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Utah Legislative Interim Committee Begins Bill To Allow Renewable Energy Options

State representatives on the Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Interim Committee heard from local representatives and Rocky Mountain Power about efforts to provide municipalities with renewable energy options.

The meeting, held at the capitol building, addressed efforts to provide options for those communities interested in investing in renewable energy.

Local representatives and Rocky Mountain Power appealed to the committee to change regulations to allow the agreement to move forward. Park City Regional Environmental Sustainability Manager Luke Cartin explains.

“We can’t just go have an agreement between ourselves and the utility and have that march ahead.” Cartin continued, “We actually have to get that approved, and it’s such a large change that we don’t need it to only get approved by the regulators—which we still—we actually need to float this through the state legislature. So that is the key piece, that’s where we’re running forward to get a bill.”

Mayor Andy Beerman addressed the committee at the August 15th meeting. He said that reaching 100% renewable energy would be a big attraction for the IOC to bring the Olympics back to Utah in 2030.

“Also wanted to touch base on the Olympic benefits on this. This is something near and dear to Park City. In the past we hosted nearly 50% of the events in Park City. I am part of the committee that’s looking at bringing them back and we see this as a huge competitive advantage if we can get this in place.” Beerman explained, “If we are able to provide 100% renewable energy for our venues, we’re already in the process of electrifying our fleets. Park City has six electric busses, we have seven more on order and a few more behind that. We hope to shift over our entire fleet long before the Olympics would be here.  We think that’s a big attractor it fits in with the priorities of the International Olympic Committee and its something that we put in our report. We would appreciate the state’s help in moving us there quickly because we’d love to see those games come back.”

Mayor Beerman also recognized the potential for renewable energy to bring economic benefit for the entire state.

““Two years ago, I was having dinner with the mayor of Vernal and she was telling me her community lost 2,000 jobs. I think that’s a town of less than 10,000 people.” Beerman said, “It got us talking, wouldn’t it be nice if we could situate some of these solar farms in Vernal. Create a new industry and new opportunities for these communities that have lost jobs. That is part of Park Cities desire and we’ve been very vocal with Rocky Mountain Power and they’ve been receptive to that.”

Summit County Councilmember Glenn Wright also addressed the committee. He notes that constituents from all parts of Summit County have been requesting renewable energy.

“I’ve witnessed this demand for clean energy from our suburban, urban, and rural residents in Summit County. Through public hearings our council received overwhelming support for the 100% renewable goal.” Wright continued, “This includes support from both Deer Valley, and Vail Resorts the two largest employers and user of electrical energy in the county.”

In addition to solar and wind, Wright also mentions the potential for Biomass produced energy in the state.

“We’ve been dealing with massive and costly wildfires in Utah and the entire western U.S. A century of poor forest management has created tinderboxes of dead trees leading to massive growth of these fires. Summit County has been researching breakthroughs in waste energy generation that rely on municipal waste and forest biomass.” Wright explained, “These innovations can help improve forest management, create rural jobs, reduce associated wildfire risks in ways that provide renewable energy. While we ultimately don’t know exactly what renewable resources will ultimately power our communities we have requested that they be sourced in Utah.”

Members of the committee heard additionally from Rocky Mountain Power CEO Cindy Crane, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, and Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney all speaking in favor of the agreement. Cartin explains that the presentation was approved by representatives from both sides of the political spectrum.

“Instead of just blindsiding the legislature in January we wanted to float this idea out there and say this where we’re thinking about going does this pass the gut test? Also we’re going to start engaging more and more folks we wanted to signal to the legislatures, this is coming what’s your initial feedback? And as we develop this into more of a formalized bill, how do they want to be engaged?” Cartin said, “The great thing about that interim committee was the high-level concept resonated. It didn’t matter if you had a D or an R after your name they were very supportive of it.”

The committee unanimously voted to begin a committee bill working with the interested parties to have a bill drafted for the January 2019 Utah Legislative session.

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.
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