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Summit County, Park City Have Partners In Renewable Energy Plan

Rocky Mountain Power

Summit County and Park City are among a growing number of Utah communities who have indicated they want to participate in the Community Renewable Energy Program with Rocky Mountain Power.

The county’s Sustainability Coordinator, Lisa Yoder, visited KPCW to give us an indication of what comes next.

Under the program, communities can indicate that they want to obtain their electricity from 100 percent renewable sources by at least 2030.

Yoder said she was gratified to see that the program was set up for just three or four communities, and now it has Summit, Salt Lake and Grand Counties, and ten Utah cities.

Other communities have until the end of the year to pass Enabling Legislation.   At that point, Rocky Mountain Power will know the total number of customers they could have.       

“The leadership of those communities sign an agreement to work with the utility power and to pay the upfront costs of the third parties who will be required to assess this to file with the Public Service Commission, to work with the Office of Consumer Service and Division of Public Services—all the process behind the scenes that establishes the projected rates and files the proper paperwork, and all the processes with the Public Service Commission.  So there’s some cost involved with that, that would be borne by those community’s Council’s, or the taxpayers of those communities.”

Subsequently, if a community decides that the program isn’t worth it, they can drop out.

If a community stays in, customers will be informed of the cost of standard energy and the projected cost of a renewable source.

At that point, individuals in a community can opt out.   We asked, though, if 80 percent of a community opts out, does that place a heavy financial burden on the 20 percent?

Yoder said that won’t happen, with a facility not yet selected and built.   

“The projected cost will give you a range.   If you get to actual cost and it’s much higher, or lower, you still have the choice to opt out.  And nothing will be built until a final number is selected.  And furthermore, they can’t build 100 percent for 500,000 customers in the state in a couple years.  So it would have to be phased.  So as people roll off and new people move on, by the time it’s all built out, the numbers will be accurate enough that everybody will know their real cost.  And of course we’ve seen the price of renewables come down so dramatically that the utility admits and knows well that renewables are on par or less than the existing fossil fuels.”

She said they will solicit bids for a renewable facility.    At this point, they don’t know exactly what kind it will be.        

“It would go out for bid, and the best price, the best options—it would likely be a combination of wind, solar, geo-thermal.  We don’t know.”

The facility will be built in Utah, or in proximity to the state.

Finally, we asked how this program compares to Blue Sky, where customers pay a fee to participate.      

“That money goes to a fund, and then that money is used to provide grants for projects.   Like Summit County has received a grant to put solar on the Health Department.  The Blue Sky funds projects.  Subscriber Solar was another option where you could actually buy into a solar farm.  But that was immediately sold out, and they haven’t built more capacity there.   And it’s been several years since that was sold out.”

Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Yoder

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.