Gov. Polis, as Chair of the Bipartisan Western Governors Association, Outlines Geothermal Opportunities for Colorado & West
DENVER – Governor Polis announced Heat Beneath Our Feet (HBOF) as his 2023 Western Governors’ Association (WGA) Chair initiative at the Western Governors’ Association meeting. HBOF is a bold initiative that will jump-start the development of geothermal energy generation. HBOF and the exploration of geothermal energy generation is an innovative approach to expanding clean energy resources, saving people money, and promoting bipartisan partnership with other Western States.
“As the incoming Chair of the bipartisan Western Governors Association, I am excited to establish the Heat Beneath Our Feet as my initiative because geothermal energy is an opportunity to save people money, boost local economies, and help us achieve 100% renewable energy in Colorado by 2040,” said Gov Polis. “I look forward to making progress towards clean, lower-cost power through the Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative and the strong bipartisan partnership of the WGA that will lead geothermal energy innovation.”
Geothermal energy provides new resources to advance Gov. Polis’ goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2040 and ensuring other states have that opportunity to develop renewable energy technology. More details will be incorporated into a formal announcement in Colorado in the next few weeks.
“Tri-State applauds our Western Governors’ leadership in launching The Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative,” said Duane Highley, CEO of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. “Exploring and validating the West’s abundant geothermal resources advances the potential for much needed emissions-free dispatchable power at a time when conventional base load resources are retiring from service.”
“Xcel Energy Colorado is excited about the Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative as geothermal electric generation and ground-source heating are both important advanced technology solutions to further decarbonize our system toward a net zero future. Geothermal technology solutions can provide the important emissions-free electricity we need when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining while supporting our customers’ heating needs and a robust energy grid. The coordinated technology advancement contemplated by the Heat Beneath Our Feet Initiative, working with our electric plans and Clean Heat Plans, is exactly what we need in the West to foster innovation and new technology,” said Robert Kenney, President Xcel Energy-Colorado.
“The Western United States is blessed with enormous geothermal resource potential. This resource can be tapped for heating and cooling, electricity production, and even energy storage and mineral production. It is always available and thus a natural complement to variable renewable energy sources, providing firm capacity to stabilize grids and allowing decarbonization of heating and cooling. Despite all this, growth in the U.S. geothermal sector has been slow over the past three decades. If we are serious about decarbonizing energy in the Western US, we need to start taking advantage of the heat beneath our feet.” said Dr. Amanda Kolker, Laboratory Program Manager for Geothermal at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
“Denver Pipefitters Local #208 couldn’t be more excited about Governor Polis’s 2023 WGA chair initiative ‘The Heat Beneath Our Feet’! Utilizing Geothermal technologies for power generation and building heating/cooling needs will be critical to addressing climate change. Not only is geothermal a clean source for electricity generation and building HVAC needs but it also allows trade professionals like Pipefitters to continue valuable middle-class careers. With project examples like Colorado State Universities, Moby Complex Geo-X system, and the National Western Stock show’s Energy Plant, geothermal technologies have shown tremendous possibilities for both workers and climate advocates. Our future should not penalize the many middle-class workers in our state that perform tirelessly to provide comfort to our communities, instead we should recognize their efforts and utilize their talents for a shared better future,” said Gary Arnold, Business Manager, Denver Pipefitters Local #208.
Through the HBOF initiative, WGA will evaluate geothermal energy technology development in the Western States and assess the potential benefits it would offer. Geothermal energy is a renewable resource that can generate electricity or provide heating and cooling for buildings and water. The U.S. possesses approximately 25% of the world’s installed geothermal energy capacity, and 95% of that is in the Western States. Bringing the WGA bipartisan leadership focus to exploration provides an opportunity for collaborative development.
“The Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative marks an important step forward for the geothermal industry, building on recent technology breakthroughs and market developments currently driving a resurgence in our sector. Fervo Energy applauds Governor Polis and the Western Governor’s Association for their leadership in tapping the enormous potential of geothermal to be a key enabler of a secure, cost-effective, and carbon-free power grid throughout the western United States,” said Tim Latimer, Co-Founder, and CEO, Fervo Energy, a next-generation geothermal energy developer.
An advantage of geothermal energy generation is the significant cost-cutting opportunities. Geothermal heat pumps are estimated to save people 30% to 60% in annual energy costs and have a lifespan of more than double that of current heating systems, saving people money on long-term investments. Geothermal energy can also boost local economies by creating jobs and relying on American-made energy sources.
“Geothermal energy represents an exciting and enormous opportunity for Colorado and the United States in the rapid move to a low-carbon energy system. It is a secure, predictable, and renewable resource that can benefit homeowners and businesses alike. Geothermal energy can make use of the skills and experience of Colorado’s cutting-edge workforce and regulations, and continue to make the state a leader in the clean energy revolution,” said Morgan D. Bazilian, Ph.D. Director, Payne Institute, Colorado School of Mines.
“Consumers in the West are supportive of partnerships and initiatives that overcome market barriers to delivering low-cost energy, build local economies, and meet state policy goals. The Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative brings together the right parties to tap into the beneficial potential of geothermal energy,” said Cindy Schonhaut, Director, Colorado Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate.
The environmental benefits of geothermal energy generation could improve all Western states’ impact on the environment. Geothermal energy provides a cleaner, more reliable energy source. In Colorado, HBOF geothermal initiative offers a new pathway to clean energy and could be a key factor in the Polis administration’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2040.
During the 2022 legislative session, Governor Polis signed two bipartisan bills to spark the conversation about geothermal research, education, and implementation in Colorado. HB22-1381 is set to launch in the fall of 2022 and will provide grants to homeowners, local governments, and private organizations that want to research, develop, and invest in geothermal processes. SB22-118 is a bipartisan bill passed to offer education and guidance for consumers of geothermal energy sources and create business models for geothermal projects in the state.
“There is no better time to turn WGA’s attention to the ‘Heat Beneath Our Feet,’” said Paul Thomsen, Vice President at Ormat Technologies. “Geothermal energy is a zero-emission resource that can yield the highest economic value of any renewable resource in the West. It is also uniquely positioned to address the emerging resiliency and resource adequacy challenges of the next decade.”
The geothermal sector is growing and is poised to be a robust economic generator. A number of businesses have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit in this space and are receiving the funding and resources to be on the front lines of developing new geothermal technologies.