GEO Supports Proposed Colorado RTS

The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) has joined a coalition of supporters of new legislation that could dramatically accelerate the use of geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) in Colorado. The Renewable Thermal Standard (RTS) bill will be introduced in the current 2013 Colorado legislative session by State Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Senate District 5) and Rep. Randy Fischer (D-House District 53). It will add thermal technologies, including geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), and solar thermal to the state’s renewable energy portfolio, which now only accommodates renewable electricity generation.

In Colorado, thermal (heat) energy represents over 40% of all energy consumed, which is generated primarily from fossil fuels. As there is no state legislation to advance renewable thermal energy, the proposed Renewable Thermal Standard (RTS) will integrate thermal renewable technologies (at least 30% specifically to geothermal heat pumps) into public policy to achieve:

  • Job creation through growth of existing workforces;
  • Stimulation of economic development, particularly for small businesses;
  • Advancement toward energy independence and security, independent of geography;
  • Reduction of carbon emissions and negative public health and safety impacts;
  • Diversification of the state’s energy portfolio without demand for additional transmission;
  • Access to safe, comfortable energy systems that support ecosystem stability; and,
  • Increased renewable energy use in the state through sustained industry growth.

“The Colorado RTS legislation makes sense in tapping renewable thermal energy to create jobs, reduce fossil fuel use and emissions, and increase our energy security,” said Colorado Geothermal Energy and Heat Pump Association (CoGEHPA) President Joel Poppert (Alpine Geothermal Drilling). “The bill poses a serious game changer for the industry in the state.”

Under the legislation, a new and separate RTS shall be established, parallel to the Colorado Renewable Electric Standard. The RTS would consider the offset of natural gas and propane used for heating caused by renewable thermal technologies. A $0.01/therm fee assessed on retail natural gas and propane sales is proposed to fund the program.

If passed, the RTS will generate approximately $30 million annually (based on $2.2 billion in total 2010 natural gas residential, commercial and industrial retail sales), incentivizing an annual installation of at least 5,200 tons (~20 megawatts-thermal) in its first year and growing to over 7,500 (27 mega-watts-thermal) by 2025. Ten percent of the fund will be set aside annually for innovative thermal technologies that can reduce fossil fuel dependence while residential, commercial and industrial market segments are established.

The RTS is projected to produce at least $10 million in annual rebates and incentives for residential and commercial installations of GHP systems. The rebates are designed to offset 25-30% of the total cost of the system, leading to an estimated $50 million in new annual GHP sales across Colorado. Details on how the RTS would be governed are included in the bill.

A designated RTS Operating Management Agency (OMA) would create and manage the state-wide RTS program. All utilities, building owners and third-party investors can (and will be encouraged to) opt into the statewide program to reduce heating and cooling costs and/or facilitate new investment opportunities. The Colorado Energy Office will be responsible for the creation and governance of an effective OMA. For more information about the bill and its supporters, visit http://www.coloradorts.org/.