GEO Meets with BPA and Oregon DOE Officials

BPA-Logo-colorVolunteers with the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) Pacific Northwest (PNW) Utility Work Group joined Outreach and Communications Manager Ted Clutter in meetings with officials of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE). Their purpose was to continue dialog started during a May 15 meeting on geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) convened by the hot resource-focused Oregon Geothermal Working Group. GEO PNW Utility Work Group members currently include John Geyer (John Geyer & Associates, Inc. – Vancouver, WA), Alex Sifford (Sifford Energy Services – Neskowin, OR) and Paul Bony (ClimateMaster).

During their meeting with BPA in Portland, discussion centered on agency support and incentives for GHPs, and possible opportunities to bolster that support. BPA is the marketing agent for power from all federally owned hydroelectric projects in the Pacific Northwest. The agency recognizes the efficiencies that can be gained with GHPs, but needs information for a revised specification that recognizes modern equipment efficiencies. BPA currently offers utilities up to $3,500 per residential GHP installation with a desuperheater in two of three specified “heating zones,” regardless of federal tax rebates. Specifications include COP 3.6 and Energy Star Tier One requirements.

BPA uses a Total Resource Cost (TRC) formula to calculate efficiency. GHPs are marked down due to high upfront cost. And because fuel switching is not allowed, GHPs cannot count cost savings against alternatives like fuel oil and propane. GEO will continue work with BPA on these and other issues, and collaborate to foster increased commercial installations across the region. The GEO group also discussed the possibility of future meetings and workshops that would focus on successful GHP incentive programs and utilities that have installed GHPs at their facilities.

oredeptenergyThe GEO group then met with ODOE Director Lisa Schwartz and upper management at their headquarters in Salem, OR. The agency is limited in its ability to promote any individual technology. Discussion focused on ODOE’s involvement in research to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. The agency is responsible for reviewing all state efficiency designs, and a 20% energy reduction mandate for state buildings. The Energy Trust of Oregon and the PUC drive 70% of the investor-owned utility efficiency programs in the state.

ODOE has been involved with geothermal energy for many years. The agency has provided tax credits to several hundred residential GHP users since the 1990s, but remains primarily concerned with hot aquifers for direct use and power generation. ODOE officials urged the GEO group to work with BPA and the Regional Technical Forum (Northwest Power and Conservation Council) to effect change. “Takeaways” included:

  1. ODOE will keep the GEO group informed about opportunities for comment on an upcoming rulemaking on Oregon residential energy efficiency incentives.
  2. The GEO group will seek opportunities for field trips by ODOE personnel to commercial GHP facilities under construction, so they can gain a better feel for the technology.
  3. GEO will support ODOE GHP efficiency research projects with the Oregon Institute of Technology Geo-Heat Center.