July 24, 2015
WASHINGTON - Representatives of the U.S. geothermal industry applauded U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alas., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., for legislation introduced yesterday. Their broad, bipartisan energy bill, The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015, “would help America achieve its geothermal potential,” commented Karl Gawell, Executive Director of the Geothermal Energy Association, “by addressing some of the most important barriers to geothermal development in the U.S.”
New Senate Bill Would Help Achieve the Nation's Geothermal Potential
The Energy Policy Modernization Act builds on recent technological breakthroughs and promises to bring substantial benefits to American families and businesses while protecting the environment. Its provisions will save energy, expand domestic production, facilitate investment in critical infrastructure, protect the electrical grid, boost energy trade, improve the performance of federal agencies, and reauthorize certain programs that have proven effective.
The U.S. depends on electrical transmission lines and other infrastructure to transport energy from where it is produced to where it is used. This bill will help modernize our electrical grid and enhance cybersecurity safeguards. "The key components of this bill will also drastically streamline our geothermal development process and create an environment where we can engange in more projects around the country" said James Jackson, Chief Development Officer for Thermal Energy Partners.
The CEO of Thermal Energy Partners, Bruce Cutright who has developed projects around the world explained that proactive legislation of this kind is preparing the way for a expansion in new geothermal projects. "The U.S. possesses some of the best geothermal energy sources in the world, and we should be leading the pack to increase our energy independence and reduce the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere. As a result of this type of legislation new geothermal power plants will provide clean electricity that otherwise would made by burning fossil fuels thus adding credibility to any version of a Clean Power Plan or similar legislation. Our TEP team commends Senators Murkowski and Cantwell for working with industry on these new policy solutions" said Cutright.
The legislation features five titles reflecting common ground on energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation. In the supply title, it includes several provisions supporting geothermal energy.
The new bill does the following:
Expands the current U.S. geothermal power production from 3,700MW to a new National Geothermal Goal of 50,000 MW;
Directs federal agencies to identify priority areas for development;
Allows federal oil and gas lease holders to obtain a non-competitive geothermal lease to facilitate coproduction of geothermal power -- today 25 billion barrels of hot water are produced annually from oil and gas wells within the United States;
Facilitates new discoveries by allowing the limited non-competitive leasing of adjacent lands where a new discovery has been made; and
Provides geothermal exploration test projects a limited categorical exclusion provided the lands involved present no extraordinary circumstances.
Earlier this week the Senate Finance Committee voted 23-3 in support of legislation sponsored by Sens. Hatch, R-Utah, and Wyden, D-Ore., to extend the expired Production Tax Credit for geothermal power plants that start construction by December 31, 2016. “The clean baseload geothermal energy produced as a result of these important measures will help the nation achieve a more diverse and reliable electricity supply, reduce emissions, grow state and local economies, and create jobs in both the oil and gas, and the renewable sectors,” said Gawell.
The Murkowski-Cantwell legislation builds upon legislative proposals introduced previously by Sens. Heller, R-Nev., Wyden, D-Ore., and Tester, D-Mont., along with several co-sponsors. The bill now awaits the Committee’s markup, expected next week.