2016 expiration date through the year 2020. For a complete copy of the GEO’s Geothermal Heat Pump Tax Credit Comments to Congress, click here.

Advocacy for Geothermal Legislation

Bonus Depreciation Extension

Owing to efforts by GEO, the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) and other allies, Congress extended federal bonus depreciation for commercial GHP installations through the end of 2013 in its tax bill to prevent the nation from going over a “fiscal cliff.”

Other Pro-Geothermal Bills
GEO also supported other bills that promoted the interests of the GHP industry—including GHP tax rebate extensions and promotion of geothermal research and development—but that legislation was set aside as Congress wrestled with other issues.

Pushing for Clean Energy Recognition

Inclusion of GHPs Under Federal Clean Energy Requirements
With its Washington, DC advocacy team and allies like NGWA, GEO pushed for inclusion of GHPs in the federal definition of clean energy.  The targeted vehicle was Senate Bill 761, an energy efficiency bill for government, commerce and industry introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).  GEO proposed a bipartisan, revenue-neutral amendment to S. 761 that would include thermal renewable energy produced by GHPs in the definition of clean energy stated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). Those efforts were postponed as the bill failed amid partisan wrangling late in the year.

Bonneville Power Administration Rebates
Members and GEO staff met with officials of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the Oregon Department of Energy to discuss agency incentives for GHPs, and opportunities for more support. GEO is pursuing the issue of inequality of BPA rebates for GHPs across the Pacific Northwest.

GSA Green Buildings Certifications
GEO provided positive comments on General Services Administration (GSA) Green Buildings Certifications, noting the agency’s recognition of GHPs and their Energy Star designations as a “most efficient” technology, and GSA’s P100 order that ensures geothermal heat pumps are considered on a 20-year life cycle for new construction and retrofits.

Support of Farm Bill Energy Title

Building on comments issued last year, GEO joined a coalition of 138 organizations led by the Agriculture Energy Coalition, “25×25,” and the Environmental Law & Policy Center in sending a letter urging Congressional conferees to support Farm Bill Energy Title programs for five more years, and to reauthorize $900 million in mandatory funding for programs supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency.  

GEO Support of State Initiatives
State and local geothermal and allied associations worked hard during 2013 to advance and promote GHP adoption, including legislative efforts to recognize and include thermal technologies for renewable energy credits in Maine and Connecticut; a successful effort in Wisconsin to spare GHPs from incentive caps; and a bill passed in Long Island that will sponsor a comprehensive study about how GHPs can raise energy efficiency and lower costs. GEO was directly involved with legislative and regulatory issues affecting GHPs in Illinois, and provided direct support of initiatives in California, Colorado, and Massachusetts.

GEO supported efforts by CaliforniaGeo to pass AB 2339 in 2012, which mandates a study of GHP efficiency and other benefits to California and how promotion of GHPS can be integrated into state energy policy. GEO supports continuing efforts to integrate GHPs into renewable energy and efficiency programs, outlined in comments to the California Energy Commission seeking to  greater importance for GHPs in its Draft Guidelines for School Energy Projects (Prop 39). GEO also supports current efforts to modify state drilling codes to more realistically address geothermal boreholes.
Colorado GEO provided advice and support to Colorado GHP advocates as they first promoted a Renewable Thermal Standard for the state. After the legislature mandated a doubling of the state’s renewable energy purchase requirements for rural electric cooperatives succeeded in the legislature, GEO has supported efforts to include GHPs under the new law as a thermal energy compliance option.
Illinois GEO successfully introduced and passed Senate Bill 2365 in the Illinois General Assembly to amend the Illinois Power Agency Act, Illinois Finance Authority Act, and the Public Utilities Act to include references to reduction of thermal load in their definition of “energy efficiency.” The new definition encompasses GHPs for the first time in Illinois, recognizing them as an energy efficient technology.  Signed into law last summer, it removes impediments to the promotion and financing of GHP Installations within the state and provides a clear path for Illinois electric utilities to promote GHPs and to gain credits for energy efficiency. In addition, GEO started work with the Geothermal Alliance of Illinois to seek a legislative solution to change an unreasonable 50-ft. setback for vertical geothermal closed-loop boreholes from sewer lines.
Massachusetts GEO has joined the Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Coalition in support of legislation that would add thermal renewable energy to the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. Their   goal is for thermal energy produced by renewable fuels like biomass (pellets, wood chips, biodiesel, biogas), solar and geothermal to be eligible for Alternative Energy Credits under the law, which currently reserves the credits for utilities buying renewable electricity from wind, biomass and other facilities. If passed, S 1593 will award financial credits to homeowners and businesses that heat and/or cool with renewable fuels. To its supporters, this would be a big step forward for the Commonwealth’s renewable energy strategy, making Massachusetts one of the first states in the country to offer such a comprehensive program for renewable heating and cooling.

Reviving GHP Data Collection
Since 2009, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has failed to collect information about the GHP industry because of budget cuts. GEO met with EIA officials to begin crafting a method to restart that important data collection. EIA has asked GEO to serve as a trusted third party designee to potentially help collect GHP industry data for them.

Sponsorship of GHP Industry Research
GEO contracted with a renowned research team to study efficiency performance of GHP and a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems at the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers Headquarters Building in Atlanta, GA. Objectives are to compare the performance of the two heating and cooling systems, and to explain reasons for differences with academic rigor and scientific integrity. The research team includes Dr. J.D. Spitler, Regents Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Oklahoma State University, and  Dr. Xiaobing Liu, Staff Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

National Standard for GHP Personnel
In a project managed by GEO, the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association and Oak Ridge National Laboratory working under a U.S. Department of Energy contract completed its National Certification Standard for Ground Source Heat Pump Personnel. The standard itemizes qualifications for each task undertaken in the design, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance of a GHP system.

Regional and National GHP Education

AGWT Geothermal Forum Workshops
GEO provided support for the American Ground Water Trust (AGWT) Geothermal Forums at 10 venues across the country. The one-day workshops target building owners and professionals who design, install, inspect, approve, recommend or regulate heating and cooling systems. An impressive slate of expert invited speakers covered new innovations in system design, financing options and regulations for GHPs.

Sponsorship of GoGoGeo Challenge
GEO co-sponsored the Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC – Anadarko, OK) GoGoGeo Scholarship Video Challenge, which won this year’s National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (NRECA) Community Service Award. The contest asked junior and senior high school students to use videography and social media to create presentations focused on GHPs. WFEC awarded ~$60,000. Each winner’s school also received an education grant.

Work with Allied Organizations
Forging new relationships during the year, GEO staff attended the National Association of Regulated Utility Commissioners (NARUC) 2013 Annual Meeting, the NGWA Expo ‘13, and the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association 2013 Conference & Expo. GEO staff also joined NGWA in a meeting with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to discuss ways to effectively work together to promote expanded use of GHPs in rural electric service areas across the country.

New Initiatives with IGSHPA
In late November, GEO met with officials of Oklahoma State University and the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) in Stillwater, OK. The group agreed on the need for GEO and IGSHPA to work together toward a strong partnership to represent the industry. IGSHPA is taking steps to transform its management that will include GEO on its Board of Directors and Strategic Planning Committee, plus planning for upcoming IGSHPA Conferences & Expos. The two organizations will also seek joint research opportunities.