During the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Policy Forum that took place in Washington, D.C. on July 9, 2015, Karl Gawell, executive director for the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), called on bipartisan action. “In the world market, policymakers are working to address the upfront risk of geothermal projects and shortening lead times. Congress needs to take action on pending legislation to make similar progress in the U.S.,” Gawell said.
He added that geothermal projects are subject to extensive bureaucratic delays. “Geothermal development projects can go through as many as six NEPA analyses,” explained Gawell. As a result, geothermal projects cannot effectively take advantage of short-term tax incentives. We need longer term incentives.
There are currently several pieces of legislation pending in the U.S. House and Senate that seek support for renewable energy including geothermal energy development (S.562, S.822, S.1057, S.1155 and S. 1407, in the Senate). Gaswell called out to legislators: “We urge the sponsors of the individual pieces — Senators Heller, Wyden, Tester, Risch, Crapo, Merkley, Murkowski and others (as well as Representatives Simpson, DeFazio and Gosar) – to work together on a bipartisan basis if an energy bill moves forward.”
He explained that in general, the different geothermal-related measures are complementary and would reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, shorten lead times and address the high exploration risk of geothermal projects. If these disparities are resolved said Gaswell, “geothermal power can be the glue that will help hold the clean power grid together.”
According to GEA energy offers:
- Flexibility. Geothermal power is the only renewable resource that can provide both baseload and ancillary services such as load following, ramping and spinning reserve.
- Reliability. Geothermal electricity production does not depend on the climate or weather and is reliably available.
- A Small Footprint. Geothermal power has a much smaller development footprint compared to other energy sources. While there is always some degree of competition for land use, with geothermal there is greater balance between developing public lands and protecting their beauty and undisturbed habitats for future generations. At many sites around the world, geothermal plants are actually designed to camouflage into scenery and landscapes.
- On-Site Job Creation. Geothermal power helps create and maintain high-paying jobs in both the clean energy and the oil and gas sectors. The average 50-MW facility will create permanent employment for about 100 people. Geothermal power facilities employ both clean energy and drilling engineers, blue collar welders, plumbers, electricians and technicians as well as white collar lawyers, executives and management.
- Solid State and Local Tax Base. In 2013, geothermal power producers paid $29 million dollars in annual property taxes. The typical 20-MW geothermal facility will pay between $6 million and $11 million dollars of property taxes over the 30-year life of its power sales contract.
- Rents and Royalties. Geothermal energy facilities paid about $26 million in Rents and Royalties to state, federal and local governments nationwide in 2014 of which a quarter (about $19.5 million) is returned to benefit state and local county governments.
- Expanding the geothermal fleet to 15 GW would generate between $5 billion and $8.25 billion dollars in property taxes and close to $111 million annually in rents and royalties for state and local communities.