GEO Supports Massachusetts Thermal Energy Addition to APS

On Jan. 17, Massachusetts Sen. Barry Finegold introduced, legislation that would add thermal renewable energy to the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. The bill was crafted over the past several weeks by The Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Coalition, a group of state geothermal associations, energy companies, fuel suppliers and forest products companies. The Geothermal Exchange Organization is a member of the coalition and in full support of their efforts.

The coalition goal is to make the thermal energy produced by renewable fuels like biomass (pellets, wood chips, biodiesel, biogas), solar and geothermal energy eligible for Alternative Energy Credits under the law, which currently reserves such credits for utilities buying renewable electricity from wind, biomass and other facilities.

Like similar legislation recently passed into law in Maryland and New Hampshire,” said GEO President and CEO Doug Dougherty, “this effort will be immensely important to the future of the geothermal heat pump industry in Massachusetts.” And according to coalition Charles Niebling (New England Wood Pellet – Jaffrey, NH), “We believe this does what we want for all thermal renewable technologies in a very simple way.”

“Such legislation would create strong financial incentives, in excess of $100 million over its first ten years, for fuel suppliers and their customers to expand the use of these fuels,” Niebling continued. “Doing so would produce significant public benefits, including increased energy independence reduced fossil fuel imports, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and the creation of jobs.”

Last summer, Gov. Deval Patrick signed energy legislation that tasked the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, in consultation with the Department of Energy Resources to study whether or not “…any alternative energy development,…that generates useful thermal energy shall be added to the list of alternative energy generating sources that may be used to meet the Common-wealth’s energy portfolio standard….”

On Jan. 1, the Massachusetts DER submitted a study performed by Meister Consultants Group to the state legislature that assesses the feasibility of this major change to the state’s renewable energy policy framework. The study clearly communicates both its technical feasibility and benefits. Governor Patrick’s Executive Office of Energy and Environment is supportive of the change.

The coalition campaign will provide for coordinated advocacy by a capable lobbyist, industry representatives and supportive interest groups. The group is successfully seeking contributions from stakeholders to pursue its aims with a legislative consultant. The cost of the lobbying effort is being shared by the GHP industry (including GEO, the New England Geothermal Professionals Association, the forest products industry, biofuels/biodiesel interests and ground water associations.

The Massachusetts Forest Alliance (MFA – Marlborough, MA) has contacted administrative support, which will include regular communication and grassroots organizing around the effort. MFA will administer and account for all funds directed toward the legislative effort. MFA has set up an online donation link to facilitate credit card payments.

With introduction of the bill, the coalition’s work has just begun. The coalition is wasting no time. An advisory committee will guide the campaign for the legislation during coming months. In addition to leadership in planning, providing technical expertise and recruiting stakeholders, the coalition will develop informational materials; engage the news media; and provide direction to legislative advocate.

The founding members of the coalition are actively inviting other stakeholders with interests in thermal renewable energy to join them in providing the financial support necessary for their advocacy effort to be successful. If you would like to participate or would like to receive more information, coalition leadership asks that you contact MFA Executive Director Jeff Hutchins by email, or by phone at (617) 455-9918.