HVAC Residential Market / Geothermal Heat Pumps

GEO Organization Comes of Age

March 28, 2011
KEYWORDS geothermal
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Dan Ellis, GEO chair and president of ClimateMaster Inc.

There’s a kid with a fresh face on the block in Washington, D.C. - Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO). This nonprofit trade association is spending time in the halls of government seeking recognition for the renewable energy, efficiency, and environmental benefits its members have to offer.

GEO is the reincarnation of the former Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, a government/industry partnership that was primarily aimed at utility support for demand-side energy conservation programs during the 1990s.

“With recent political upheavals in Washington and the growth of geothermal heat pump installations in the United States to approximately 100,000 units per year, major equipment manufacturers, distributors, and utilities saw the need to refocus Consortium activities toward industry advocacy,” said Dan Ellis, president of ClimateMaster Inc. and GEO chairman.

“The current economic and political environment will have significant affects on the geothermal heat pump industry for the foreseeable future,” said Tom Huntington, president of WaterFurnace International. “We must aggressively educate our elected and professional officials about the benefits of geothermal heat pumps as they consider renewable energy legislation and regulatory policies.”

According to Phil Schoen, president and CEO of Geo-Enterprises, a major GEO accomplishment was a 30 percent federal tax credit for residential geothermal heat pump installations, and a 10 percent break for commercial uses in the latest federal energy bill. Both credits will remain in force until 2016, and have helped the industry to survive, and in some cases thrive, during the recession.

“By working together, we can secure new opportunities to help grow our industry,” said Schoen.

ADVOCACY

GEO works in four primary areas of outreach to elected officials, government agencies, and the public: advocacy, partnerships, public outreach, and quality standards.

As part of the advocacy area, the organization’s legislative and regulatory goals include qualification of geothermal heat pumps in pending renewable energy and climate legislation, and development of model geothermal heat pump policy, legislation, and regulations. GEO intends to support government agencies and initiatives for geothermal heat pump research; accelerate installation of geothermal heat pump systems in government buildings; and coordinate grassroots advocacy for the geothermal heat pump industry by GEO members.

PARTNERSHIPS

GEO actively seeks strategic alliances with allied organizations, institutions, and agencies to pursue benefits for the industry. Its focus is on the development of joint positions regarding federal and state legislation and regulations and collaboration with electric utilities to promote geothermal heat pump installation programs.

The organization is also working with the U.S. Department of Energy on design and installation standards, and methods for monitoring geothermal heat pump efficiency.

PUBLIC OUTREACH

The public outreach efforts include GeoExchange® branding and a public awareness campaign that emphasizes education of regulatory officials and legislators about the unique renewable energy advantages of geothermal heating and cooling, and the need for continued installation tax credits.

GEO will also organize and participate in legislative renewable energy education events at federal and state levels and encourage news media coverage about geothermal heat pumps and industry issues via publications, radio, and TV. There are plans for presentations about geothermal heat pumps at venues beyond the industry as well, including conferences, tradeshows, workshops, and business meetings. The organization created a toll-free information consumer hotline, a website, and an online GeoExchange Directory.

QUALITY STANDARDS

Quality Standards are the fourth primary objective for the organization. GEO is actively working with the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association and other allied organizations to promote codes and standards for geothermal heat pump installation training, certification, and accreditation.

“GEO’s government affairs and outreach strategies are more important than ever to knocking down barriers to growth of the geothermal heat pump industry,” emphasized Steve Smith, president of Enertech Manufacturing.

Current issues of importance to GEO include potential climate legislation and a nationwide renewable energy standard.

“We want to make sure that geothermal heat pumps are recognized for the peak power use they can save by renewable heat exchange with the earth,” said Keith Swilley, marketing manager for Gulf Power (Southern Co.). “GEO is also actively seeking government and university partnerships for geothermal heat pump efficiency and standards research and development.”

MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS

The organization offers its members the opportunity to assist the association’s efforts with a Grassroots Legislative Action Team, and annual training on the most effective ways to educate elected and appointed officials. A bi-monthly e-mail newsletter keeps members informed about legislative issues and industry news, and periodic Action Alerts help members educate their local political representatives.

Members also receive GEO Outlook magazine, produced by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association; listing in the association’s online GeoExchange Directory; exclusive use of the GeoExchange trademark and logo; and access to the online GeoExchange Forum - a platform for discussions about geothermal heat pump systems and installation.

GEO membership is open to all companies, businesses, and commercial and nonprofit organizations involved in the geothermal heat pump industry.

Publication date: 03/28/2011

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