Funding Mechanisms for Federal Geothermal Permitting

Kermit Witherbee, Katherine Young, Aaron Levine

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


The Department of Energy's (DOE) Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) initiated a Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap (GRR) in March 2012 to facilitate the development of utility-scale geothermal power. The GRR team conducted a series of workshops during the summer of 2012, which included key representatives from federal and state agencies, as well as industry and other stakeholders involved in the permitting and development of utility-scale geothermal projects. In many of the GRR meetings held with agencies, industry, and other stakeholders, a recurring issue was competing priorities for agency staff's time, which result in permit processing delays. Some agency personnel explained how only a percentage of their weekly or monthly time is allocated to geothermal due to geothermal budget allocations. Others described how their time allocation was determined by agency priorities, and not by specific geothermal budget allocations. In these cases, geothermal may not be a priority at all. One suggestion that was to increase geothermal permit fees or to develop some other mechanisms of cost recovery to fund additional geothermal positions or contractors to process permits more quickly. Because much of the geothermal resource available in the western U.S. is on federal lands, analysis of cost recovery programs could identify opportunities for additional funding mechanisms to support federal agency personnel and processing permits for geothermal projects. This paper discusses: • Federal agency revenues received for geothermal projects, including: (1) lease revenues, (2) fixed fees, and (3) cost recovery fees; and • Potential federal agency budget sources for processing geothermal applications, including: (1) cost-recovery fees for services rendered, (2) set-aside funds (such as those employed by EPAct2005), and (3) the appropriations process. This paper then analyzes the three budget sources as mechanisms for increasing funds available to federal agencies for processing geothermal permits and approvals. This paper concludes that both set-asides and cost-recovery fees for services rendered were effective ways of ensuring sufficient funding for processing geothermal authorizations on federally-managed public lands in a timely manner.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2013
EventGeothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting: A Global Resource, from Larderello to Las Vegas, GRC 2013 - Las Vegas, NV, United States
Duration: 29 Sep 20132 Oct 2013


ConferenceGeothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting: A Global Resource, from Larderello to Las Vegas, GRC 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLas Vegas, NV

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-6A20-73435


  • Cost recovery
  • Federal budget process
  • Geothermal lease revenues
  • Geothermal permitting
  • Processing fees
  • Set aside funds


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