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Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap

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Since April 2012, the Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap (GRR) Team has been working with federal, state and local agencies to develop a working guide for agency, industry and policymaker use in an effort to understand regulatory processes and timelines and identify potential areas of concern. The project is sponsored by the DOE Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO).

The roadmapping initiative covers the eight western states, including California, Nevada, Hawai'i, Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Montana (shown in green on the map). The roadmap is being developed at the federal and state levels, allowing for future expansion to the local (county) level. Development of the roadmap for two additional states (Colorado and Texas) is underway for Fiscal Year 2013.

The Challenge

Geothermal industry stakeholders have identified the permitting process as one of the most significant barriers to geothermal power project development. Drilling exploration and development wells is expensive. A protracted time line has a critical impact on the development of geothermal resources, and often it’s not a single issue or bottleneck, but a combination of multiple or overlapping processes that impact a project.

In 2011, the DOE Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) convened a Blue Ribbon Panel of industry experts. This group identified the need for more improvements in geothermal regulation, and recommended that DOE work toward a goal of a streamlined permitting process.

The Objectives

The first objective is to develop a roadmap of the geothermal permitting process through the development of flow charts and associated content descriptions, and engaging stakeholders for review, input, and collaboration.

The second objective is to convene stakeholders to review the flowcharts, identifying potential issues, concerns, and overlaps in the current process, and then collectively to discuss and offer potential paths for improvements.

The end goal is to optimize and streamline the permitting process – which works toward the GTO goal of lowering geothermal risk and costs, a critical step in accelerating the development of additional geothermal power.

So, what is DOE’s role?... It is to facilitate the process to get all parties to the table. The Geothermal Regulatory Roadmapping initiative is an initial step in achieving that goal.

PART 1: Develop Regulatory Roadmap

The first part of this Regulatory Roadmapping project requires the development of an online set of documents (flowcharts, narratives, and links to supporting documents, websites and regulations) that outline the geothermal regulatory process at the state and federal levels.

The audience for these documents includes agencies and developers, as well as their subcontractors and attorneys, investors, policymakers, educators and all other interested parties.

  • Enhance transparency and understanding for all stakeholders involved in the permitting process
  • Facilitate communication between agencies
  • Save agencies time in explaining permitting process to industry and to its own personnel
  • Help in training new staff and in documenting procedures
  • Serve as a model for states that have yet to develop geothermal permitting regulations
  • Provide living documents for maintaining and communicating permitting processes, and for making forms and supporting information available.
  • Research permitting regulations to develop first draft of flowcharts and supporting written documents
  • Convene key permitting agency officials, industry personnel and stakeholders to review and comment on draft documents
  • Integrate comments and updates into regulatory roadmap documents

PART 2: Identify Regulatory Concerns

Read the Summary of Collected Concerns

In parallel with President Obama’s Executive Order to Improve Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects, DOE’s goals are to reduce the risk and cost for geothermal developers. The GRR Team has been holding workshops in each of the initial GRR project states to collect input on permitting concerns from agencies, industry, subcontractors, attorneys and other geothermal stakeholders. Meeting attendees have discussed these concerns and potential solutions at scheduled workshops. This information has been documented and was presented at a GRR Workshop in Reno, Nevada on October 2, where agency and industry personnel met to discuss potential next steps.

  • Decrease project risk by reducing delays and costs and eliminating uncertainties
  • Provide greater assurance to stakeholders that the project will conducted in a technically, environmentally, and socially responsible fashion
  • Assemble key agency representatives (at all levels) and stakeholders to identify concerns, issues, overlaps, differences in implementation, and difficulties in the permitting process
  • Engage with all stakeholders, including NGOs, in developing optimal solutions
  • Facilitate collaboration among agencies to overcome issues and to optimize the regulatory process

PART 3: Conduct Analyses

Based on the concerns identified in Part 2 above, the next step is to conduct analyses of best management practices and success stories for the concerns identified. Information and examples will be collected both within the geothermal industry, as well as those in other industries such as mining, oil and gas, and other renewable technologies. These analyses will serve as models for implementation of these practices throughout the geothermal permitting process. Examples include:
  • Central agency (aka Single Window) for project permitting (e.g. Hawaii/Alaska, BLM Pilot Offices)
  • Cost recovery/processing fees (aka fee schedule) (e.g. oil and gas, transmission)
  • Impacts of the implementation of categorical exclusions.
  • Present examples of implemented best practices in each category
  • Identify advantages and disadvantages of various suggested best practices in permitting
  • Outline example costs and procedures for implementation of best practice
  • For the NEPA analysis, collect and make publicly available data on completed geothermal and oil and gas NEPA analyses

The Roadmapping Team

The Geothermal Technologies Program has selected NREL analysts to lead the GRR Team in developing the geothermal regulatory roadmap and convening meetings of industry stakeholders. A number of subcontractors have been aiding in the efforts. For a complete list of GRR Team members and bios, see the GRR Team Bio sheet.

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What People Are Saying

Read more comments

"GRR is a much needed tool for navigating the geothermal regulatory environment. It will go a long way towards facilitating more geothermal energy development."

"Please get this website out to as many agencies as possible for them to link directly to your websites – it’s a great tool!"

Getting Started

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New to the Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap? Check out our "Getting Started" page for information on how to read and use the GRR, including a YouTube video presentation overview.

Roadmap Sections

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Browse or filter sections of the roadmap to view flowcharts, narratives, and lists of links and supporting documents. Note that the roadmap is currently under development and is being modified regularly.

GRR Project Blog

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The GRR Project Blog provides regular updates on project status, upcoming meetings and the latest posted roadmap documents. Check back weekly for updates, become a member, and sign up to get e-mail notifications of project activities, updates and upcoming meetings.


If you would like to attend a meeting, please with your RSVP. Both industry and agency representatives are welcome. Meeting times are all from 9AM to 4PM.

2012 Meetings

  • Federal #1: May 3rd (Golden, CO)
  • Federal #2: Jun 7th (Reno, NV)
  • Alaska: Aug 9th, Aug 21st (Anchorage)
  • California: Jun 14th, Jun 27th (Sacramento)
  • Hawai'i: Jul 26th, Aug 7th (Honolulu)
  • Idaho: Aug 23rd, Sep 4th (Boise)
  • Montana: Sep 20th (Helena)
  • Nevada: July 12th, July 24th (Reno)
  • Oregon: Sep 13th, Sept 25th (Portland)
  • Utah: Sheraton Sept 6th, Sept 18th (Salt Lake City)

2013 Meetings

  • Colorado: March 6th (Golden)
  • Quarterly Meeting: April 25
(Denver, CO; 10:45-12:15 MT)
  • Quarterly Meeting: June 26
(Reno, NV; 10:00 a.m. PST)
  • Texas: June 12th (Austin)

GRR Workshops at GRC

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The GRR project review and workshop at GRC was held Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Reno, Nevada. For more information, please see the workshop wiki page.

A 2013 GRR Project update will be held at the 2013 GRC Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.