Utah moves closer toward renewable energy goal
Salt Lake County, Utah this week became the eighth community in the state to commit to achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2030. The county’s council passed a resolution on Tuesday establishing a goal of powering the county with 100% renewable electricity by that year – one which requires local utility Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) to replace fossil fuel generation with renewable energy resources to meet the new commitment. In 2020, RMP will have to issue a filing at the Public Service Commission, conduct a year-long demand study, and begin the process of setting new electricity rates for participating customers.
Salt Lake City, Park City, Moab, Cottonwood Heights, Holladay, Oakley, and Summit County have already committed to achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2030, in compliance with HB411, the Community Renewable Energy Act. HB411, which was signed by the Governor earlier this year, protects municipalities and counties that commit to 100% renewable energy from the costs of continuing to operating RMP’s coal fleet past 2030. Per the legislation, the deadline for cities and counties to join the program is December 31, 2019.
According an article in USA Today, coal is now more expensive than other major electricity generation systems, while the cost of producing power at natural gas plants and with wind and solar has declined dramatically.
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Shireen Ghorbani introduced the resolution at the County Council today. "I’m proud that the Council took an important step today to demonstrate our commitment to clean energy and to give our residents the choice to be responsible stewards and to reverse the effects of climate change," said Ghorbani.
Lindsay Beebe of the Utah Sierra Club said HB411 is first-of-its-kind legislation that can be used as a blueprint in other states to encourage utilities to partner with communities to power themselves with 100% renewable energy.
The cost to Utah residents related to RMP’s coal fleet is expected to increase, after Oregon and Washington passed legislation to protect in-state electricity customers from paying for coal starting in 2030 and 2025, respectively. Following 2030, the burden of RMP’s coal fleet will disproportionately fall on customers in Utah who did not commit to 100% clean energy in accordance with HB411.