Murkowski: Geothermal Brings the Heat for America’s Energy Future

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to examine opportunities and challenges for advanced geothermal energy development in the United States.

Murkowski opened by highlighting the capabilities of geothermal energy.

“Whether it is used for heating our homes or keeping the lights on, geothermal provides clean and always-on energy that requires no external backup,” Murkowski said. “We often hear about concerns with wind when it stops blowing, and solar when the sun’s not out. You won’t hear a similar concern with geothermal. These resources are constant and reliable. There is no such thing as fluctuating, intermittent earth heat, and that’s a big advantage.”

Throughout the hearing, members and witnesses discussed a recent report from the Department of Energy (DOE) entitled GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet.

“GeoVision does a good job of laying out the technical and non-technical barriers that have kept us from realizing geothermal’s full potential. And it shows that if we can address them, through policy and innovation, this resource can make a huge contribution to America’s energy future,” Murkowski said. “Regulatory reforms alone could double geothermal capacity. And technology improvements focused on exploration, discovery, development, and management of these resources could greatly increase geothermal power generation.”

Murkowski also highlighted the use of geothermal energy in her home state of Alaska, which has an estimated 2.4 gigawatts of potential generation. Geothermal provides heat and power at the Chena Hot Springs outside Fairbanks, geothermal heat pumps support the Juneau airport, and there are also promising regions for development on the Seward Peninsula and in the Aleutian Islands. 

Daniel Simmons, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE, spoke to GeoVision’s findings and testified that, “Under the improved regulatory timeline scenario, geothermal capacity could more than double beyond business as usual…In the technology improvements scenario, geothermal can realize dramatic growth in geothermal electricity generation and potentially increase geothermal generation more than 26-fold from today’s level.”

Katherine Young, Geothermal Program Manager at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, noted that environmental benefits are often at the forefront of the discussion for geothermal energy.

“Geothermal meets these requirements with new plants that have little to no emissions, little water use, and a significantly lower land-use footprint than other energy technologies…The economic benefits are equally impactful. Geothermal creates more local long-term, wage earning jobs, includes more local spending during construction and operations than other power technologies, and provides more affordable, less volatile consumer energy prices nationwide,” Young said.

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video of today’s hearing can be found on the committee’s website. Click here and here to view Murkowski’s questions for the witnesses.

Related Issues: Energy