Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced a goal on Thursday to make geothermal power a “widespread renewable energy option.”
According to a press release from the Department of Energy, policymakers are pursuing the objective of making power from enhanced geothermal systems — which create power by forcing water through hot rock layers in the ground — as much as 90% less expensive by 2035.
“The United States has a vast, geothermal energy resource lying right beneath our feet, and this program will make it economical to bring that power to American households and businesses,” Granholm remarked. “DOE’s Enhanced Geothermal Shot will move geothermal technology from research and development to cost-effective commercial adoption, helping energy communities and workers transition to producing clean energy for the future.”
The current cost of geothermal energy is $0.45 per kilowatt hour, according to the press release. Meanwhile, the cost of coal power is $0.032 per kilowatt hour, according to an analysis from the Brookings Institution.
Last month, the Department of Energy announced $44 million in funding at the Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) field laboratory in Utah. The facility permits researchers to study subsurface fluid flow and rock types, which in turn provides information useful for optimizing tools and methods in geothermal environments.
“These new investments at FORGE, the flagship of our EGS research, can help us find the most innovative, cost-effective solutions and accelerate our work toward wide-scale geothermal deployment and support President Biden’s ambitious climate goals,” Granholm remarked. Geothermal resources currently produce 3.7 gigawatts of electricity in the United States — the amount necessary to power 2.8 million homes.
The Biden administration has previously set the goal of attaining 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 and achieving net-zero emissions across the economy by 2050. Accordingly, Democratic lawmakers have poured billions into renewable energy projects over the past two years — including a $369 billion allocation for climate initiatives in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Among other statutes, the legislation established a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of new electric vehicles. Earlier this year, Granholm argued that a transition away from gas-powered cars may help Americans experiencing high prices at the pump.
“The real truth is that as long as our nation remains overly reliant on oil and fossil fuels, we will feel these price shocks again,” Granholm said. “This is not going to be the last time. The next time there’s a war, the next time there’s a pandemic or another hurricane, these extreme weather events we are experiencing — they will impact the access that we have to fossil fuels.”
Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg signaled last week that he is “interested” in California’s gradual ban on new gas cars. “We’ve got to make sure that this happens quickly enough to help us beat climate change,” he said.
The rollback of gas cars, however, was unveiled days before California officials asked residents to avoid charging electric vehicles during peak hours in the interest of averting grid failure.
The White House has established the goal of procuring only 100% zero-emission light-duty vehicles by 2027 and will extend the same standard to all vehicles in the federal government’s fleet by 2035, according to a fact sheet. The Biden administration has also set the “ambitious target” of ensuring that electric cars constitute 50% of sales in the United States by 2030.