Wednesday, March 13, 2019

USA: Appropriation Budget for Geothermal Technologies Office - Call for Action by GRC

GRC Recommends Appropriation Budget for Geothermal Technologies Office

A message from Dr. William Pettitt, Executive Director, Geothermal Resources Council:

“Letters stating our budget requests for FY2020 were proliferated to House and Senate appropriations staffers by the GRC Policy Committee last week. Our requests are far more likely to be honored if individual member offices submit them too as part of their packages of requests.

To that end, we ask that GRC members with relationships in Congressional offices share these with their Members of Congress or Members/Senators that represent locations where you have a major project presence.

Requests to Member offices are due by next Friday, March 15, but some office deadlines are a little earlier so ideally should get them as soon as possible. If any members would like further information on how to help then please get in touch with us at”

Click through below for the Letter to Appropriators and the FY 2020 Appropriations Request.

Letter to Appropriators

Dear Chairmen Shelby and Lowey and Ranking Members Leahy and Granger,

The Geothermal Resources Council is a non-profit professional association for the geothermal industry and community in the USA and abroad. We were founded in 1972 and are headquartered in Davis, California. We have over 1,300 members from around the world and are working to advance our industry by supporting the development of geothermal energy resources through communication of robust research, knowledge and guidance. We write with our priorities for federal funding in the FY2020 budget cycle.

First, the Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) has a history of supporting the development of new technology that is critical for the geothermal industry. GTO’s support has helped the industry expand by enabling power product from moderate-temperature geothermal resources, more than doubling the number of states with geothermal power production. Costs of power production have decreased substantially in the past decade due in part to the strategic investments by DOE GTO. But more can be done to address the high risk of conventional resources and ultimately allow more states to produce geothermal. In particular, the DOE FORGE program, which named its winning site in Utah in June 2018, is creating a one-of-a-kind research laboratory to research Enhanced Geothermal Systems, or EGS. EGS will open up vast swaths of lands previously unsuitable for geothermal, an opportunity which promises to be as transformative for geothermal as hydraulic fracturing has been for the natural gas industry.

We recommend that EERE GTO be allocated $90 million for FY20. This budget would include a full $30 million for FORGE activities in Utah and a balanced R&D program on other high-value geoscience priorities, including activities to help reduce drilling costs and risks, develop better processes for exploration and characterization of geothermal resources with precision, developing new strategies for extracting strategic minerals from geothermal fluids, supporting scaled experiments of EGS concepts, exploring new strategies for co-production of geothermal with oil and gas, and evaluating new applications for direct-use geothermal heating.

Within the Interior/EPA Subcommittee, we urge the Committee to retain county payments from geothermal production royalties on public lands. We believe that county payments help developers ensure that we have strong partnerships in the rural western counties where we work. In many counties geothermal is one of largest revenues streams to local government.

We also recommend that permitting agents within the BLM Fluid Minerals Division, which is back in charge of geothermal permitting and siting after a reorganizational step taken in 2018, be allocated adequate funds to continue to permit geothermal projects in a timely and safe manner. Similarly, BLM permitting staff focused on transmission rights-of-way should be adequately resourced in FY20 to ensure transmission is available for renewable electricity in the coming decade.

Because the U.S. Geological Survey conducts research and mapping activities that support a clearer understanding of the subsurface, we generally support the USGS Coalition’s request of $1.2 billion in topline funding for the Survey.

We thank you for your consideration. I am available to discuss further at your convenience. Please contact me at with any questions.


Dr. Will Pettitt, Executive Director,
Geothermal Resources Council

FY 2020 Appropriations Request

Program: Department of Energy – Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – Geothermal Technologies Office

Program Funding History: FY16: $71 million; FY17: $69.5 million, FY18: $80.9 million, FY19: $84 million

GRC’s Requested Amount: $90 million

Justification for Request: 

The Geothermal Resources Council is a is a non-profit educational association for the international geothermal community, headquartered in Davis, California.

For every 100 MW of geothermal capacity, 170 permanent jobs are created. Geothermal produces near-zero emissions of either greenhouse gases or other that harm human health and the environment. Geothermal is also “firm but flexible: a geothermal power plant can be used as a baseload resource (with capacity factors exceeding 95%) but also for load-following or energy imbalance services or as a reserve resource, with ramp times competitive with the fastest peaker plants.

Since its inception, the Department of Energy Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) has directly supported the innovation and commercialization of new technologies that have helped improve the productivity, efficiency and safety of geothermal. While commercial-scale geothermal has been in operation in the United States for several decades, both the growing global demand for renewable energy and increasing public concern about grid stability and reliability are driving the need for continued innovation and cost reductions. Particularly interesting areas of research inquiry promise to transform the industry in the next several years if federal R&D resources can be put to work:
  • Enhanced geothermal systems. EGS is a pre-commercial technology concept to enhance the permeability of a subsurface formation in order to circulate fluids and extract heat more easily. If commercialized, over 100 GW of cost-competitive EGS could be delivered in the United States in the next 50 years. DOE’s primary effort in this space is the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE), which was competitively awarded to a coalition of researchers in Utah in mid-2018 as a five-year award to be funded at $30 million a year.
  • Co-production. Geothermal coupled with solar power and other types of variable power generation has a promise to enable higher levels of alternative power on the grid while shoring up grid stability and insulating against time-of-day price shifts. Geothermal sites also have the potential to co-produce oil and gas or critical minerals such as lithium, which can be found co-located with thermal brine. When a single drilling operation can yield two or more valuable products, developers can maximize revenue streams and value to their end customer while minimizing surface disturbance.
  • Direct use. Significant opportunities exist for direct use geothermal in which subsurface heat is used for thermal applications. Currently about 20% of the nation’s annual primary energy supply is consumed at relatively low temperatures (<120 Degrees C) to heat buildings and to supply thermal energy for many critical industries, e.g. food and agriculture. Direct-use geothermal in-district heating systems could meet a large proportion of these thermal demands by utilizing lower-grade subsurface heat resources while incurring no greenhouse footprint and no fuel supply chain vulnerabilities.
Further research is needed to explore advanced materials for enhanced performance in high-temperature, corrosive subsurface environments, how lower temperature resources can be utilized for power production, novel drilling techniques (e.g. laser drilling), and strategies for characterizing the subsurface resource from surface expressions and modeling.

Further research is also needed to address market and systematic barriers to geothermal penetration. DOE researchers can advance the industry by examining pathways to reduce the time, cost and risk associated with permitting geothermal on public lands, strategies to reduce drilling costs and risks, and developing and proliferating models for geothermal hybrid facilities to participate in the marketplace.

Requested Report Language:

The Committee recommends $90,000,000 for Geothermal Technologies to focus on early through late stage research and development and market transformation activities. Within available funds, the agreement provides $30 million for the continuation of activities for the Frontier Observatory Research in Geothermal Energy project. The Department is directed to continue its efforts to identify and characterize geothermal resources in areas with no obvious surface expressions and to evaluate advanced drilling materials and techniques. As 90% of known commercial geothermal resource is located on public lands, the Department should continue to support research to enable greater efficiencies in project permitting with the goal of reducing project costs while ensuring environmental stewardship. The Committee encourages DOE to work with the Department of Interior on opportunities to improve geothermal permitting.