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Geothermal Industry Ends 2012 on a High Note

December 18, 2012

Year-end highlights include new domestic projects, international development and policy benchmarks

Washington, D.C. – The past 12 months saw continued economic challenges for many American industries, including those in the renewable energy field, but the country's geothermal community witnessed a year of growth, both domestically and abroad. The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) today expressed optimism for 2013, while looking back on a difficult, yet ultimately successful 2012.

U.S. Geothermal Projects

In 2012, seven new geothermal projects and additions came online in three different states, totaling 147.05 MW of gross capacity. This represents the second highest increase in geothermal power capacity over a calendar year since the production tax credit (PTC) was extended to geothermal in 2005, and a 5% percent increase over 2011 year-end data. The capacity added in 2012 would meet the residential needs of a city the size of Vancouver, Washington or Kansas City, Kansas. Projects and new additions that came online in 2012 include:

In addition to these seven projects, GEA identified 13 geothermal companies with projects in stage 3 or 4 of development. Some of these projects are expected to come online in 2013.

Some additional highlights of geothermal industry development in 2012 were:

International Development

The international geothermal market continues to expand at a significant rate, and 2012 saw a number of global breakthroughs.

U.S. companies and agencies continued to maintain a strong presence in international markets including Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Kenya, Rwanda, Nicaragua, Turkey, Mexico, Chile and Germany, where leaders have begun to understand and embrace geothermal's economic and environmental benefits.

Africa is a continent with enormous untapped geothermal potential, and the U.S. government showed its commitment to helping achieve this potential. In June, GEA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a memorandum of understanding agreement to assist East African countries expand their geothermal markets, while also creating opportunities for U.S. companies to initiate new business in the region. Countries like Kenya, which set a goal of bringing 5,000MW of geothermal power online by 2030, stand to benefit greatly from this agreement and the establishment of the USAID-GEA U.S.-East Africa Geothermal Partnership (EAGP) program.

A number of U.S. geothermal companies were active around the globe in 2012, including:

Technological Advancements

One of the most vital aspects of the geothermal industry's growth is technological advancement, and there were many of note in 2012.


The presidential campaign of 2012 highlighted energy as an issue of the utmost importance to the public, and President Barack Obama's support for renewables contributed significantly to his re-election. An increasing number of Americans are throwing their support behind geothermal and other renewable sources, and this public backing was evident in an election that featured Obama's plans for a clean energy future.

California implemented the nation's largest cap-and-trade program to date to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, following the goals of state mandate AB 32, the overall effort to lower emissions by 30% by the year 2020. While a program that started in 2009 in the mid-Eastern states limits emissions from electric utilities, the Golden State's new program goes beyond to include large industrial facilities in 2013 and will add distributors of transportation, natural gas and other fuels in 2015. The geothermal industry in California supported the program, offering geothermal as a roadmap to meet the goals of the program and its mandate, as geothermal plants emit extremely low levels of GHGs – and zero emissions in some cases – and represent a firm yet flexible alternative to high-emission energy sources such as coal and natural gas.

Congress took action on a bi-partisan basis to help geothermal in 2012. Top on the list of several significant measures that saw favorable Committee action was the Senate Finance Committee's "Family and Business Tax Certainty Act." It would allow projects to lock in the federal tax credits once they were "under construction," instead of current law's approach which requires them to be producing power by a specific date, and that date right now is January 1, 2014. The Senate Finance Committee approved the change on a strong bi-partisan vote, and it is actively under discussion in the lame duck session's "fiscal cliff" negotiations. If it is adopted, it could spur strong growth in geothermal power for several years.

Geothermal Community Events

Over the course of 2012, GEA held a series of annual events that brought together industry and policy leaders from around the world. These events are not only educational in nature, but they serve as the front line for doing business. The events included the GEA Geothermal Energy Finance and Development Forum in San Francisco, the GEA International Geothermal Energy Showcase in Washington, D.C., the National Geothermal Summit in Sacramento, and the GEA Geothermal Energy Expo in Reno. Attendance at these events was at a high in 2012, and more countries were represented than ever before. GEA events in 2012 brought in participants from 40 states and 32 countries proving the geothermal industry is truly a global market.

In 2013, GEA sponsors the following events:

2013 Outlook

The geothermal industry is poised to build on its 2012 successes in the coming year. Across the globe more and more countries are unearthing their geothermal potential, and in the United States hopes are high that the PTC will be extended, further bolstering the industry. An extension of the PTC would be a boon for geothermal, and an uptick in construction would likely ensue.

As the U.S. and nations around the world look to replace fossil fuels to minimize the threat of global warming, geothermal power will grow in its value and importance in the years ahead. Geothermal can provide both firm and flexible power. It can bring the reliability of 24/7 baseload power or complement other energy technologies by firming up more intermittent power generation. It can also provide power for small co-production projects to large utility scale power plants.

About the Geothermal Energy Association:

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is a trade association composed of U.S. companies who support the expanded use of geothermal energy and are developing geothermal Resources worldwide for electrical power generation and direct-heat uses. GEA advocates for public policies that will promote the development and utilization of geothermal Resources, provides a forum for the industry to discuss issues and problems, encourages research and development to improve geothermal technologies, presents industry views to governmental organizations, provides assistance for the export of geothermal goods and services, compiles statistical data about the geothermal industry, and conducts education and outreach projects. For more information, please visit http://www.geo-energy.org/. Check out GEA's YouTube Channel. Follow GEA on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook.

Geothermal Energy Association (GEA)
Shawna Seldon, 917-971-7852

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Content Last Updated: 02/03/2006