Jeanine Vany, Eavor’s own Executive Vice President, says she “will shout from the rooftops,” in order to advocate for geothermal energy development. Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source that uses heat from the subsurface of the Earth. It can be used for commercial heating or cooling applications or to generate electricity, and offers a clean energy alternative to fossil fuels. “Geothermal is becoming more valuable because it can be baseload like oil and gas without the emissions,” says Vany. Despite geothermal being used to heat buildings since the late 1800s, it currently accounts for less than 0.2%% of the total electricity mix globally
There has been renewed interest in geothermal energy with big oil companies increasing their investments in renewable energy. Recently, bp Ventures and Chevron Technology Ventures were a part of a $40 million investment in Eavor Technologies. “It’s a signal, I think, to the market and to us, that what we’re doing is important and could be scaled and could be game-changing,” says Vany.
“The big oil and gas companies and the utilities that are looking into geothermal, are not as agile as start-ups are. They are looking for us to come up with new game-changing ideas. If they work, they’ll leverage off a small company like Eavor. I think it’s to the benefit of the whole industry to collaborate on things that can lift up the industry such as policy instruments, certain tax schemes, and a conducive regulatory regime.”
Vany suggests that “from an advocacy perspective, I think we as an industry need to look at all forms of geothermal technology, and not just advocate for your particular technology, which in our case is advanced geothermal systems (AGS). Just like there’s not just one oil and gas play that we rely on, there’s not going to be one geothermal play that we rely on. We have to be collaborative and support each other as a nascent industry.” She continues, “It’s that idea of growing the industry for the collective good of the industry and setting the conditions so when one of us has success the rest are lifted up alongside.
Vany acknowledges the normalcy of competitiveness in any industry and believes that the natural competition for land and resources will always be there. However, clamouring over grants isn’t effective for growing the industry. “It’s to lobby or collaborate as a cluster, with the groups who are divvying out those financial supports or creating those policies for the industry as a whole. Influencing the influencers requires all parties involved; the development companies, the technology companies and services/vendors to be advocating together.” Geothermal Rising has done a phenomenal job in the US, especially over the last several years.
“Policy that supports geothermal is going to support all geothermal technologies,” says Vany on the importance of collaboration in an effort to grow the industry. Higher-level policies can stimulate capital coming into geothermal through net-zero targets and enforceable renewable portfolio standards. Vany suggests, “If you have a renewable portfolio standard such as in California, and you’ve already implemented as much wind and solar that the grid can accommodate while still being able to supply your customers reliably, you have to find another way to reach your net-zero targets. You’re coming up against a ceiling of renewables that can be put on the grid, so you have to look for other technologies. That’s where geothermal comes in because it is complimentary with the other renewables and can supply baseload, green power.”
“I think it’s our job as technical people to share our unbiased technical viewpoints to educate policymakers. That’s where I think we come in. It’s not necessarily saying, ‘This should be the policy,’ but to educate them on the pros and cons of different decisions.”
Vany talks about the importance of retraining, or rather what she says should be called retooling. “Retraining is a bit of a misnomer, because a lot of the professionals have the training already. They need to apply their skills differently,” says Vany.
“They need to know how and where they can apply those skills, so we don’t have a brain-drain and they don’t leave the industry. When I joined geothermal five years ago, there were not a lot of places to go to train. You had to go to Geothermal Rising or the Stanford conference to learn and read the papers and take in the talks. And Geothermal Rising was really great for that, and I’ve always been a supporter of it.”
Vany suggests the retooling process is already underway, and we need to focus more on the cross-over mentality. “A lot of the good ideas that are in oil and gas are fit for purpose in geothermal. I think it’s just providing that pathway for people to envision where they pivot their careers to.” Vany says, “That’s why the capital investment and funding opportunities are crucial right now, the industry needs more people in academia and the private sector working on game-changing innovations to unlock this massive renewable energy source beneath our feet”.
Jeanine Vany has been nominated for Geothermal Rising’s Energy Advocate Board Seat. Association members, place your vote now on AssociationVoting.