Utah Climate Week began with an upbeat report on how municipalities in the Beehive State are progressing toward their goal of procuring net-zero renewable energy by 2030. The details are still being worked out, but the overall objective is clear: with the help of Rocky Mountain Power, merge the buying power of more than a dozen communities to boost new renewable sources of energy that will help mitigate what they are using each year by 2030.
The goal, termed community renewable energy program, was put into motion in the year 2019 with the adoption of HB411, which established a pathway for municipalities within Rocky Mountain Power’s service region to join the plan. The 10-year strategy does not imply that renewable energy will eventually provide all of the community’s power. Instead, enough additional renewable energy will be incorporated into the greater grid to equal the output of every of the plan’s communities.
According to Christopher Thomas, who works as the Salt Lake City’s senior energy as well as climate program manager, the program is the “first of its sort” in the country. “We’ve never even seen anywhere where we have such a monopoly investor-owned utility that then collaborates with a set of towns to try to prefer a certain form of cleaner energy,” he added, adding that communities will need continuing backing from the Legislature for the program to take shape.
“It will be difficult,” he continued, “and I believe that is one of the grounds because we are doing so much outreach.” The 23 communities that voted to become qualified in 2019 range from Salt Lake City, the state capital, to Castle Valley, which is a small town north of Moab with a population of about 350 people. The communities stretch from the state’s southwest corner to its northernmost limits; however, the majority are along Wasatch Front.
They account for around 37% of Rocky Mountain Power’s electricity sales. According to Thomas, if the targets are accomplished, the initiative may increase the amount of solar energy linked to the utility’s grid in Utah.
Salt Lake City, Grand County, Summit County, Francis, Salt Lake County, Castle Valley, Millcreek, Moab, Park City, Alta, Cottonwood Heights, Hollladay, Kearns, Ogden, and Springdale are among the fifteen communities that have committed to participating.
Meanwhile, Bluffdale, West Jordan, Coalville, Kamas, Emigration Canyon Township, Oakley, Orem, and West Valley City are still eligible but must complete their applications. The plan is still in its early stages, so it’s unclear how it will affect utility bills, low-income communities, or even where renewable energy will come from.
“I am certain it will be inexpensive. And that’s because renewable energy is the most cost-effective new energy you can build,” Thomas added, emphasizing that, unlike gas or coal, renewable energy initiatives will be exempt from a carbon tax. This proposal is gathering steam among Senate Democrats.