GEO on Clean Energy Standard

In response to a White Paper on a potential Clean Energy Standard (CES) bill promoted by the Obama Administration through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) provided detailed comments on April 11.

Under the President’s proposal, electric utilities would have to provide 80 percent of their power from clean sources by 2035, including renewables such as wind, solar and deep geothermal resources, as well as from hydro, nuclear, natural gas and “clean” coal. The initiative is being explored by Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Member Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who issued the White Paper with detailed questions for response by the public.


The primary message of GEO’s comments was that “to meet environmental, economic and security goals, Clean Energy Standard (CES) legislation should recognize demand-side thermal renewable energy technologies as well as renewable electric power generation.” Including thermal energy from  geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) in a  CES would enhance competitiveness of renewable technologies and create thousands of jobs in the short term, while reducing electricity and fossil fuel use.

“GHPs are a distributed energy source, available for every home and business, eliminating the need to build new electric transmission systems. GHPs are the only renewable energy technology that can meet all of the suggested goals of a CES, including reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, lower electricity costs, spurring utilization of particular assets, and diversification of supply.”

The following summarizes the points made to Sens. Bingaman and Murkowski’s questions posed in their White Paper on any potential CES bill crafted by the Senate Committee.

  1. For an equitable system, all electric utilities should be subject to CES standards, including credit

for energy and fuel savings of GHPs within the umbrella of their territories. Demand side and

GHP adoption programs already in place under existing state electricity standards should not be

hampered by new CES legislation.

  1. Both Supply and Demand side options should be considered for a CES. Thermal renewable energy technologies—specifically GHPs—must be included in CES definition of renewable options along with centralized power generation technologies. Clean energy definition should account for all life cycle environmental impacts.
  2. Full credit on an equivalency basis (MW-Thermal) should be provided to electric utilities that provide incentives for GHP installations. The same credit should be available to comply with a CES and existing state standards.
  3. GHP credits provide an economical alternative to power generation, enhancing the security of baseload power and buffering peak demand. GHP fuel and power generation savings should be included in CES requirements, providing a boost to the GHP nationwide market.
  4. GHPs are applicable in all States, full-time, with no electric transmission lines or rate increases required. GHPs enhance renewable power generation, create jobs and new taxes at all levels.
  5. If CES legislation is passed into law, inclusion of GHPs on a megawatt to thermal basis could be beneficial to utilities, because GHPs present few cost problems, permitting concerns or liability issues. GHPs could help utilities earn CES credits while reducing carbon emissions from displaced fossil-fuel combustion. GHPs present a cost-effective way to help utilities meet obligations mandated under any potential CES.