Go to any industry meeting, and you will no doubt come in contact with many folks who are passionate about the HVAC industry. I always have great admiration for how some people live and breathe this industry.
Some take it a step further and throw all-in with a specific segment of HVAC. If there is someone out there with more industry passion than Jack DiEnna, I have yet to meet them. The best way to describe DiEnna would be the “godfather of geothermal.”
DiEnna started in the utility market and went to a conference where he fell in love with geothermal technology. Before long, he started a geothermal company. When Bill Clinton’s administration formed the geothermal heat pump consortium, they came to DiEnna to request some help getting it off the ground.
“Turns out, they liked what I did, so they hired me,” DiEnna said.
He is what you would call a geothermal lifer.
“A lot of things catch your eye,” he said. “This technology caught my heart because I see the value in it, and I see what it can do for schools, hospitals, etc. This technology is not sexy. Because it is underground, you don’t know that your next-door neighbor or your local school has it. We have an identity problem. We did not have the big lobby that wind or solar did.”
He is the type of guy who gets asked by a stranger what the time is, and within two minutes, the conversation is about geothermal. And to be honest, that is what is needed. Even though geothermal technology as we know it has been around for decades, the industry still hasn’t moved the needle much in regards to market share.
DiEnna is convinced that now is the time for the geothermal industry to flourish. And after spending a few minutes on the phone with him, it is hard not to become a believer. DiEnna does not think this projected geothermal takeoff is going to be due to tax credits. He will be the first to tell you that tax credits come and go, so the industry can’t depend on them.
“When utilities or a third-party investor sees the value in this, then it is there for good,” DiEnna said. “Tax credits are a crutch. This technology can stand on its own. Everything has its time, and I think now is our time. This technology does not need the sun to shine or the wind to blow. We are using an asset that you are standing on.”
DiEnna has the energy of a much younger man. He is out on the road, spreading the geothermal word about 150 days a year. In a way, he is the geothermal marketing department. For years, he has been pushing this rock uphill, and DiEnna finally believes the fun ride downhill is about to begin.
The geothermal veteran points to numerous reasons for this optimism. He talks about third-party monetization of the ground source heat exchanger, the reduction on peak load, and the reduction of emissions.
“A total of 36 percent of all primary energy in the U.S. is used in buildings,” he said. “Of that, 40 percent is the HVAC. Energy savings is a powerful story.”
DiEnna wants contractors to be aware of the technology. With less than 2 percent of the market, you could make the argument that 98 percent of the market is theirs for the taking. He is receiving about five calls a day from people asking him about the technology.
“HVAC contractors should know this is coming,” DiEnna said. “If utilities buy into this, which they will, this will take off big. Why not add another way to make money?”
At the very least, contractors should try to pick up some of DiEnna’s passion.
Publication date: 10/15/2018