Program to kick-start geothermal investments to advance Colorado’s net-zero energy goals aligns with Governor Polis’ “Heat Beneath Our Feet” initiative
The Polis administration and the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) launched the first round of applications for the Geothermal Energy Grant Program (GEGP) on Tuesday. The intent is to provide funding to support the use of zero-emission, geothermal energy for electricity generation and space heating and cooling.
CEO will award a total of $5 million during the first funding round, with at least one additional funding round opening next fiscal year.
“The heat beneath our feet — geothermal energy — provides Colorado with the opportunity to lower energy costs by harnessing zero-emission energy to generate electricity and heat and cool homes, businesses, and communities. Colorado continues to be the national leader for geothermal energy and we look forward to seeing how these grants will continue that streak,” said Governor Polis.
The news of this new grant funding will likely be less than welcome news to a segment of Chaffee County residents who live in and near the eastern front of Mt. Princeton, where some exploratory geothermal testing has been proposed on government land. Chaffee is one of several Colorado counties, and counties in the West, which might lie atop a significant geothermal reservoir.
Such possible exploration has been the topic of bitter comments to the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) by a protest group formed by area residents who object to any test drilling. The BoCC says that it has not received an application from the geothermal energy exploratory group, so there is nothing to which to respond.
The program aligns with Governor Polis’ Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative, an initiative shared by several Western governors. It focuses on exploring geothermal energy applications and addressing land use planning and reducing market barriers across the West for this key technology.
The geothermal energy grant program is one of the largest investments in geothermal energy in the country, establishing Colorado as a leader in this expanding industry. The program accelerates the growth and development of geothermal technology, which will play a critical role in achieving net-zero emissions in Colorado by 2050.
“Colorado’s unique geography offers some of the most robust geothermal energy potential in the country,” said CEO Executive Director Will Toor. “Our geothermal program is an exciting opportunity to tap into this expansive resource to heat and cool our homes and increase access to reliable clean electricity. Geothermal technology will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while saving Coloradans money on energy costs and creating good-paying jobs in Colorado communities.”
As explained by the Colorado Governor’s announcement: Temperatures underground remain constant year-round, with temperatures increasing as depth increases. Just below the surface, the ground acts as an efficient thermal battery to heat and cool individual buildings with geothermal heat pumps, in addition to groups of buildings networked together using underground water pipes and heat pumps (known as thermal energy networks).
These geothermal systems can substantially reduce peak electrical loads, reducing demand on the power grid and saving communities money on energy costs. For example, the thermal network at Colorado Mesa University has reduced energy costs nearly $12 million since 2008.
Colorado also has one of the most promising thermal gradients in the country to support geothermal electricity production, which can supplement other renewable energy sources to meet peak demand.
Both public and private entities are eligible to apply for GEGP funding. Eligible projects include:
- Single-structure geothermal: Installing a geothermal system as the primary source of heating and cooling for a group of residential buildings or a single multifamily or nonresidential building.
- Community district heating (thermal energy network): Constructing ground-source, water-source, or multi-source thermal systems that serve more than one building.
- Geothermal electricity generation: Developing geothermal electricity generation technology and/or using geothermal energy to produce hydrogen or power direct air capture technology.
To ensure this program benefits the Coloradans who are most impacted by air pollution, high energy costs, and the transition away from fossil fuels, CEO will prioritize projects in disproportionately impacted, low-income, and just transition communities. CEO has also reserved 25 percent of the single-structure geothermal grants for projects in these communities.
More information about eligibility, award amounts, and how to apply is available on the Geothermal Energy Grant Program website. CEO has contracted with CLEAResult to help administer the GEGP. CLEAResult will host three webinars, each covering one of the project types, on November 28, 2023. Click the links below to register:
For questions about this program, reach out to email@example.com.
In addition to the GEGP, the state is making additional investments in geothermal energy through the competitive Geothermal Electricity Tax Credit. This merit-based, refundable tax credit is available for public and private entities that are investing in or producing geothermal electricity. CEO expects to open competitive applications for this tax credit in spring 2024. Tax credits for geothermal heat pumps and geothermal thermal energy networks will also begin in 2024.