Networked Geothermal: The National Picture
In Massachusetts and across the country, utilities, municipalities and advocates are moving forward on networked geothermal feasibility studies, legislation to allow gas utilities to become thermal utilities, and more. This March, HEET Co-Executive Director Zeyneb Magavi had the chance to meet with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and tell her about networked geothermal! Read on for more exciting bits of progress from the past few months.
Thermal Utility Reform Initiative
We’re delighted to announce that the Building Decarbonization Coalition and HEET, together with a network of state and regional organizations, researchers, engineers, and other subject matter experts have formed the Thermal Utility Reform Initiative (TURI).
TURI will focus first on important near-term opportunities for implementing thermal networks in regions across the U.S. The initiative aims to build awareness of the benefits of thermal networks, secure demonstration installations, and move forward legislation and regulation that will allow gas distribution companies to become thermal providers.
Utility Networked Geothermal Collaborative (UNGC)
Utilities across the country are increasingly showing interest in exploring networked geothermal systems. Now, 13 of these utilities have come together to engage each other on pathways for gas utilities to become thermal utilities supplying heating and cooling through networked geothermal systems.
“The Utility Networked Geothermal Collaborative brings together 13 gas utilities – all working together to determine how best to provide our customers with access to clean, efficient, networked geothermal systems,” said Morgan Hood, an organizer of UNGC and New Product Development Manager at Vermont Gas. “We are sharing our individual learnings, gleaned from research and geothermal industry experts, as well as our experiences with pilot projects and state regulatory approaches, with one another. All to learn fast and move forward at the rapid clip needed.”
A growing list of states across the country are beginning feasibility studies and moving legislation forward that will allow gas utilities to transition and networked geothermal to scale.
1. Colorado: Colorado Mesa University has been operating a geo-exchange system for over a decade. The University recently requested $8 million in state funds to expand its system, with the goal of becoming the first university in the country to be fully heated and cooled by a geo-exchange system. Now, HEET and Xcel Energy are using the campus as a case study, gathering data that will be critical in expanding networked geothermal installations across the country. Legislation has been passed permissioning and directing gas utilities to build thermal energy networks.
2. Illinois: The Thermal Energy Network and Jobs Act (HB2875) was filed here and is moving forward with broad support.
3. Massachusetts: Eversource Gas’s Framingham installation is moving forward. National Grid has received approval from the Department of Public Utilities to build four networked geothermal installations in MA, with Lowell as its first site.
An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, passed in 2022, authorizes gas pipeline replacement funds to be used be redirected towards installing non-emitting renewable energy infrastructure. The act also incentivizes gas companies to make long-term repairs on infrastructure, rather than replace old gas pipes with new ones.
An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy, passed in 2021, permits gas utilities to do pilot installations of utility-scale renewable thermal energy and allows utilities to bill customers for thermal energy.
An Act For Utility Transition to Using Renewable Energy, passed in 2020, outlines a safe, just transition to move Massachusetts utilities off gas and shift customers to clean energy in alignment with state mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets and requires the Department of Public Utilities to consider equitable access to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
4. Minnesota: The Natural Gas Innovation Act was passed in June, 2021 allowing gas utilities to pursue networked geothermal and other alternatives to natural gas.
5. New Jersey: On February 15, 2023, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued an executive order telling local regulators to develop recommendations within 18 months for options to decarbonize gas heating to meet state emissions mandates.
6. New York: The Utility Thermal Energy Network and Jobs Act (S9422) passed in the summer of 2022. As a result, each utility in New York state is required to submit proposals for thermal energy network pilot projects; over 21 proposals have been submitted so far. New York is a key example of how a state can open a pathway for utilities to not only develop renewable energy systems, like networked geothermal, but also stay in business and keep their workers employed.
7. Oregon: A local gas utility has completed a scoping study for networked geothermal.
8. Pennsylvania: The City of Philadelphia approved $500,000 from Philadelphia Gas Works’ 2021 Business Diversification Study for a feasibility study on networked geothermal.
9. Utah: Weber State University’s geothermal network installation by GreyEdge Group has been operational for over a decade and has so far resulted in annual savings of $1.9 million and a 31% reduction in direct greenhouse gas emissions.
10. Vermont: "An act relating to affordable community energy solutions" was filed in January, 2023. The bill would allow gas utilities and others to install networked geothermal.
11. Washington, D.C.: The DC Public Service Commission put out a request for proposals on May 17, 2022 for the design and construction of a large community heat pump system that would serve multiple buildings.
13. Wisconsin: Marquette University submitted a grant to pay for a feasibility study together with its gas utility for a networked geothermal system.
Federal legislation now provides a 50% investor tax credit for geothermal networks. See GeoExchange’s document, Geothermal Heat Pump Provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, for more information.
If you’re interested in networked geothermal for your town, check out HEET's Toolkit for Municipalities and add your name to our map!