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209 Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast, Washington, D.C. 20003 U.S.A.
Phone: (202) 454-5261 Fax: (202) 454-5265 Web Site:


CONTACT: Leslie Blodgett,, 202-454-5241 or Karl Gawell, , 202-454-5264

Geothermal Energy Can Help Hold the Clean Power Grid Together, GEA Director Tells Congressional Forum

Washington, DC (July 9, 2015) – At today’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO and Policy Forum, the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) Executive Director, Karl Gawell, contrasted the slow US market to the growing world market and called on US lawmakers to take bi-partisan action. “In the world market policy makers 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 US,” Gawell said.

GEA noted 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, GEA added. “We need longer-term incentives,” he explained.

GEA’s Gawell noted a number of measures pending in the House and Senate that seek to support further geothermal energy development -- S.562, S.822, S.1057, S.1155 and S. 1407, in the Senate for example. “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 bi-partisan basis if an energy bill moves forward.” In general, the different geothermal-related measures complementary, and would reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, shorten lead times, and address the high exploration risk of geothermal projects, GEA explained.

In his remarks, Gawell explained if these disparities are resolved, “geothermal power can be the glue that will help hold the clean power grid together.” Geothermal energy offers:
  • Flexibility. Geothermal power is the only renewable resources 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.
Today, utility-scale geothermal power facilities are producing clean baseload electricity in seven states and nearly 30 different countries. U.S geothermal power plants provide roughly 3,500 MW of baseload electrical capacity and worldwide there are roughly 13,000 MW of geothermal capacity operating. In many places – Costa Rica, the Philippines, Kenya, Turkey, California – geothermal power has become a major contributor to power system needs.

The potential for geothermal energy production is huge and largely untapped. Just in the Western U.S., according to the U.S. Geologic Survey, there are between 3,675 MW and 16,457 MW in identified geothermal systems; between 7,917 MW and 73, 286 MW in undiscovered systems; and well over 100,000 MW in potential EGS, or Enhanced Geothermal Systems.

The GEA represents over 120 companies involved in the production and use of geothermal energy in the U.S. and around the world. Despite the hiccups at home, GEA estimates that U.S. firms are very active in the world market and are involved in 80% of the countries developing geothermal power.

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is a trade association comprised of U.S. companies that support the expanded use of geothermal energy and are developing geothermal resources worldwide for electrical power generation and direct-heat uses. GEA advocates for public policies that will promote the development and utilization of geothermal resources, provides a forum for the industry to discuss issues and problems, encourages research and development to improve geothermal technologies, presents industry views to governmental organizations, provides assistance for the export of geothermal goods and services, compiles statistical data about the geothermal industry, and conducts education and outreach projects. For more information, please visit Subscribe to GEA’s newsletter here. Follow GEA on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook.
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