Geothermal power, policy, and design: using levelized cost of energy and sensitivity analysis to target improved policy incentives for the U.S. geothermal market

Richard, Christopher
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University of Delaware
At the core of the geothermal industry is a need to identify how policy incentives can better be applied for optimal return. Literature from Bloomquist (1999), Doris et al. (2009), and McIlveen (2011) suggest that a more tailored approach to crafting geothermal policy is warranted. In this research the guiding theory is based on those suggestions and is structured to represent a policy analysis approach using analytical methods. The methods being used are focus on qualitative and quantitative results. To address the qualitative sections of this research an extensive review of contemporary literature is used to identify the frequency of use for specific barriers, and is followed upon with an industry survey to determine existing gaps. As a result there is support for certain barriers and justification for expanding those barriers found within the literature. This method of inquiry is an initial point for structuring modeling tools to further quantify the research results as part of the theoretical framework. Analytical modeling utilizes the levelized cost of energy as a foundation for comparative assessment of policy incentives. Model parameters use assumptions to draw conclusions from literature and survey results to reflect unique attributes held by geothermal power technologies. Further testing by policy option provides an opportunity to assess the sensitivity of each variable with respect to applied policy. Master limited partnerships, feed in tariffs, RD&D;, and categorical exclusions all result as viable options for mitigating specific barriers associated to developing geothermal power. The results show reductions of levelized cost based upon the model's exclusive parameters. These results are also compared to contemporary policy options highlighting the need for tailored policy, as discussed by Bloomquist (1999), Doris et al. (2009), and McIlveen (2011). It is the intent of this research to provide the reader with a descriptive understanding of the role of geothermal power in the United States, and to recognize that not all policy or energy technology is created equal. Further study options are provide to expand the scope and granularity of this research design to better support a growing market.