Legislation aims to accelerate geothermal energy development

U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Oct. 22 introduced bipartisan legislation to accelerate geothermal energy development in the U.S.

The Advanced Geothermal Innovation Leadership Act of 2019 (the “AGILE” Act) includes provisions for research and development of both existing and enhanced geothermal systems, resource assessment updates, grant program authorization, and improved permitting.

Among other things, the bill directs the U.S. Geological Survey to update its geothermal resource assessment with more modern techniques and with a focus on areas suitable for new technologies such as critical minerals coproduction and long-duration energy storage.

Specifically, it directs USGS to assess overall potential in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

In addition, the legislation calls for the creation of a new initiative at the Department of Energy between the Offices of Fossil Energy and Geothermal Energy to transfer and adapt key technologies from the oil and gas sector that are relevant to geothermal development.

It also creates a secondary use initiative to research alternative uses for geothermal energy besides electricity, including minerals recovery, grid management, and desalination.

The legislation also reauthorizes the DOE’s geothermal research and development program at $150 million annually for the next five years.

Additional information about the legislation is available here.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Manchin is the committee’s ranking member.

DOE report

U.S. geothermal capacity could hit 60 gigawatts by 2050, up from 3.8 GW today, if technology improvements drive down costs, according to a report released by the DOE earlier this year. The report lays out a framework for spurring the geothermal sector.

The geothermal industry is at the same stage the oil and gas sector was at when unconventional oil and gas reserves were known, but the technology to produce them economically didn’t exist, according to the report.

“To grow as a national solution, geothermal must overcome significant technical and non-technical barriers in order to reduce cost and risk,” Susan Hamm, director of DOE’s Geothermal technologies Office, said in an introduction to the report.

The top barrier facing the geothermal sector is underground exploration, which is expensive, complex and risky, Hamm said.