October 18, 2016

Followup on the Geothermal Technologies Office

The Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Office (Geothermal) accelerates the deployment of clean, domestic geothermal energy by supporting innovative technologies that reduce the cost and risks of deployment.  Formerly known as the Geothermal Technologies Program, Geothermal invests in research and development of innovative technologies and facilities’ demonstrations through the issuance of grants and cooperative agreements.  Since 2009, Geothermal has awarded approximately $368 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds, as well as over $297 million in regular appropriations to private industry, national laboratories, local governments, universities, and other entities.

Our report on The Department of Energy’s Geothermal Technologies Program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (OAS-RA-11-05, March 2011) identified weaknesses in project administration, including insufficient monitoring of awards.  The Department concurred with the findings and recommendations contained in the report and stated that it had implemented corrective actions to enhance the effectiveness of its oversight.  Because of the issues identified in our previous report and the significant amount of appropriations awarded since 2009, we initiated this review to determine whether the Department had met its goals and objectives and had effectively and efficiently managed Geothermal financial assistance awards.

Nothing material came to our attention to indicate that Geothermal’s management of its financial assistance awards was not generally effective.  However, our review found that Geothermal had not always obtained deliverables required of recipients in financial assistance award terms and conditions.  In particular, three of the four recipients included in our review had not submitted either a final report or technical data in accordance with the terms and conditions of their awards.  These issues occurred because Geothermal had not always managed the receipt of its recipients’ deliverables.

Without the technical information from crucial final deliverables and research data submissions, the Department cannot fully demonstrate performance has been achieved as expected, or if Geothermal objectives and goals have been met.  Further, valuable research and development supported with Federal funding is not being made publicly available to maximize the leveraging of Department investments.  As a result, taxpayer dollars may be wasted in the future to unknowingly duplicate research and development.

Topic: Management & Administration