New Western Governors Chair Jared Polis advances geothermal energy initiative


On June 30, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was elected as the new chair of the Western Governors Association (WGA), a group consisting of the governors of the 19 westernmost states in the U.S. For those who keep score, 11 of the current governors who comprise the WGA are Republicans and eight are Democrats.

On July 26, at WGA’s annual meeting, Gov. Polis announced “Heat Beneath Our Feet” as his 2023 WGA Chair initiative. Said Polis, “As the incoming Chair of the bipartisan Western Governors Association, I am excited to establish Heat Beneath Our Feet as my initiative because geothermal energy is an opportunity to save people money, boost local economies, and help us achieve 100% renewable energy in Colorado by 2040. I look forward to making progress towards clean, lower-cost power through the Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative and the strong bipartisan partnership of the WGA that will lead geothermal energy innovation.” 

From the annual meeting of the WGA, from left to right, ND Gov. Doug Burgum, U.S. Sec. of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, CO Gov. Jared Polis, WGA Executive Director James Oxsbury, WY Gov. Mark Gordon, ID Gov. Brad Little, HI Gov. David Ige, MT Gov. Greg Gianforte, AZ Gov. Doug Ducey, and U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

On the State of Colorado website, it says that, in addition to helping achieve our state’s goals in the area of renewable energy, “Geothermal energy provides new resources that will advance (Polis’) goal of… ensuring other states have that opportunity to develop renewable energy technology.” It explains, “Geothermal energy is a renewable resource that can generate electricity or provide heating and cooling for buildings and water. The U.S. possesses approximately 25% of the world’s installed geothermal energy capacity, and 95% of that is in the Western States. Bringing the WGA bipartisan leadership focus to exploration provides an opportunity for collaborative development.” 

Also contained on the State of Colorado’s website are statements of support for the initiative from leaders of major utilities. “Xcel Energy Colorado is excited about the Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative as geothermal electric generation and ground-source heating are both important advanced technology solutions to further decarbonize our system toward a net zero future. Geothermal technology solutions can provide the important emissions-free electricity we need when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining while supporting our customers’ heating needs and a robust energy grid. The coordinated technology advancement contemplated by the Heat Beneath Our Feet Initiative, working with our electric plans and Clean Heat Plans, is exactly what we need in the West to foster innovation and new technology,” said Robert Kenney, President Xcel Energy-Colorado.

This map shows the member states of the Western Governors’ Association, plus Alaska and Hawaii.

Duane Highley, CEO of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, said, “Tri-State applauds our Western Governors’ leadership in launching The Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative. Exploring and validating the West’s abundant geothermal resources advances the potential for much needed emissions-free dispatchable power at a time when conventional base load resources are retiring from service.”

Others who shared statements supporting Polis’ Heat Beneath Our Feet initiative include Dr. Amanda Kolker, Laboratory Program Manager for Geothermal at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Gary Arnold, Business Manager, Denver Pipefitters Local #208, and Morgan D. Bazilian, Ph.D. Director, Payne Institute, Colorado School of Mines. 

The Villager reached out to Jack Spina, WGA Communications Director, who told us, “People are really excited about Heat Beneath Our Feet, including representatives of multiple federal agencies. This is another tool to bring down energy costs in a sustainable way.