GEO focuses on advocacy, partnerships, public outreach, quality standards

WASHINGTON — The new Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) is a reincarnation of the former Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, a government/industry partnership that was primarily aimed at utility support for demand-side energy conservation programs during the 1990s, and seeks recognition for the renewable energy, efficiency and environmental benefits its members have to offer.

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

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

Geo-Enterprises President and CEO Phil Schoen commented, "By working together, we can secure new opportunities to help grow our industry."

A major GEO accomplishment was a 30% federal tax credit for residential geothermal heat pump installations, and a 10% break for commercial uses in the latest federal energy bill. Both credits will remain in force until 2016, and have helped the industry to survive and even thrive during the recession.

"GEO's government affairs and outreach strategies are more important than ever to knocking down barriers to growth of the geothermal heat pump industry," said Enertech Manufacturing President Steve Smith.

GEO works in the following areas of outreach to elected officials, government agencies and the public.

Advocacy: GEO's legislative and regulatory goals include qualification of geothermal heat pumps in pending renewable energy and climate legislation; development of model geothermal heat pump policy, legislation and regulations; support of government agencies and initiatives for geothermal heat pump research; accelerated installation of geothermal heat pump systems in government buildings; and coordination of grassroots advocacy for the geothermal heat pump industry by GEO members.

Partnerships: GEO actively seeks strategic alliances with allied organizations, institutions and agencies to pursue benefits for the industry, such as development of joint positions regarding federal and state legislation and regulations; collaboration with electric utilities to promote geothermal heat pump installation programs; work with the U.S. Department of Energy on design and installation standards, and methods for monitoring geothermal heat pump efficiency.

Public Outreach: GEO's public education efforts include GeoExchange branding and a public awareness campaign, including education of regulatory officials and legislators about the unique renewable energy advantages of geothermal heating and cooling, and the need for continued installation tax credits; organization of — and participation in — legislative renewable energy education events at the federal and state levels; encouragement of news media coverage about geothermal heat pumps and industry issues by publications, radio and television; presentations about geothermal heat pumps at venues beyond the industry, including conferences, trade shows, workshops and business meetings; and GEO's toll-free information consumer hotline, website, and online GeoExchange Directory.

Quality Standards: GEO actively works with the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association and other allied organizations to promote codes and standards for geothermal heat pump installation training, certification and accreditation. Current issues of importance to GEO include potential climate legislation and a nationwide Renewable Energy Standard.

"We want to make sure that geothermal heat pumps are recognized for the peak power use they can save by renewable heat exchange with the earth," said Gulf Power (Southern Co.) Marketing Manager Keith Swilley.

GEO is also actively seeking government and university partnerships for geothermal heat pump efficiency and standards research and development. GEO offers it members the opportunity to assist the association's efforts with a Grassroots Legislative Action Team and annual training on the most effective ways to educate elected and appointed officials.

A bimonthly e-mail newsletter keeps members informed about legislative issues and industry news, and periodic Action Alerts help members educate their local political representatives.

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

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

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