Senate Passes GEO Endorsed Bill

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved H.R. 4850, which amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to specifically include thermal technologies (read: geothermal heat pumps) for achieving federal energy efficiency goals.

“Over the past 18 months, Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) staff, Board of Directors, members and our Washington, DC team participated in meetings with 30 senators requesting this important support,” said GEO President Doug Dougherty. “We met with Senate Energy Committee staff, as well as providing testimony on the benefits of geothermal heat pumps. Our efforts paid off when the Senate unanimously approved H.R. 4850.”

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) got their energy efficiency legislation (originally S. 1000, also supported by GEO) passed as an amendment tacked onto H.R. 4850. Their amendment addresses both industrial efficiency and federal agency energy efficiency. It seeks coordination of research and development among U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) offices, and re-quires plans for meeting agency efficiency goals. Most importantly, it expands the definition of federal renewable energy consumption requirements to include “thermal” as well as electric renewable energy.

Championed by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) with broad bipartisan support, the “Enabling Energy Savings Innovations Act,” as amended, establishes efficiency standards for certain specialized products, consolidates other standards, and provides DOE with the flexibility to consider new technologies in achieving energy efficiency goals. And thanks to GEO and supporters like the National Ground Water Association, those new technologies now include geothermal heat pumps.

Unlike S. 1000, H.R. 4850 dropped language that would have boosted energy efficiency requirements in national building codes for new homes and commercial buildings. It also scrapped a plan to expand DOE loan guarantees for efficiency retrofits and a loan program that would have funded states to encourage efficiency upgrades in the manufacturing sector.

H.R. 4885 now goes back to the U.S. House of Representatives for the post-election Lame Duck Session, where more work will be needed to ensure its final passage.

“GEO extends its sincere appreciation to Sen. Bingaman and his many colleagues who lent their support to H.R. 4850 in the Senate,” said GEO President and CEO Doug Dougherty. “If approved by the House and signed by the President, the geothermal heat pump industry will have a new path to enter commercial and industrial building markets. Any federally funded building— new or rehabilitated—will be able to claim the thermal load avoided by a GHP system and support the national goal for clean energy set forth by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.”