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Next-Gen Technology Could Spark Geothermal Energy Boom

Next-generation geothermal energy technology could boost production of the power source to 20 times its current capacity by 2050, according to POLITICO Pro (subscription).

What’s going on: A new Department of Energy report on the commercialization of the technology finds that it could provide 90 gigawatts or more of power to the grid by 2050, even “possibly up to 300 GW” if technical and market conditions are met.

  • Geothermal energy technology captures and uses heat under the Earth’s crust.
  • Feasible advances in drilling, reservoir engineering and resource exploration could push the average cost of enhanced geothermal systems down to $60–$70/MWh by 2030, not far from the department’s target cost of $45/MWh by 2035, the report finds.
  • There is already an energy workforce of about 300,000 with the skills geothermal energy development requires.

Why it’s important: “Geothermal has such enormous potential,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Monday at the CERAWeek conference in Houston. “If we can capture the heat beneath our feet, it can be the clean, reliable, baseload, scalable power for everybody from industries to households.”

  • Federal oil and gas leases, she said, can be converted to geothermal leases without additional permitting reviews.
  • There has been new interest in geothermal energy in recent years, following the passage of legislation that incentivizes production, such as the Inflation Reduction Act.

A caveat: “The report laid out various challenges, including high upfront costs, community opposition to some projects and lengthy development lifecycles.”

Our view: “Geothermal and other renewable sources are a vital aspect of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that helps our country decarbonize while providing the reliable, affordable energy that manufacturers rely on,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Brandon Farris.

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