GEO Washington Update

Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) President Doug Dougherty joined the association’s Washington, DC advocacy team to visit the offices of Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Al Franken (D-MN). Their purpose was to promote a proposed amendment to S.1000—the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011—that would ensure that thermal energy avoided by installing geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) can be counted toward the federal renewable energy purchase requirement.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires that a set percentage of electricity consumed by the federal government come from renewable sources. The requirement increased from 3 to 5% for fiscal year 2010, and will increase to 7.5% for fiscal year 2013. Unfortunately, the way “renewable energy” is defined excludes GHPs. The Act defines renewable energy as “electrical energy generated from solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, ocean, geothermal, municipal solid waste, or new hydroelectric generation capacity….”

GHPs are excluded because they technically do not generate electricity, but they can reduce energy use by as much as 40-70 percent in a typical building. GEO contends that the thermal energy avoided by installing GHP technologies should count toward meeting the federal renewable energy purchase requirement.

On June 12, Dougherty visited Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff with GEO Communications Manager Ted Clutter to discuss GHPs’ potential role in helping electric utilities meet their demand side goals and to comply with state renewable energy portfolio standards.