Geothermal Energy could get Boost from Congress
With Washington finalizing a last minute debt deal to avoid a default, some are preparing for what’s next. Frankly, the poorly pieced together debt deal will do little more than delay a default, in the meantime, both the public and private sectors will need to scramble to figure out how to kickstart the economy. One popular belief is that renewed investment in energy infrastructure development—particularly in renewables—could help create jobs and spur economic growth. In light of this, two new bills are making their way to congress for approval in the coming months that will boost geothermal energy development across the U.S.
Since the end of 2009, there has been little development in geothermal energy in the U.S. Analysts speculate the reasons for this are most likely the long permitting process and the expensive upfront costs of test drilling. However, the two new bills will likely ease these burdensome factors.
The first is a House bill that was already approved by the Natural Resources Committee. The bill is aimed at cutting down on the permitting process for geothermal exploration on federal land in cases where developers already own a lease. This would presumably save developers both time and money, making projects more attractive to investment.
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In the U.S. Senate, the Geothermal Exploration and Technology Act of 2011 is up for vote. The act is designed to establish a revolving loan fund for exploratory geothermal drilling, create a demonstration program for large-scale geothermal heat pump systems, and allow those leasing federal land for oil and gas exploration to produce geothermal energy as well.
But unlike other renewable energy ventures, geothermal has a unique set of hurdles to overcome. “You don’t face the same resource risk with solar and wind as you do with geothermal,” says Geothermal Energy Association Executive Director Karl Gawell. “You have to spend a lot of money to find a resource and know how big it is. The process is really closer to a mining venture than it is to a wind or solar project. The upfront money is really hard to find and expensive because it’s high risk. Investors like to see faster returns. They like to see a project within two or three years.”
Geothermal projects tend to take anywhere from four to eight years to get up and running, and if these two new bills before congress pass, it is likely that the U.S. may see a boom period in geothermal investment. However, considering the political climate in the U.S. as of late, the likelihood of congress passing the bills is yet to be determined.
“The whole situation we have here—everything is in gridlock,” says Gawell. “The Senate Energy Committee continues to function, and do its job. The problem is nobody really knows if any of this is really going to go anywhere. One of the unspoken victims in all this is the legislative process. It’s just grinding to a halt.”
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.