Geothermal Innovation Investments Could Help Meet Electricity Demand

Rapid electricity demand growth is no joke. It’s happening much faster than grid planners anticipated and some estimates show a need to double the U.S. grid by 2050. On top of that demand, most large utilities and producers have commitments to make it all clean. Wind developments are hitting headwinds, solar manufacturers have supply chain challenges, some environmental groups are pulling out all stops to make it harder for coal and gas, and there are still some who aren’t yet sold on clean, reliable nuclear energy.

Could geothermal be a big part of the solution that everyone can get behind? We think so. 

New firm, flexible clean energy generation is heating up. Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), cutting-edge new generation technologies, could play a major role in achieving the dual goals — increased demand, all clean. The Department of Energy has made its first three awards of $60 million, for the bipartisan geothermal demonstration program Congress has pushed for years to catalyze EGS:

The DOE is expected to also make at least one more initial award for a project east of the Mississippi River, per Congressional direction.

Why it matters: Geothermal is one of the few technologies, including nuclear and fossil generation + carbon capture, that can provide valuable firm, flexible clean power to the grid. Geothermal currently produces more than four gigawatts of power to the U.S. grid, and a recent DOE analysis shows it has the potential to provide upwards of 90 gigawatts by 2050 – enough to power the equivalent of more than 65 million U.S. homes.  

How did it happen? These announcements have been years in the making, originating in bipartisan legislation dating back to the 116th Congress. In late 2019, the top Republican and Democrat at the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Frank Lucas (R-OK) and the late Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) teamed up on the Advanced Geothermal Research and Development Act to further geothermal innovation. 

At the same time, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and then-Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) navigated the Advanced Geothermal Innovation Leadership Act through the Senate, with language explicitly calling out a geothermal energy demonstration “earthshot.” Those bills were ultimately reconciled, and key policies, including greenlighting these demonstration programs, were signed into law as part of President Trump’s Energy Act of 2020 in the final days of his first term. 

Fast forward a year later, a bipartisan group of policymakers worked to include energy innovation funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill (Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act - IIJA) and the DOE’s geothermal program received an injection of more than $84 million. Now in 2024, the DOE is moving forward on the innovation effort envisioned nearly five years ago.

What’s next: Permitting reform – Unlocking the commercial scale-up of new geothermal. It is not enough to just prove the technology. Policymakers should get the government out of the way of its takeoff.  
Research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that each final geothermal well on public land invokes NEPA as much as six times, with each Environmental Assessment taking 10 months. This adds up to an average development timeline of eight years.

There has been an uptick of interest on Capitol Hill to pick up and keep pace. The House Natural Resources Committee recently approved bipartisan legislation from Rep. Michelle Steele (R-CA) and Suzie Lee (D-NV). Other legislation, like Rep. Young Kim (R-CA)’s HEATS Act, Rep. John Curtis (R-UT)’s GEO Act and Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-ID)’s CLEAN Act, all make similar reforms. There is also a cadre of Republican and Democratic Senators eyeing a new bill in the coming months. 

Permitting reform remains a hot topic on Capitol Hill - a bipartisan deal could leverage the work energy entrepreneurs like Fervo, Chevron and Mazama are doing, and accelerate geothermal’s contributions to a cleaner and more reliable electricity grid.

Growing The Domestic Energy Sector Supply Chain And Manufacturing Base

House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations

Below is my testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, entitled "Growing The Domestic Energy Sector Supply Chain And Manufacturing Base: Are Federal Efforts Working" on May 23, 2023.

Watch Jeremy’s Opening Remarks
Read Jeremy’s Full Testimony as Seen Below

Good morning Chairman Griffith, Ranking Member Castor, and members of the committee. My name is Jeremy Harrell, and I am the Chief Strategy Officer of ClearPath, a 501(c)(3) organization that develops and advances policies that accelerate innovations to reduce and remove global energy emissions.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for holding this important hearing. The United States faces intense global competition. Adversaries like China and Russia are deploying hundreds of billions of dollars around the world to advance their geostrategic interests in order to dominate the energy sector and connected supply chains.

China and Russia have spent decades investing in the dominant position they now hold in the mining – and perhaps more importantly – in the processing of critical materials. China is responsible for the processing of 90 percent of rare earth elements and 60 to 70 percent of lithium and cobalt, often with poor labor practices and disregard for the environmental impact.1 Similarly for uranium, some projections suggest that by 2030 China and Russia will control roughly 63 percent of global enrichment capacity. Meanwhile, in the U.S. it can take up to a decade just to permit a mine. America is on its heels. From project finance to government permitting, the project development cycle must move faster to have any chance of regaining the supply chains underpinning our energy industrial base and become resource independent.

Large-scale energy innovation often needs to bring together private and public investment in order to scale up deployment and bring down costs. This model worked for solar, wind, natural gas and other clean energy technologies. For example, Texas entrepreneur George Mitchell figured out how to break up shale rocks to release the natural gas stuck inside. This process, called hydraulic fracturing, initially got off the ground with support from the Department of Energy (DOE), which cost-shared R&D and demonstrations in the 1970s and 1990s, as well as tax credits from the 1980s to early 2000s.

Fortunately, the past few years has yielded targeted federal energy innovation policy that, if implemented right, could help bring resource production back to America and help build the next success story similar to American shale gas.

The Energy Act of 2020 (EACT), signed into law by President Trump at the end of the 116th Congress, modernized and refocused the DOE’s research and development programs on some of the most pressing technology challenges identified by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as essential to global energy and climate objectives — scaling up clean energy technologies like advanced nuclear, long-duration energy storage, carbon capture, and enhanced geothermal. Subsequently, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) invested $62 billion into next-generation technologies, power grid improvement, energy efficiency, and more at the DOE. Importantly, nearly half of that total was slated for the very energy-related research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) programs authorized in the EACT and the relevant infrastructure needed for their broader adoption.

The bipartisan IIJA targeted federal energy research investment, focusing RD&D programs around some of the biggest opportunities to advance U.S. energy security, technological leadership, and global emissions reductions. The DOE is now launching the most aggressive commercial-scale technology demonstration programs in history, with clear permanence and cost goals, to scale up clean energy technologies like the Long-Duration Storage Shot, the Hydrogen Shot, and the Enhanced Geothermal Shot. For example, the storage initiative launched in July of 2021 is oriented around reducing the cost of grid-scale energy storage by 90 percent for systems that deliver 10+ hours of duration within the decade. That specific goal may sound familiar – it mimics the bipartisan authorization from the Better Energy Storage Technologies Act (BEST) enacted in the 116th Congress.

These initiatives present opportunities but also many significant challenges that this Committee is rightly using its oversight authority to explore.

The bipartisan Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act of 2022 was also constructed specifically to go on offense versus China on technological innovation. The package directed $280 billion in investment over the next 10 years, with the majority for scientific R&D and commercialization. Approximately $53 billion is for semiconductor manufacturing, R&D, and workforce development, with another $24 billion worth of tax credits for chip production. The law also added significant new DOE technology transfer authorities, comprehensively reauthorized the DOE Office of Science and established a first-of-a-kind, low-emissions steel manufacturing research program that aims to make American steel production the cleanest and cheapest in the world.

The U.S. has a national security imperative to take on China and Russia in technological innovation and energy exports. A cohesive strategy that syncs our country’s robust research, development and demonstration (RD&D), the American entrepreneurial spirit, targeted free market incentives, and proactive trade policies can leverage the United States’ advantage as one of the most carbon efficient economies in the world. Three examples where the U.S. is leading are natural gas, steel and minerals mining. A life cycle analysis conducted by the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory on U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports shows that American LNG can be up to 30 percent cleaner than Russian natural gas. While Chinese steel is the third most emitting in the world, American steel is among the cleanest in the world, with the second lowest CO2-intensity of any country. Emissions from mining support services in China, including many minerals required for deploying clean energy at scale, are over 5 times higher than if those activities were conducted in the United States.

Our nation should double down on the public and private sector momentum to produce more and innovate faster, securing a clean, affordable, resilient energy future reasserting global technology and resources leadership, and furthering global emission reductions.

But simply throwing federal taxpayer resources at the problem is not going to achieve that ambitious goal. For the United States to lead globally while creating jobs in new industries here at home, the United States must maximize public and private sector efforts by taking the following actions:

  1. Strengthen direct investment and foster private investment in U.S. supply chain: The bipartisan Energy Act of 2020, the IIJA, the CHIPS and Science Act, and federal tax incentives must more effectively bolster the U.S. clean energy supply chain and commercialize key technologies. The successful implementation of these programs is critical to ensuring that U.S. companies can demonstrate and deploy their technologies and be able to compete on the world stage. That difficult task means identifying projects that can be delivered on time and on budget, while ensuring the maximum benefit of investment goes to American companies and the industries where the U.S. has a leading edge. To assist with accountability and oversight, ClearPath has developed an interactive dashboard to follow progress across the major demonstration programs led by the DOE from the initial program development stages all the way through to final award selections.
  2. Modernize Permitting: The single largest impediment to private sector investment is regulatory unpredictability. Unnecessary regulatory hurdles that slow down the deployment of innovative technology and necessary infrastructure, including the critical mineral supply chain, threaten the United States’ ability to significantly reduce our emissions and provide low-cost options to the rest of the world on an ambitious timescale. Right now, developers can only build new energy infrastructure as fast as federal, state, and local governments can permit them – and it simply is not fast enough. Reform must flip the permitting paradigm from one that favors stopping a project to one that expedites the approval process for projects that bring net benefits and comply with the legal requirements meant to ensure clean water and clean air. U.S. leadership requires a system that promotes good outcomes – both economic and environmental – so that the country can build at the pace and scale required to meet America’s energy demand and compete with our adversaries.
  3. Foster Global Market Opportunities for American Technologies: The economic opportunity for the U.S. is remarkable. A recent report from Boston Consulting Group estimated the Serviceable Addressable Market (SAM) for six key clean energy technologies (clean steel, hydrogen, long-duration energy storage, geothermal, direct air capture, and new nuclear) to be roughly $16.5 trillion through 2050. Getting our domestic policies right, including in many cases getting the government out of the way, will allow us to scale up our clean technologies and drive down costs to meet the energy demands of the developing world with more price-competitive exports of American solutions. At the same time, the U.S. needs to create better trade and financing frameworks to support our exporters. Our country must prioritize market access abroad through removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers, and better leverage agencies like the U.S. Export-Import Bank and International Development Finance Corporation to compete more effectively against our non-market rivals (e.g. Chinese state-owned enterprises).

Further, the following three American industries serve as examples where U.S. government policies, investor interest, and the regulatory environment are incongruent with what is needed for the U.S. to lead globally.


Carbon Capture

China continues to dominate global coal power development, both at home and abroad. Chinese coal power plant construction and new project announcements accelerated dramatically in 2022, with new permits reaching the highest level since 2015. Many of those projects received expedited permitting and broke ground in a few months. This resulted in six times as many coal plants starting construction in China than the rest of the world combined for a total of 106 GW; the equivalent of two large coal power plants per week. While China recently committed to stop financing new overseas coal financing, over the last 10 years, its Belt and Road Initiative financed over 100 gigawatts of coal in at least 27 countries.

Policymakers have a choice – bet that the Chinese and their partners shut down their coal-fired power plants at the expense of economic growth; or develop, demonstrate, and deploy affordable U.S.-based emissions control technologies abroad as we have previously done for acid rain and aerosols. That’s where carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies come in.

CCUS is on the rise, with 35 projects in operation and over 250 million metric tons of CO2/yr of capture capacity currently in development worldwide by 2030. 40 percent of the capacity in development over that timeline is in the U.S., which is currently the global leader on CCUS technology. While the over 100 million metric tons of capacity announced in the U.S. is significant, it is only scratching the surface of this country’s potential. A recent report from the DOE estimates that getting CCUS technologies on track for climate targets in the U.S. would require capacity to capture 400 to 1,800 million tons of CO2 per year by 2050. This level of development would represent $100 billion of investment by 2030 and $600 billion by 2050. On a global level, reaching net-zero by 2050 likely requires at least 4-7 gigatons of CO2 captured per year, meaning that we currently only have one-half of one percent of the CCUS capacity needed today.

Current and Proposed U.S. Carbon Capture Infrastructure

Sources include ClearPath analysis, CATF US Carbon Capture Map, Rextag CO2 Pipelines, and EPA’s Class VI Well Tables as of March 2023

CCUS technologies allow us to mitigate emissions and also support American jobs. Right now, the U.S. truly has the lead on other countries through a combination of engineering expertise, technical leadership, and recently enacted public policy like the 45Q carbon capture utilization and storage tax credit and the Department of Energy’s Carbon Capture Demonstration Projects Program. Going forward, the U.S. needs to find ways to parlay this leadership edge into the potential to export our expertise to support the development of carbon capture technologies in other countries. The services associated with carbon capture can be significantly higher than the physical investment of the technology itself, meaning we will create jobs at home that lead to lower emissions abroad.

Despite our head start, a lot needs to be done to ensure that the massive CCUS scale up in the U.S. occurs. The U.S. is woefully behind on the carbon dioxide transportation and storage infrastructure necessary to give confidence to private sector investors that they will be able to receive a meaningful return on their investment within a reasonable time. A dramatic increase in the number of required Class VI carbon dioxide storage wells, as well as the ability to build out carbon dioxide transportation pipeline systems, is essential. The U.S. currently only has 3 permitted Class VI wells for carbon storage, when we likely need over 600 or more wells to meet long term climate targets.

Beyond that, the U.S. only has 5000 miles of carbon dioxide pipeline. While this is more than anywhere else in the world, it is concentrated in a few geographic regions and is insufficient to meet the needs of a larger scale carbon capture build out. The proposed Heartland Greenway pipeline and Midwest Carbon Express projects, centered around connecting Midwest producers to permitted CO2 storage sites in Illinois and western North Dakota respectively, are two prime examples.

Without addressing these infrastructure challenges, it's not possible to see the level of buildout that is needed in the long run. To make this happen, the American supply chain needs significant permitting reform, as well as improvements in the ability of both the EPA and states to authorize pipelines and storage wells. Combining these types of reforms with targeted public-private investments like the DOE Carbon Capture Demonstration Program and the 45Q tax credit is the recipe to ensure U.S. competitiveness, not unrealistic mandates as proposed in new EPA regulations on May 11, 2023. Seizing the moment will deliver energy security, a resilient and reliable U.S. grid, and continue to position the U.S. as the leading supplier of technology for global emissions reductions.


Nuclear Energy

The demand for carbon-free technologies that further energy security has never been higher, and the effects of the war in Ukraine on international energy markets are lasting. This makes the expansion of reliable, secure and affordable nuclear power more important than ever.

The International Energy Agency said that the world needs to double the amount of today’s nuclear energy capacity in order to reach net-zero in 2050. That equates to roughly 25 new 1,000-megawatt reactors per year, every year from 2030 to 2050. While this seems daunting, at least eight U.S.-based companies have publicly announced international partnerships to explore deployment in more than 10 countries, and even more are in the works. In addition, more than 52 countries are projected to have markets for advanced nuclear power in the coming decades, representing a potential ~$380 billion per year market opportunity for the American supply chain.

This increase in global nuclear energy demand has coincided with unprecedented momentum in U.S. industry. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has publicly stated it anticipates at least 13 applications for advanced reactors by 2027. Additionally, American electrical utilities are projecting a need for nearly 90,000 MW of new nuclear power by 2050, essentially doubling the U.S. nuclear energy capacity in the next 30 years.

The nuclear provisions in the EACT and IIJA, as well as the other financial programs like the Loan Programs Office (LPO), can further attract private investment to the sector and accelerate technological innovation that position the American industry to capitalize on a competitive advantage: our abundance of innovative new technologies the global market demands. Today, almost 15 percent of active loan applications at LPO are for nuclear projects. All of these programs prepare the U.S. to be a competitive player in the international market. Concurrently, as we look to develop these new nuclear energy technologies, strong support for the existing fleet is important to energy security today and for the workforce and supply chain of the future.

A robust fuel supply chain and competitive financing will require coordination with our allies. Nevertheless, the market is not uncontested. In fact, over the past two decades, the U.S. and like-minded countries have lost market leadership in this space. Between 2017 and 2022, Russian and Chinese reactor designs captured 87 percent of all new reactor construction globally through their non-market, state-owned enterprises.

Reliance on the Russian nuclear fuel supply chain is particularly troubling. This year, Russia will supply almost 25 percent of our nation’s enriched uranium. While the U.S. and our allies have sanctioned and significantly reduced consumption of Russian oil and gas post-Ukraine evasion, the Russian nuclear industry has largely dodged sanctions due to the Russian bottleneck in the uranium supply chain. Uranium is a global commodity and when looking at the global uranium supply chain, 38 percent of conversion capacity and 46 percent of enrichment capacity are controlled by Russia. Securing the nuclear fuel supply chain will require domestic and allied capabilities to both source and process uranium.

With the growing global market for nuclear energy, the U.S. must seize this moment and prove itself as a competitive alternative to Russian and Chinese energy exports. Key strategic allies like Poland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom are hoping to partner with American vendors rather than those competitors. Romania is a great example. Against a backdrop of growing mistrust of Chinese investments in Europe in 2020, the Romanian government broke a financing agreement with the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN). Since then, Romania has penned a roughly $9 billion deal to build two new reactors in Cernavoda with a $3 billion loan being provided by the U.S. Export Import Bank.

New and Forthcoming Nuclear Reactors Worldwide

The challenge ahead is project delivery. Recently enacted federal policies, like the clean electricity tax credit, NRC modernization legislation, and new public-private partnerships with the DOE, boost the confidence of investors and end-users needed to commercially scale up reactors domestically and internationally.

To go from building a handful of American reactors to building hundreds of reactors, a few critical barriers to lift off must be addressed.

First, the nuclear fuel supply chain must be secured for both the existing fleet and our next generation of reactors. Industry, the DOE, and Congress must work together to enable a private-industry-led, domestic High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) supply chain. HALEU is essential to the success of many advanced reactor projects, including the two recipients of the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). Today, Russia is the only source of large volumes of HALEU. Concurrently, the U.S. and its allies must also ensure its demand for Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) for our current fleet and future light water reactors can be met without any reliance on Russia. Ensuring fuel security is paramount to American nuclear expansion.

Second, regulatory modernization is critically important as it is the necessary step between the development of these new designs and commercialization. If America is not proactive with licensing the next generation of designs, the U.S. could fail to meet its clean energy needs and continue to lose ground to China and Russia on innovation. While the NRC is working to modernize, attract new talent, and further its technical understanding of new technologies – efforts that I commend them for – the Commission admits it will still struggle to review these new applications in a timely manner. Understandably so – 13 new applications in the next five years is unprecedented. To lead, the NRC must be structured and incentivized to license the next generation of new reactors differently than they have licensed traditional reactors. The review process can be more efficient, effective and not unduly burdensome without any reduction in safety.

And lastly, the U.S. government and industry must work together to aggressively promote orders for our cutting-edge technologies abroad. Recent actions by countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have shown that advanced nuclear deployment is highly desired. Nations want clean, reliable, and secure energy. The U.S. and its allies should be the ones to establish these new, 100-year international partnerships in place of our adversaries. The U.S. government must develop a robust and effective interagency strategy to proactively build and enhance relationships with partner nations, as well as create competitive financing and technology packages to offset the growing influence of Russia and China.

There are many new American nuclear projects in the pipeline today, and the robust U.S. supply chain that supports it and existing nuclear operations employs nearly half a million Americans. On average, a person working in the nuclear energy industry makes a higher median wage than any other energy industry and twice the national median wage. Concurrently, there is a 30 billion dollar crossover benefit to our national security between the civilian nuclear industry and the U.S. military, focused on shared research infrastructure, workforce, and supply chain diversity. Fostering the growth of the domestic supply chain and going on offense in the global marketplace could yield tens of thousands of more high-paying, stable jobs as the industry grows.


Critical Minerals

It is difficult to overstate China’s dominance and America’s dependence on foreign supply chains when it comes to critical minerals. According to the 2023 U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Commodities Summary, the United States was 100 percent net import reliant for 12 of the 50 individually listed critical minerals and more than 50 percent net import reliant for an additional 31 critical mineral commodities; meanwhile, China was the leading producer for 30 of the 50 critical minerals. Rising demand for minerals will place major stress on global supply chains and undermine the United States’ ability to deploy more clean energy.

In a recent report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that by 2040, demand for energy-related minerals like lithium, cobalt, graphite, and nickel could grow by 20-40 times.

Regardless of where the minerals are mined, China exerts dominant control over the refining process for each of these critical minerals. According to the IEA, the production of critical minerals used for clean energy technologies is highly concentrated geographically, raising concerns about security of supplies. The Democratic Republic of Congo supplies 70 percent of cobalt today; China supplies 60 percent of rare earth elements; and Indonesia supplies 40 percent of nickel.

Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that the processing of these minerals is even more concentrated. China is responsible for a large majority of the refining of rare earth elements and has demonstrated a willingness to leverage its influence to pursue political objectives. The concentration of mineral supply chains creates risks of disruption from political or environmental events, poor transparency and traceability, and sacrifices the expertise necessary for value-adding innovation and jobs.

While the current Administration has convened a Minerals Security Partnership, along with other regional and multilateral clean energy dialogues with friendly nations such as Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and others to address these challenges, both the public and private sector need to do more, faster to ensure reliable and responsible clean technology supply chains.

Absent a clear, predictable, and streamlined process, the U.S. will continue to rely on critical minerals sourced from overseas. These include countries that pose national security risks or those that lack basic environmental and human rights protections. The choice should be clear: producing American resources here at home creates jobs, promotes innovation, increases energy security, and leads to better global environmental outcomes.

Yet, the U.S. struggles to permit projects to unlock these critical minerals. Recent data from Goldman Sachs shows that regulatory approvals for mines have fallen to the lowest level in a decade. This should be the exact opposite because of the substantial demand growth for electric vehicles and other renewable applications. While the Administration has announced awardee selections with a combined total of nearly $5 billion for critical minerals demonstration projects funded by the IIJA or through the Loan Programs Office, there remains one glaring omission in the critical minerals supply chain: only one of these selected projects address our inability to extract new materials domestically.

The House has rightly put permitting reform front and center this year, passing with bipartisan support its signature energy package, the Lower Energy Costs Act, as H.R.1. Provisions in the bill recognize the current system undercuts America’s ability to deploy domestically abundant resources and compete on the world stage. There is real opportunity for this Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to modernize the permitting process and solve this problem.


Conclusion

Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. ClearPath is eager to assist the Committee in developing innovative policy solutions to ensure a robust domestic energy supply chain in order to ensure a clean, reliable, and affordable domestic energy sector.

We applaud the Committee for taking on this important task to help ensure U.S. leadership of these efforts, including target investments and permit reform here at home that advance innovative technologies to provide clean, reliable, and necessary energy to our nation and the world.

Administration's Action Has Impact on American Energy Independence

House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Below is my testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, entitled "The Biden Administration’s Executive Overreach and its Impact on American Energy Independence" on May 11, 2023.

Watch Jeremy’s Opening Remarks
Read Jeremy’s Full Testimony as Seen Below

Good afternoon Chairman Gosar, Ranking Member Stansbury and members of the Committee. My name is Jeremy Harrell, and I am the Chief Strategy Officer of ClearPath, a 501(c)(3) organization that develops and advances policies that accelerate innovations to reduce and remove global energy emissions.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for holding this important hearing. America’s energy demands are rapidly increasing. Some estimates say the U.S. will need to double the capacity of the grid by 2050 to meet expected clean energy demand. To support that grid modernization and U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, America will simultaneously need to construct tens of thousands of miles of new pipelines carrying natural gas, hydrogen, and captured carbon dioxide from power plants and industrial facilities.

Financing and building enough energy infrastructure projects to meet our nation’s need for reliable, affordable cleaner energy is an immense challenge. Recent projections show that 1,300 gigawatts of new clean energy would need to be added by 2035. This would more than double the grid’s current capacity within the next 12 years. But under the current regulatory environment, this pace of deployment is procedurally impossible.

Never has the phrase “time is money” been more appropriate. Regulatory delays that can last nearly a decade are making projects more expensive, and impeding the U.S.’ ability to deploy billions of dollars of capital that would create American jobs, enhance U.S. energy security, keep consumer costs affordable, and reduce emissions.

The Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) own data shows that on average it takes agencies 4.5 years to issue a Record of Decision for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). But the average belies the real challenge. In reality, 10 percent of projects took 10 years or more to reach a Record of Decision. The projects most likely to be held up in permitting purgatory are those that have the potential to offer the greatest benefits to the United States, including reduced energy costs, enhanced energy independence, increased economic opportunity, and lower global emissions.

The current system is broken. The structures in place are overwhelmingly titled toward those who seek to delay or block projects as opposed to those who seek to build. While that dynamic may have made sense four decades ago when policymakers enacted these laws as a response to environmental disasters, today, those laws are being used to block projects that will reduce emissions and improve environmental quality. We need a system that promotes good outcomes – both economic and environmental. The pace and scale necessary to build clean energy infrastructure projects to reliably meet America’s energy demand and reduce emissions is not something the authors of the 1970s environmental laws could have imagined.

The energy infrastructure we need today is simply not getting built fast enough, and throwing federal money at the projects or the agencies reviewing them is not going to substantially change that problem. The combination of permitting delays and “ping-ponged” decisions from Administrations past and present have disrupted the U.S. ability to build to fulfill needs. As a result, it can now take six years to permit carbon dioxide storage locations needed to store billions of tons captured from industrial sites, 16 years to permit an offshore wind farm in Massachusetts, and up to 15 years for a new transmission line from Wyoming to Utah.,, Another important example is the need for timely approval of a new LNG terminal as well as any necessary interstate natural gas pipelines to supply these new terminals. These are just a few of the hundreds of projects held up by the status quo of the current system.

Fortunately, fixing this outdated, broken system is at the top of the agenda this Congress. This Committee has rightly put permitting reform front and center this year, passing with bipartisan support its signature energy package, the Lower Energy Costs Act, as H.R.1.

This bill addresses bottlenecks that make the current system a quagmire: unnecessary duplication, a morass of reviews across multiple agencies, and superfluous legal action. Solving these challenges will reduce emissions, increase production and boost U.S. energy security, all while providing safety and environmental protection for local communities.

Project developers are ready to build today. There is real opportunity for this Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to modernize the permitting process. The important thing is policymakers keep an eye on the prize. Senate action cannot simply water down H.R.1 into something milquetoast that fails to fundamentally change the current regulatory regime.

This is underscored by recent proposals released this month, as leaders in the key Senate committees on both sides of the aisle have put forward their own proposals, including many concepts that match themes included in H.R.1.

As the permitting reform effort continues in both the U.S. House and Senate, I will highlight three key solutions that have been identified by project developers, former federal officials, academics and environmental non-governmental organizations.

  1. Restore predictability to the system;
  2. Provide more streamlined litigation; and
  3. Improve coordination between and among federal, state and local governments.

American entrepreneurs have the wind at their backs to deploy more energy projects now. Congress has come together in a bipartisan manner, with bills like the CHIPS and Science Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), to bring new technologies to the market and invest in American supply chains. 2022 saw record industry investment in energy, with the largest boost in recent years coming from the power sector.

But again, simply spending more money on new projects will not necessarily make them a reality. Without meaningful permitting reform, there is a real risk that these major investments in technologies that the globe needs, such as carbon capture, advanced nuclear, and geothermal will go unrealized. And the U.S. will miss out on an opportunity to lead a global energy transformation.

While these challenges are numerous, Republican and Democratic policymakers have never been more closely aligned on the need for significant permitting reform. Whether the motivation is climate, economic growth, more energy production, or energy supply chain security, it is well-past time to fix what is broken, as America’s energy, environmental, and economic future depends on sweeping reform.


Restore Predictability to the System

Reform must flip the permitting paradigm from one that favors stopping a project to one that expedites the approval process for projects that bring net benefits and comply with the legal requirements meant to ensure clean water and clean air. This approach would rely on a three-pronged approach that automatically advances projects with significant net benefits, focuses environmental and permit review on uniquely local conditions of a project on an accelerated timeline review, and keeps the relevant agencies within the boundaries of the laws Congress has enacted. Many of these concepts were included in H.R.1, and it is important a final bill doubles down on the concept and maximizes their impact.

First, projects that do not have an environmental impact should be granted immediate approval. For example, replacing a retiring power plant with a zero-emissions advanced nuclear generator at an existing site or building a solar project on a brownfield site should not require a yearslong permitting process. Advancing these types of projects without delay is a win-win. The economic and environmental benefits of these projects should not be delayed by unnecessary bureaucracy.

There should be criteria to prequalify technologies that are proven to have minimal environmental impacts and immense positive outcomes – similar to “permit-by-rule” concepts some states have implemented. In other words, there should be a presumption of project approval so long as the specifics of a project satisfy certain predefined criteria. In many cases, this would alleviate the requirement to do unnecessary boilerplate re-analysis.

One starting point could be to automatically advance projects that have nationally significant outcomes, like enhancing resilience of the grid or a significant reduction of global emissions, where the environmental impacts of development are well known. For example, a carbon capture retrofit of an existing facility, the modernization of a grid substation, or powering of a non-powered dam. H.R.1 took a similar tack for energy storage projects at existing facilities and maintenance or upgrades to existing transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Similarly, designating a list of prequalified geographic areas to encourage project sponsors to seek out specific locations, would go a long way towards accelerating projects with the lowest impact. Such areas could include previously disturbed locations or well categorized sites, such as brownfield sites that present opportunities to use existing electrical or mechanical infrastructure or former military bases. The environmental impacts to these locations related to energy deployment are minimal, and in many cases these locations are in or near communities that need the redevelopment most urgently. Congress could also consider regulatory incentives to direct investment toward areas where impacts are already well understood.

Another opportunity could be to pair existing financial incentives, such as the “Opportunity Zones” or “Energy Communities” classifications established by Congress, with a streamlined permitting process to further boost investment. Both Opportunity Zones and Energy Communities were established by Congress to drive investment in distressed areas and communities that would benefit the most from new energy investments. Matching financial incentives with regulatory certainty will create a clear signal to project developers during the site selection process. Coordinated incentives like these can help drive investment to previously underserved areas and ensure the benefits of clean energy reach these communities without unnecessary delays.

Some of the most egregious problems of our broken system would be solved by this type of reform. For example, nonsensical approaches to geothermal exploration inhibit our ability of scaling baseload clean energy at scale. The Department of Energy estimates that geothermal generation could double by 2035 if our immense potential was unleashed. But concurrently, the Department found that “because additional steps and NEPA analyses are required, confirming the resource is more costly and risky,” translating to permitting timelines of 5–7-years, rather than a 1–3 year period that would otherwise be available with a categorical exclusion.

Geothermal energy uses similar technology as oil and gas exploration and drilling activities. When oil and gas uses this technology, these resource confirmation (e.g. exploration) activities benefit from statutory authority enacted by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that expedites five types of development activities. However, when the same mechanisms are used to confirm a geothermal energy resource, the expedited pathway does not apply. As a result, two very similar methods to test for resource feasibility must undergo substantially different permitting reviews despite both having negligible environmental impact. The Bureau of Land Management has the authority to administratively grant this same expedited pathway for geothermal energy resources, yet has wrung its hands for years rather than simply updating its regulatory guidance. This system is clearly broken.

Further, departments should proactively consult with other agencies to identify existing NEPA categorical exclusions available to accelerate development of energy infrastructure projects. DOE’s recent Request for Information (RFI) to adopt new Categorical Exclusions is a model that should be replicated across other federal agencies.

Second, reform must streamline the approval process for projects where there are unique environmental impacts. In these cases, the review process could focus specifically on issues of the highest impact, resulting in more efficient timelines that still ensure compliance with existing environmental laws.

There are several provisions that have earned broad bipartisan support, including applying the “One Federal Decision” framework to energy projects. Similar support exists to reuse existing environmental review documents when a project will have substantially similar impacts as one previously studied. These provisions are both included in H.R.1 and other proposals that have been recently made public. Those principles should be expanded upon.

One immense opportunity that could be fostered by reforms like this is in new nuclear technologies. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has publicly stated it anticipates at least 13 applications for advanced reactors by 2027, technologies that could bring safe, flexible, and reliable clean energy to our energy system. Decades of operation have shown that nuclear energy has a minimal environmental impact. Future designs hold the same promise.

Since the dawn of the nuclear age in the 1950s, nuclear reactors have been supplying Americans with clean, reliable, and affordable energy. On a bipartisan basis in the 115th, 116th, and 117th Congresses, legislation has been passed that strengthens the U.S. nuclear industry. However, except for the Vogtle Unit 3 reactor that recently came online in Georgia, the vast majority of nuclear plants in the United States were constructed over 40 years ago.

That is changing today. The advanced reactor market is at an inflection point. Investors and potential end-users are closely watching first-of-a-kind utility-scale projects eyeing the late 2020s and early 2030s for commercial operation. American electric utilities are projecting a need for 90 GW of new nuclear power by 2050, nearly doubling our nuclear energy capacity in the next 30 years. Simplifying the permitting for projects like TerraPower’s flagship project in Kemmerer, Wyoming, which is leveraging the infrastructure at a retiring coal plant, is a no brainer. A nuclear facility is different from a coal-fired power plant, but many of the environmental factors that must be considered are similar. Additionally, many advanced reactors are looking to develop alongside industrial facilities or existing nuclear sites, where previous environmental analysis and community engagement has been extensive. A rational permitting system would leverage that work to accelerate exciting projects, not force needless duplication.

Third, federal action can no longer vacillate according to political whims, particularly when the Congress has acted. Given long development timelines needed to bring a project from financing to construction, project developers need to be able to rely on regulatory certainty from one Administration to the next. This need is perhaps most acute for projects that seek to unlock critical minerals.

While the Administration has announced award selections worth a combined total of nearly $5 billion for critical minerals demonstration projects funded by the bipartisan infrastructure bill and other new programs, there remains one glaring omission in the critical minerals supply chain: none of these selected projects addresses our inability to extract new materials domestically. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that demand for energy-related minerals like lithium, cobalt, graphite, and nickel could grow by 20-40 times by 2040. The U.S. will not be able to recycle its way out of this demand for critical minerals.

It is difficult to overstate the U.S. dependence on foreign supply chains, including reliance on China. According to the 2023 U.S. Geological Survey’s Mineral Commodities Summary, the U.S. was 100 percent net import reliant for 12 of the 50 individually listed critical minerals and was more than 50 percent net import reliant for an additional 31 critical mineral commodities. Meanwhile, China was the leading producing nation for 30 of the 50 critical minerals. Regardless of where the minerals are mined, China exerts dominant control over the refining process for many of these critical minerals. Rising demand for minerals will place major stress on global supply chains and undermine the ability of the U.S. to deploy more clean energy.

One of the most prominent examples of America’s inability to permit mines is Resolution Copper, which Congress explicitly authorized when the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act was enacted into law with the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (P.L. 113-291). Once approved, the proposed mine is expected to become the largest copper mine in North America, capable of producing up to 25 percent of U.S. copper demand each year. The proposal received a final EIS in January 2021, only to have it unpublished by the Biden Administration two months later. The Administration is explicitly subverting Congressional intent with this project. These unnecessary delays precede a decade of construction before operations can begin, bringing the project timeline to at least two full decades from its inception.

This back and forth regulatory review is far too common. The Resolution Copper Mine is just one of many examples. And the regulatory overreach deters investors, increases capital costs, and delays the energy security benefits of developing a robust domestic supply chain for clean energy and related infrastructure.

Absent a clear, predictable, and streamlined process, America will continue to rely on critical minerals sourced from overseas, including from countries that pose national security risks or those that lack basic environmental and human rights protections. The choice should be clear: producing American resources here at home creates jobs, promotes innovation, increases energy security, and leads to better global environmental outcomes.


Provide more streamlined litigation

Once a project is approved, any further adjudications should be addressed as expeditiously as possible to ensure that protracted litigation does not undermine project viability. Judicial review is the biggest wildcard in the current permitting system, and H.R.1 appropriately recognized it as an area that could have the most meaningful impact towards efficient project deliverability. Establishing requirements where any legal disputes must be resolved in less than one year would meaningfully address this uncertainty.

In the spirit of the current system rewarding those who seek to delay rather than those who seek to build, litigation under NEPA has become the favored tool of those who seek to indefinitely delay projects through procedural lawsuits. Such prominent examples include the saga of the proposed Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, where protracted litigation, including more than 20 administrative and judicial challenges to both federal and state reviews, ultimately led utilities to cancel power purchase agreements, effectively killing the project. While no single suit ever specifically terminated the project, the purposeful delay tactics requiring evermore environmental analysis ultimately led investors to pull the plug. This same playbook is now being used to protest the approval for the Vineyard Wind project, despite new state laws that mandate utilities to procure offshore wind energy.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) is another prime example in which legal uncertainty contributed to an untenable business environment leading project developers to cancel the project and take a loss. ACP was intended to bring natural gas access to residential, commercial, defense, and industrial customers in Virginia and North Carolina, but legal challenges to federal and state permits contributed to more than three years of delays and increased project costs from $8 billion from an original estimate of $5 billion.

Additionally ,the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia has also attracted extensive Congressional attention because of similar uncertainty. No doubt, the expected build out of gas, hydrogen, and CO2 pipelines needed to meet our future system demands requires a more predictable process for the private sector to deliver on these projects.

As more clean energy projects enter the permitting process, clean energy projects will increasingly find themselves subject to these delay tactics. Such actions too often delay significant economic and environmental benefits, like new clean energy generation from that wind farm or the net reduction in global emissions from the use of lower emissions U.S. gas relative to dirtier Russian supplies in Europe. These increases in emissions or environmental harm are the very outcomes that NEPA was enacted to avoid and prevent.

Any changes to judicial review must balance a plaintiff's right to have his or her day in court with the goal of reaching finality on a more predictable timeline. One such proposal would be to immediately elevate any legal challenge under NEPA to the federal appellate court where the project is to be constructed or alternatively the DC Circuit. This would be similar to the process already used to challenge agency decisions, including those made by FERC.


Improve Coordination with State and Local Governments

Finally, it is important to recognize and address, to the maximum extent practicable, challenging permitting projects at the state and local level – without trampling on federalism.

An example of an unpredictable regulatory environment is the prolonged delay to review and approve permits for Class VI underground injection control wells needed to permanently sequester carbon dioxide. Class VI wells are a necessary part of the carbon capture equation of preventing more emissions and are the only authorized method permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to sequester carbon dioxide in permanent geologic storage.

While many states have long held primary enforcement authority for other well classes, only North Dakota and Wyoming have received primacy for this newest well class established in 2010. Congress rightly included provisions in the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act and the IIJA directing the EPA to support states applying for Class VI primacy and to actively improve the Class VI permitting review process.

The advantages of state primacy for Class VI wells are readily apparent in North Dakota. Whereas the EPA has taken an average of three years to permit Class VI wells, it took North Dakota only five months. The EPA currently has more than 70 pending applications across eight states awaiting regulatory approval.

This backlog is a prime example of where this Administration is working against its own priorities. The Department of Energy is investing billions of dollars to deploy new carbon capture technologies now, while the EPA muddles through reviews of storage sites at a palatial pace and the Department of the Interior stands in the way of related infrastructure projects across regions prime for commercial scale up.

The most egregious example may be in Louisiana. After years of delay, the Administration finally issued the draft rule necessary to approve Louisiana’s request for Class VI primacy earlier this month. This initiates a 60-day comment period and a subsequent EPA response period that historically can take upwards of a year for a state to be granted final authority. Once final, the decision is likely to have an immediate impact as 10 of the current outstanding Class VI permits are located in the state, which could unlock up to 6 million tons of carbon dioxide per year in Louisiana alone. If Republican and Democratic policy makers did not lean into the federal agencies in recent oversight hearings, this rule would likely still be stuck in the bureaucracy.

It is clear that the time to transfer Class VI authority should be improved for the other states looking to obtain primacy such as Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas, and West Virginia, which are preparing applications for Class VI primacy. To date, primacy is the number one tool to get these projects permitted quickly, while preserving the safety of local communities. Additionally, this would allow federal agencies to focus their energies on permits in states not-yet equipped to take on permitting primacy or accelerate review of storage opportunities on federal lands or the Outer Continental Shelf, which have immense potential to contribute to our long-term energy future.

Similar barriers exist for proposed transmission lines that can better connect both new and existing generation assets to load as timelines to get new transmission projects developed now routinely stretch to over a decade.

One example is the SunZia line, designed to move power from New Mexico to California. The 550 mile line required cooperation from 10 federal agencies, 5 state agencies, and 9 local authorities while incorporating input from a host of additional state, local, and federal stakeholders. Projected to come online in 2025, the 3.5 GW project, which would provide power for millions of customers, will have taken over 17 years from proposal to completion. These timelines, complicated by the intersection of different requirements from federal, state, tribal, and local regulators, impede the ability of new projects to interconnect to the grid.

According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, there are 2000 GW of electricity and storage waiting in the interconnection queue to be connected to the grid. While not all of these projects will be built, this figure is nearly double the current system capacity as it exists today. This backlog is especially relevant as hundreds of gigawatts of clean energy projects spend years stuck in the interconnection process, awaiting evaluation by transmission providers to determine their impact on the broader system. An average completion rate of 21% and queue wait time of 4 years makes meeting any target for a reliable and affordable clean energy system infeasible. It is also important to note that analysis recently conducted by the regional transmission organization (RTO) PJM estimates that 40 GW of baseload generation, more than 21 percent of current installed capacity, is at risk of retirement by 2030 without reliable generation lined up to replace it and keep up with demand growth.

While there is no silver bullet to rapidly and reliably modernize the grid, a combination of process improvements, permitting reforms, and technological innovation will help avoid clean energy deployment from hitting a wall.


Conclusion

The current permitting system stymies clean energy resources and broadly delays the highest impact projects from delivering benefits. It is imperative that Congress address both aspects of the permitting process to maximize public and private sector investments and put steel in the ground. These pillars of pre-qualification to expedite review, more streamlined litigation, and improved coordination with state and local governments are priorities that merit consideration as the process to reach a permitting deal moves forward.

These reforms are ambitious by design as half measures have failed to move the needle for more than two decades. Anything less will only prolong the inability of the U.S. to build big things.

We look forward to working with this Committee to both further legislative action on regulatory reform and to reign in Executive Branch overreach. I look forward to today’s discussion.

Geothermal Gains Ground With Reliable Clean Energy Demands

The searing heat waves in California this summer made reliable electricity top of mind for everyone. Coupled with increasing clean electricity demand, we are seeing western states turning to renewable geothermal energy for new electric capacity.

Geothermal provides emissions-free heat and power with the highest capacity factor of any renewable energy source. It also has a small land footprint, which is an increasingly valuable trait as large-scale renewable energy siting runs into headwinds. States, utilities, and investors are all beginning to realize that geothermal is a no-brainer – all that’s left is getting the regulations in order.


Geothermal is a Winner for Clean Reliability

With that in mind, it’s unsurprising that California has called for 1,000 MW of non-weather-dependent clean power by 2026, almost all of which will be geothermal energy. Since the start of the year, five American companies and utilities have signed long-term power purchase agreements with various geothermal companies, including Ormat, Fervo Energy, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, and Controlled Thermal Resources. These new power contracts, totaling 450 MW, make up more than four times the total geothermal capacity contracted nationwide in 2021.

400% Increase in Geothermal Capacity Contracts in First Half of 2022

Elsewhere in the west, the Western Governors Association (WGA) has made geothermal energy its signature initiative for 2023. Led by WGA chairman Governor Polis of Colorado, WGA will work to support permitting and land use improvements, workforce development, and resource assessments to accelerate geothermal development.


A Winner with Investors

Money is beginning to pour in from investors and prospectors too.

In the last month two geothermal startup companies — Fervo Energy and Zanskar — raised $138 million and $12 million, respectively, from a variety of venture capital firms. Both Fervo and Zanskar’s business strategies demonstrate that there is significant untapped potential in geothermal development. Fervo focuses on applying cutting edge subsurface techniques from the oil and gas industry to greatly improve the affordability of geothermal. Meanwhile Zanskar is a newer startup focused on improving the fidelity of geothermal resource assessments in order to lower the risk of geothermal developments.


A Winner for Land Use

Meanwhile, geothermal prospectors are clamoring for access to prime federal land. 90% of known geothermal resources are located in the western U.S., and most of those are on federal land available for lease from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The most recent lease sale concluded on August 30th. The auction set a new record of 192,000 acres of land leased from 22 total bidders raising nearly $3 million in revenue. – nearly twice as much acreage as the previous record from 2019.

Geothermal energy is one of the least land intensive electricity sources available, second only to nuclear energy. Geothermal has five times as much electricity generation per acre than solar, and 10 times as much as onshore wind. Over time these land use benefits will become an increasingly important benefit for geothermal, as land use concerns for other renewable energy resources have grown.


Today, A Loser For Quick Permitting

The greatest challenge preventing geothermal from reaching its full potential is its development limitations on federal land. 90% of geothermal potential in the U.S. using today’s technology is on public lands managed by BLM. Any geothermal energy exploration or development on BLM land must go through a comprehensive environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA Delays Lead to a 7-10 Year Timeline on Federal Land

Research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that each final geothermal well on public land ends up invoking NEPA up to six times (with each EA taking 10 months), resulting in an average development timeline of eight years. Timelines on public lands have been further constrained by the lack of a centralized permitting office at BLM, leading to duplicative environmental and regulatory assessments among local offices.

Oil and gas development on public lands does not face the same development challenges as geothermal because a variety of Department of the Interior Categorical Exclusions (CX) to NEPA were passed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Extending these CXs to geothermal will reduce the amount of exploration required and will greatly decrease the timeline and financial risk of geothermal development.


New Research Demonstrates Geothermal’s Clean Energy Value

It’s becoming clearer that geothermal’s high reliability and flexibility can provide value in a net-zero electricity system. A recent research paper from Princeton University analyzed the role of geothermal reservoirs as potential energy storage technologies in a clean energy system. They found that geothermal systems can effectively be operated as thermal batteries, increasing output during peak hours and saving up heat during times that other clean sources are generating. The paper found that this flexible operation could increase the value of geothermal energy by up to 60%.

Other new research from NREL contemplates the supply-side options for reaching 100% clean power by 2035. This is one of the first studies to fully contemplate the impact of significant R&D advancements in geothermal since 2019’s Geovision study. They found that under certain scenarios in which advanced drilling potential was achieved, the total deployment of geothermal could reach 300 gigawatts – 100x today’s capacity. The Department of Energy reinforced this finding by setting a new Enhanced Geothermal Earthshot, effectively a goal to cut the cost of geothermal 90% below 2020 levels by 2035.

Between private investment, public demonstrations, and ongoing research, it’s clear that geothermal’s time has come. It’s time for the federal government to get out of the way and let this clean, reliable energy source flourish. Geothermal NEPA treatment on federal land deserves parity with oil and gas development.

New Faces at Climate Week NYC 2022 — Oil & Gas Executives

This year at Climate Week NYC, ClearPath joined the American Petroleum Institute (API) to host a first-of-its-kind event. Instead of attacking the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, conversations highlighted how these industries are perhaps best suited to lead the energy transition at scale.

The event brought together top thought leaders, project developers, investors, and senior Department of Energy officials to discuss how technologies like carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), hydrogen deployment, direct air capture (DAC) are putting America on a clear path to global energy leadership and dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Providing these technologies with a larger climate platform and gathering the right people in a room to discuss implementing the largest low-carbon energy investment programs in U.S. history is something we need a lot more of.

Oil & Gas Companies Take a Leading Climate Role

Economic inflation, high gas and electricity prices, post-Covid global supply chain chaos, Russia‘s war in Ukraine, and China's effort to dominate markets have all combined to create an ongoing global energy crisis. At ClearPath, we want to tackle the big question — how do we address this crisis and restore American energy independence while working to solve the climate challenge?

You often hear us talk about moving beyond the false choices that have dominated climate discussions: renewables versus fossils, economy versus environment, 100% emissions reduction around the world versus inaction here at home. The truth is, no country, state, city or business will achieve climate goals AND increase supply AND see economic success unless all energy resources are on the table.

A new industrial revolution and clean energy transformation requires an enormous amount of collaboration. Renewables, critical minerals, nuclear energy, hydrogen and fossil fuels — none of these resources get developed or built by themselves in America. It takes private companies with development expertise partnering with institutions to provide access to capital, and both partnering with federal and state governments to allow them to actually put a shovel and some steel in the ground. If this clicks, America will have the technologies needed to make the global clean energy transition cheaper and faster. If it doesn’t, China or Russia will happily lead.

R&D Funding and Tax Incentives That Contributed to the Development of Shale Gas Extraction Technology

One of the greatest examples in America of both clean energy innovation and public private partnership came from the oil and gas industry. In the 1980s, Texas entrepreneur George Mitchell figured out how to break up shale rocks to release the natural gas stuck inside. This process, called hydraulic fracturing, initially got off the ground with support from the Department of Energy (DOE), which cost-shared R&D and demonstrations in the 1980s and 90s and tax credits from the 80s to early 2000s.

Combined-cycle natural gas turbines now produce 24/7 reliable, affordable power. That early stage investment and production tax credit, together valued at more than $10 billion, expired as the technology matured. Now we have a $100 billion annual shale gas market in America, and 20 percent lower emissions in the U.S. between 2005-2020. Those are the win-wins we need across our energy portfolio.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage and direct air capture are two breakthrough technologies that could further reduce the emissions profile of American-produced natural gas. Given the projected increase in global demand, American-produced natural gas will facilitate lower emissions and improve global energy security.

Clean hydrogen produced from renewables, fossil energy with CCUS, or nuclear energy can also greatly reduce emissions in the industrial, transportation, and power sectors. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) agrees, with low-carbon scenarios all including a significant role for CCUS, hydrogen and DAC. At Climate Week, we heard from companies like Shell, Chevron, Enbridge, Bloom Energy, Climeworks, Baker Hughes, Global Thermostat, and others who are pursuing these clean technologies.

The U.S. has both a cost and energy security advantage relative to our Russian, Middle Eastern, and other global competitors when exporting hydrogen produced from natural gas with a high rate of carbon capture. This is due to abundant U.S. gas supplies and current policy, like the 45Q tax credit, which has no international equivalent.

To address these big opportunities, the Climate Week event featured remarks from top executives, DOE, and three panels:


Thanks to our speakers: Gretchen Watkins, President, Shell USA; Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary, Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management; Aaron Padilla, Vice President of Corporate Policy, API; Sasha Mackler, Executive Director of the Energy Program, Bipartisan Policy Center; Michelle George, Vice President of New Energy Technologies, Enbridge; Jeff Gustavson, President, Chevron New Energies; Sharelynn Moore, Chief Marketing Officer; Dr. Julio Friedmann, Chief Scientist, Carbon Direct; Andrew Fishbein, Senior Climate Policy Manager, Climeworks; Nigel Jenvey, Managing Partner for New Frontiers, Baker Hughes; Emily Chasan, Contributing Editor, Greenbiz; Robin Millican, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Breakthrough Energy; Scott Roose, Global Head of ESG Financing, Credit Suisse; and Dr. Gregory Thiel, Director of Technology, Energy Impact Partners.

Federal Climate Policies Leading To Clean Energy Project Development

In December 2020, Congress passed and President Trump signed the bipartisan Energy Act which modernizes and refocuses DOE’s research and development programs to scale up clean energy technologies.

The law empowered Congress and DOE to launch the most aggressive commercial scale technology demonstration program in U.S. history. Ultimately it established a massive goal of more than 20 full commercial scale demos by the mid-2020s.

In November 2021, Congress enacted the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which funded a wide-range of low-carbon energy demonstration programs, including CCUS, DAC, energy storage, geothermal, hydrogen, nuclear and industrial decarbonization solutions.

Now that Congress has allocated the funding, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is in the process of implementing the IIJA demonstration programs consistent with Congressional direction to maximize the impact of taxpayer resources and ensure that projects are not only selected, but implemented. Success is only possible with strong partnerships, open dialogue, and collaboration between project developers in the private sector and DOE.

Deploying these low-carbon energy technologies as fast as possible is critical for addressing the climate change challenge long term, and successful implementation will advance the shared goals of industry and policymakers: continuing the positive trend of U.S. emissions reduction. Importantly, it will also help transition many sectors of the U.S. economy to cleaner fuels and operations while leveraging the industry’s deep expertise and creating jobs.

There are many parts of our economy where we don’t yet have the cleaner, cost-effective alternatives available at scale needed to build the energy system of the future and help achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. The Energy Act of 2020 and IIJA funding paired with incentives will help America get there.

For example, between the $12 billion for CCUS programs, $8 billion for clean hydrogen hubs, $3.5 billion for DAC hubs, and the 45Q tax credit, new clean energy facilities will soon be established across the U.S.

If done correctly, this public-private partnership effort will be greater than anything we’ve seen in recent history. Not only will developers be able to grow the domestic supply of low-carbon energy and the industrial sector be able to decarbonize its operations, together we can advance the next generation of cleaner energy technologies that could solve both the near-term global energy and geopolitical crisis and the long-term climate change challenge.

ClearPath’s Clean Energy Innovation Academy Brings Congressional Staff to Illinois

Energy independence is American independence, and research, development, and deployment of American-made clean energy technologies are necessary for getting us there. The U.S. has an abundance of energy resources, and exciting opportunities lie ahead.

Americans are hard at work developing clean energy technologies here at home. Scientists and engineers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Laboratories as well as private energy companies are making strides in nuclear and other clean energy technologies.

Illinois, home to Argonne National Laboratory and Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station, was the perfect first stop for ClearPath’s Clean Energy Innovation Academy (CEIA). CEIA, launched in 2020, is an ongoing educational series for Congressional staff focused on conservative clean energy technology and policy. We were thrilled to bring a delegation of 10 Congressional staff to Illinois for this year’s CEIA educational trip to explore two exciting facilities accelerating research, development, and operation of American clean energy technologies. The delegation included staff who work for Members on the House Science, Space & Technology, House Energy and Commerce, House Ways and Means, Senate Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees as well as the Congressional Western Caucus.

These staff joined us to expand their understanding of innovations in the American clean energy industry that will make the global energy transition cheaper and faster. While in Chicago, we had a packed schedule of educational events, including these highlights:

Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station

Our first stop was Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station in Braceville, IL. Braidwood is a two unit 2,389 MW nuclear power plant owned and operated by Constellation Energy. The facility powers about two million homes and employs nearly 700 employees southwest of Chicago.

While there, the Congressional staff visited several parts of the plant to understand how the site’s twin reactors produce electricity. Highlights included the two turbine-generators converting the plants steam into electricity, the main control room at the heart of the plant, and the spent fuel pool which stores fuel after powering the reactor. Braidwood staff answered numerous questions on how the plant operated, inspections and maintenance, what different dials and switches do in the control room, and the different kinds of jobs at a nuclear plant.

Stations like Braidwood are America’s clean energy workhorses, producing zero carbon dioxide emissions as they operate. According to the 2021 report Clear Path to a Clean Energy Future, maintaining existing nuclear reactors is one of the cheapest ways to help meet utility commitments to reduce carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, a lot of development of nuclear technology – a crucial technology for reducing emissions – is done outside of the U.S. In fact, only 2 out of the 52 nuclear reactors currently under construction across the globe are American reactors. But thankfully, there is an exciting wave of next-generation reactors going through the design process today.


Argonne National Laboratory

The delegation also visited Argonne National Laboratory, America’s first national lab, established in 1946 as part of the Manhattan Project. Argonne is a multidisciplinary science and engineering lab with unique capabilities and world-class facilities.


Front Row L to R: Daniel Dziadon, Amanda Sollazzo, Emily Johnson, Greg Warren
Second Row: Parker Bennett, Kalyn Swihart, Hannah Anderson, Tommy Reynolds
Third Row: Ryan Mowrey, Jake Bornstein, Casey Kelly, Niko McMurray, Grant Cummings
Back Row: Luke Bolar, Alex Fitzsimmons, Ashley Higgins, Mike Davin

Photo Credit: Mark Lopez, Argonne National Laboratory

As part of the visit, the delegation toured the Materials Engineering Research Facility, which develops economically viable processes to enable private-sector commercialization of advanced materials for various purposes, including advanced energy storage. Staff also visited Argonne’s Leadership Computing Facility, home to some of the world’s fastest supercomputers, including the forthcoming exascale computing system, Aurora. Upon completion in 2030, Aurora will apply machine learning and other advanced computing techniques to enable deeper insights into scientific disciplines ranging from physics to materials science to clean energy technologies.

In addition, the delegation toured Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials and Advanced Photon Source, two of the lab’s world-class user facilities that partner with industry to push the boundaries of scientific discovery and technology commercialization.

Additional briefings were provided by Oklo Inc., an advanced nuclear reactor startup, and Antora Energy, a group working to electrify heavy industry with thermal energy storage for zero-carbon heat and power.

ClearPath looks forward to continuing its Clean Energy Innovation Academy in 2023.

To Escape China’s Supply Chain, Embrace a Diverse Clean Energy Portfolio (The Hill)

This op-ed was originally published by The Hill on June 10, 2022. Click here to read the entire piece.

COVID-19 and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine have demonstrated the fragility of global supply chains. While America’s industrial base has shown strong resilience, a more enduring threat to our clean energy supply chains continues to grow: dependence on materials and manufacturing controlled by the Chinese government.

On June 6, the Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act to accelerate the domestic manufacturing of solar panels and other technologies for which America is import-reliant. This builds on the administration’s goal, announced last year, for solar to supply 40 percent of U.S. electricity by 2035, up from 4 percent today.

While solar power certainly has a role to play, the U.S. should avoid overreliance on any one form of energy and instead embrace a diverse portfolio of affordable, reliable and clean energy technologies.

Conservative policymakers are advancing a comprehensive strategy to support a broad range of domestic energy sources. Last week, U.S. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), House Select Committee on Climate GOP leader Garret Graves (R-La.), and others from their Energy, Climate and Conservation (ECC) Task Force rolled out part one of a six-part plan to tackle the ongoing energy crisis and the global climate challenge.

The GOP task force pillars include policies to unlock America’s abundant energy resources, promote technological innovation and empower American entrepreneurs to build with a modernized permitting process — all of which are necessary to defeat China and Russia and restore U.S. energy dominance.

Click here to read the full article

ClearPath Leads Congressional Delegation to the Energy Capital of the World

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the innovation. That is exactly why Houston was the first stop on ClearPath’s American Energy Tour.

Houston is emerging as a leader in clean energy innovation, which should be no surprise given its status as the Energy Capital of the World. Horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and deep-water offshore technology all began or are centered in Houston. The Port of Houston is home to the largest petrochemical manufacturing complex in the Americas and petroleum and petroleum products are leading import and export commodities. The area also employs nearly one-third of the nation’s jobs in oil and gas, and is the headquarters for virtually every segment of the energy industry.

Given the energy expertise and experience in the area, Houston’s oil and gas and petrochemical industries are well-suited to lead the energy transition at scale. There are over 30 corporate research and development centers focused on energy technology and innovation in the city. In fact, Texas leads the country for wind capacity and is the location for the first commercial-scale carbon capture facility – which has been operating since 1972.


Left to right: ClearPath Founder Jay Faison, U.S. Reps. Burgess, Lesko, Babin, Weber, Curtis, Johnson, Miller, Pence, and Gosar

ClearPath was thrilled to lead a Congressional Delegation for an educational site visit to the heart of America’s energy industry. The delegation included:

These conservatives came to Houston to learn about the American industries and technologies working to make the global clean energy transition cheaper and faster so they can continue to lead on real solutions to advance bold, innovative, free-market policies that reduce emissions and create American jobs.
While in Houston, the delegation had a packed agenda full of educational activities. Here are a few highlights:

“It was great to be in Houston to visit the NET Power Carbon Capture pilot project, tour a proposed site of a carbon capture and storage hub on the Houston Ship Channel, and meet with industry leaders and stakeholders,” said Congresswoman Carol Miller (R-WV). “We all agree that investing in American energy innovation is vital to the growth and success of our country and world. I am pleased to collaborate with ClearPath on an all-of-the-above energy strategy that pursues innovative technologies like Carbon Capture and bolsters America’s traditional energy sources. Thank you for having me!”

“I am amazed by the leadership and innovation of U.S. companies in the development and deployment of new technology to reduce emissions,” said Congressman John Curtis (R-UT). "The work companies are doing to produce natural gas-generated electricity with zero emissions is critical to our energy future."

"The implementation of these technologies and other U.S. innovations around the world will result in significant global emission reductions while creating U.S. jobs and fostering US leadership and security.”

America is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, from fossil fuels to critical rare earth minerals. More importantly, we’re blessed with an American spirit and passion to innovate. With continued smart policy — such as the Energy Act of 2020 crafted by a bipartisan Congress — we can lead on mitigating the global climate challenge while regaining our place as the global energy leader.

Thanks to this delegation’s leadership, we are already tackling the global climate challenge through clean energy innovation. We look forward to continuing to partner with these Members to continue this exciting trend, while also making America resource independent and keeping energy affordable.

Tech Breakthroughs Electrify Power Sector Pledges

Over the past three years, more than 70 electric utilities, serving roughly 81 percent of American customers, have launched significant carbon emissions pledges. Concurrently, many have made clear in those pledges that they need firm, flexible clean energy. Thankfully, clean energy innovation and huge investment in sectors like nuclear energy, carbon capture, and geothermal is turning goals into reality.

The last year has been an exciting time for clean energy startups and technological innovation. BloombergNEF estimates that venture capital and private equity invested more than $57 billion in climate-related technologies. Corporate net-zero commitments were followed by more than $23 billion in corporate venture funds invested in businesses in the climate-technology sector. Deals were cut, MOUs were signed, and project partnerships were solidified that lay the foundation for an array of first-of-kind technology deployments eyeing mid-2020 operations.

Here are some of just a handful of power projects ClearPath is tracking.


Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage:

Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) technologies are essential to affordably reduce global carbon dioxide emissions. The United States leads the world in the development of CCUS, and the increase in private sector net-zero commitments plus Congress’ expansion of the 45Q tax incentive have driven dramatic growth in U.S. projects. 2021 was the largest single-year increase in the project pipeline, and the United States led the way with nearly half of the more than 70 new project announcements. Two major private sector milestones last year made us even more optimistic about the American CCUS future:


Advanced Nuclear:

You have heard a lot about the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), and the teams at TerraPower and X-energy hit some major milestones at the end of the year. TerraPower officially selected Kemmerer, WY for its first Natrium reactor, slated to be in service by 2028. X-energy completed the initial designs for its first-of-a-kind fuel fabrication facility capable of handling High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) in November, which will fuel its Xe-100 reactor to be built in Washington State. Smaller ARDP awardees have also announced new milestones, such as Kairos Power’s test reactor in Tennessee and Westinghouse’s recent award in Canada. But there is more than just the ARDP-supported projects. Venture funding for both nuclear fission and fusion startups spiked last year at $3.4 billion alone. There are a variety of other cutting-edge companies racing to commercialize. Two significant announcements occurred just last month:


Geothermal Energy:

Geothermal energy is a clean and reliable, renewable resource that has gained significant momentum in recent years. Since late 2019, nine new geothermal power purchase agreements (PPAs) have been signed and companies have nearly 60 active developing projects and prospects across nine U.S. states. Meanwhile, California’s recent order for 1,000MW of geothermal power to enhance grid reliability by 2026 could dramatically increase the scale of geothermal development. The advent of new drilling technologies, combined with the strong demand for firm clean electricity, positions next-generation technologies to further this boon:


Many of these projects have benefited from the numerous bipartisan clean energy policy wins enacted by Congress in recent years, like the 2018 clean energy incentive deal (which included the 45Q carbon capture and 45J advanced nuclear credit reforms) and the Energy Act of 2020. These are just a few of the exciting private sector developments from the past 12 months that we are excited to move forward with construction. Stay tuned as they move forward and pave the way for a low-emissions power grid that is reliable and affordable for Americans.

Energy Act of 2020 Could Reduce CO2 Emissions by 2500M Metric Tons

We need more clean energy technologies that can be ramped up affordably. And while some in Congress are pushing costly climate plans, we want a cleaner environment done the right way: with more innovation, not burdensome regulation or taxation. Despite the partisanship we are seeing today, Congress thankfully passed one of the biggest advancements in clean energy and climate policy in over a decade – the monumental Energy Act of 2020.

Tucked away in the 5,000 page end of 2020 omnibus was a wholly bipartisan, clean energy innovation roadmap.

Research, development and demonstration (RD&D) programs can have a tremendous benefit in reducing early stage technical risk for new technologies. This is particularly the case in the energy sector, where projects can be capital intensive and competition is fierce. The Department of Energy (DOE) has been a leader in accelerating the development of new technologies by investing in the development of breakthroughs like hydraulic fracturing, nuclear energy, solar and much more. The Energy Act of 2020, once implemented, has the potential to spur significant economic development, emissions reductions, and cost savings in the energy sector, largely through R&D and reduced taxes. Programs included in the Energy Act are expected to cumulatively reduce between 1,400 and 2,500 million metric tons of CO2 over the next 17 years. That’s why we call the Energy Act of 2020, signed by President Trump, the biggest climate bill in more than a decade.


What is the Energy Act of 2020?

The Energy Act was spearheaded by then-Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chairman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, as well as Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and then-Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It represents dozens of individual bills from many Members of both parties in both the House and Senate, and represents the hard work of multiple months of comprehensive negotiations between both sides of the three committees.

It modernizes and refocuses the DOE’s research and development programs on the most pressing technology challenges — scaling up clean energy technologies like advanced nuclear, long-duration energy storage, carbon capture, and enhanced geothermal. Crucially, across all of these technologies, DOE is now empowered to launch the most aggressive commercial scale technology demonstration program in U.S. history. The law ultimately establishes a moonshot of more than 20 full commercial scale demos by the mid-2020s.

Energy Act Commercial Demonstrations

In addition to these large five specific rewrites of policy, it contains significant reauthorizations for solar and wind, critical minerals, grid modernization, the DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions, and ARPA-E. Outside of DOE, the law included important tax credit extensions, for clean energy technologies like carbon capture and new offshore wind. One of the largest climate provisions authorizes regulations to phase out a greenhouse gas called hydrofluorocarbon in a cost effective and predictable manner.


Five Key Technologies Driving Costs and CO2 Emissions Down

Of course, the real impact of the Energy Act will only be realized once it is fully funded and implemented by appropriations. Once that happens, the impact is expected to be significant. Much of the funding required to implement the Energy Act is included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill pending before Congress.

The think tank Resources for the Future (RFF) recently published an analysis of the impact of the Energy Act for five advanced energy technologies if fully funded for 10 years. They interviewed 26 experts on the impacts of the Energy Act programs for advanced nuclear, energy storage, natural gas carbon capture, direct air capture, and geothermal technologies. They found that even for just these five technologies, the total benefit outweighs the cost of the federal funding, with the average societal benefit of EACH technology program to be $30 billion.

The benefits of investing in these clean energy research programs range from economic growth, reduced carbon emissions, reduced air pollution, and reduced electricity cost. RFF found that federal investment in these technologies would lead to significant follow-on R&D investment from the private sector as well as international support for these technologies.

Projected Effect of Legislation on RD&D Spending If Fully Funded for 10 Years, FY 2022– FY2031

RFF also found that the Energy Act funding would significantly reduce costs so the technologies can move from an uncompetitive cost to a competitive cost.

Estimated Average Cost Reductions in 2035 Due to 10-Year RD&D Funding

Developing cheaper clean energy technologies benefits emissions reductions as well. RFF found that 10 years of funding at the Energy Act levels for these technologies would reap significant emissions reductions over the next 17 years. They found that the total emissions reductions from these policies would represent between 142 to 1,029 million metric tons of cumulative CO2 abatement through 2038. Total deployment of these advanced energy technologies would range from 25 to 75 gigawatts of capacity.


Tax Credits and Bipartisan Regs in Energy Act Bring Big Returns

Elsewhere in the Energy Act of 2020 were other significant bipartisan emissions reduction policies. The law included a two-year extension for the 45Q carbon capture tax credit, which provides $35 per metric ton of carbon dioxide utilized in products or enhanced oil recovery, or $50 per ton of CO2 sequestered. The two-year extension in the Appropriations Act allows any project that commences construction by the end of 2025 to qualify, giving developers enough time to utilize the credit. This two-year extension of 45Q is expected to single-handedly result in an additional 53 to 113 million tons of capture capacity, which corresponds to an additional 342 million to 585 million tons of avoided carbon emissions over the next 15 years.

Another major climate policy passed in the 2021 Appropriations Act is a phaseout of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), common refrigerants that contribute heavily to climate change. Analysts have estimated that this policy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 900 million metric tons of CO2e over the next 15 years, which is more than an entire year of carbon emissions from Germany.

In total, this means just these portions of the Energy Act — the five advanced energy R&D programs, the 45Q tax credit, and the phaseout of HFCs — could collectively represent a reduction in carbon emissions of between 1,400 and 2,500 million metric tons of CO2e over the next 17 years all while reducing energy costs and creating economic growth. The full benefit of the law is likely much higher.