Geothermal, Wind Power

Hot Weather Highlights Hot Solution

With temperatures well into the triple digits in some parts of California this week, the California Independent System Operator Corporation (California ISO) — the organization managing the state’s open market, wholesale power grid — issued a Stage Two Emergency.

California ISO reports that “rolling blackouts” could occur throughout the state as a result. “California’s power emergency emphasizes the need for Congress to extend renewable tax incentives,” a geothermal industry spokesperson said. “The need for additional clean energy resources — throughout the United States, but especially the West — has never been greater,” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), “and Congress needs to act now to ensure that power supplies will be available in the future.” In particular, GEA sees a critical need to extend incentives for new renewable power development. Congress enacted incentives to spur new geothermal and other renewable power production in the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005, but industry says these incentives are too short-term. The federal production tax credit (PTC), widely credited for spurring the rapid growth of the wind industry, was expanded in 2005 to include new geothermal and other technologies. But to obtain the credit, facilities must be online by January 1, 2008. “Geothermal, and most other renewable power plants, take from 3 to 5 years to bring online,” explained Gawell of GEA. “Under the current law, if a project is not online in the next 17 months it stands to lose the entire ten-year credit.” As a result, new development is already hitting the barrier created by short-term renewable tax credits, according to GEA. In California nearly 800 MW of new geothermal projects are under development, but further progress may hinge on Congress extending the PTC deadline. Provisions Congress included in EPAct to spur new renewable projects by public power authorities, known as Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS), face similar time constraints. Geothermal supplies 6 percent of California’s power, nearly half the total non-hydropower renewable energy production in the state-already a substantial baseload power resource during emergency power situations. Recent estimates show that California’s geothermal electricity has the potential to more than double or triple in the near term, adding 2,400 – 4,700 megawatts of additional power to California’s grid. GEA points out that besides providing reliable, stable power, geothermal offers an environmentally friendly option with significantly lower emissions than comparative fossil fuel facilities, tens of thousands of jobs, and substantial economic output to local, state and national economies.