Geothermal Energy Receives Congressional Support

Ten Senators urged the Department of Energy to amend its loan guarantee solicitation to include geothermal energy in a bipartisan letter written in response to recent legislation excluding geothermal from the Strategic Plan’s mix of eligible renewable energy projects.

The letter, organized by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), was also signed by Senators Ensign (R-NV), Boxer (D-CA), Feinstein (D-CA), Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), Akaka (D-HI), Murkowski (R-AK), Salazar (D-CO) and Hatch (R-UT). DOE had recently unveiled its program guidelines for a $2 billion loan guarantee program authorized by the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) passed by Congress. According to EPAct, the program was intended to spur “investment in projects that employ new energy technologies.” However, DOE officials indicated that geothermal projects would not be eligible for the program. The bipartisan Senate letter objects to the omission of geothermal, noting that the law includes “a list of projects which ‘shall be eligible…'” The Senators point out to Secretary Bodman: “this is not an optional list from which the Department may pick and choose. Congress directed that all those on the list shall be eligible.” In a related event, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) released critical comments on DOE’s draft Strategic Plan, another plan that also omitted geothermal energy. “In our view, achieving the goals laid out in the Strategic Plan will require every viable energy option available,” GEA argued. “The nation cannot afford to leave a domestic energy alternative as potentially significant as geothermal energy off the table if we are to succeed in changing direction — in ending our addiction to foreign sources of energy and addressing the serious environmental issues facing us,” said Karl Gawell, GEA’s Executive Director. GEA cited recent reports by the National Academy of Sciences, International Energy Agency, and US Government Accountability Office supporting continued — if not increased funding — for geothermal research and technology development. “Geothermal energy should be explicitly included as a key part of the Department’s new Strategic Plan,” GEA’s letter said. In January, DOE’s FY 2007 Budget proposed to terminate its geothermal research program. GEA argued to Congress that this would “set back research in this area for decades and threaten US technological leadership in this important renewable technology.” Both the House and Senate have approved continued funding for DOE’s geothermal research program in FY 2007 — the House has approved $5 million and the Senate $25 million. Copies of the Senator’s letter to DOE and GEA’s comments on the draft DOE Strategic Plan are available from the GEA.
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