Market and Policy Analysis

Photo of two men assembling a large fan in a geothermal power plant cooling tower.

Effective geothermal policy can help create a more robust job market for geothermal industry workers, like these men assembling an air cooling tower fan at the binary power plant at the Steamboat Geothermal Power Complex in Reno, Nevada.

Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) analysts strive to help the geothermal community increase the use of geothermal resources in the marketplace and provide options for strengthening current geothermal policies through vigorous market and policy analysis. This analysis strives to help policymakers, developers, and others overcome geothermal development barriers, including permitting, land ownership issues, development costs, and more.

Market Analysis

To identify barriers to geothermal adoption and current successes within the marketplace, GTO conducts annual analyses that examine market penetration statistics, costs, performance levels, and more. Read the 2008 Geothermal Market Analysis Report, which features geothermal market trends throughout 2008.

Additionally, the geothermal industry uses various market-trend models; analyses vary depending on the model used. GTO is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to address the differences in output and determine where the discrepancies lie.

Retrospective Benefit–Cost Evaluation of U.S. DOE Geothermal Technologies R&D Program Investments: Impacts of a Cluster of Energy Technologies presents the findings from a retrospective economic analysis of technology development supported by GTO. The purpose of this study is to estimate the "public" return on investment (GTO's return on investment to the nation) by comparing historical economic activity with GTO's investment to what would have likely happened in the absence of GTO.

NREL's Guidebook to Geothermal Finance provides an overview of the current market strategies used to raise capital for utility-scale geothermal power projects. Additional information for geothermal power project developers and investors can be found on NREL's Financing Geothermal Power Projects website.

Policy Analysis

GTO evaluates the impacts of federal and state and local policy on the development and commercialization of geothermal energy to help industry and policymakers better understand the current and future directions of geothermal policy.

In 2009, to highlight the effectiveness of historical geothermal policy on the market, NREL published the report, Policy Overview and Options for Maximizing the Role of Policy in Geothermal Electricity Development.

One important aspect of geothermal policy that GTO is currently focused on is the use of Feed-in Tariff (FIT) policies, which have been implemented in more than 40 countries and are cited as the primary reason for the success of the German and Spanish renewable energy markets. GTO is examining the legality, design, and implementation of FITs in the United States at the municipal, state, and federal levels.

Policy Tools

As part of GTO's policy analysis, the program strives to provide tangible tools and resources to help geothermal policymakers better understand the geothermal landscape and industry needs.

Currently, GTO is developing tools to help policymakers develop geothermal electricity generation and  direct-use projects. NREL's Geothermal Policymakers' Guidebooks help state and local officials develop policies that support geothermal electricity generation and geothermal heating and cooling technologies. Each of the guidebooks outline five key steps for more effective and useful policies to increase geothermal technology deployment.

Additionally, in an effort to streamline federal permitting while ensuring environmental safety, the GTO in collaboration with NREL, developed a Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap to help developers navigate the federal, state, and local regulatory requirements necessary to deploy geothermal energy projects. Nearly 300 flowcharts address all permitting issues, from land use and leasing plans, to drilling exploratory wells, to developing a utility-grade geothermal power plant.