Park City and Summit County councilmembers celebrated the signing into law of House Bill 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, Monday. The Earth Day event came hours before Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s ceremonial signing of HB 411, along with a number of other clean air and energy bills.
Park City Councilmember Tim Henney and Summit County Councilmember Glenn Wright joined State Rep. Steve Handy, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Rocky Mountain Power CEO Gary Hoogeveen to praise the bill and thank those involved in its passage. They also unveiled a new electric vehicle charging station in downtown Salt Lake.
HB 411 creates guidelines for establishing a renewable energy program between a community and an electric utility, including rates and terms of service. Rocky Mountain Power worked with Park City, Summit County and Salt Lake City on the bill. Communities that are interested in participating must pass a resolution by the end of 2019, establishing the goal of reaching 100%-net renewable energy by 2030.
Henney mentioned Park City’s commitment to sustainability, citing the city’s plans to transition its entire bus fleet from diesel to electric and install 100 electric vehicle charging stations. Henney says meeting climate goals is necessary to a resort town, as warmer winters become the norm.
“Our tagline this year from our Chamber/Bureau was 'Winter's Favorite Town,'" Henney said. "Well, you have to have winter to have winter's favorite town, and that could make us very unique, so that's why it's important to our community. That's why we see this as a game changer. When we instituted our policies and our goals five years ago, there was no clear path forward—there now is.”
Park City Sustainability Manager Luke Cartin says if HB 411 hadn’t passed this session, it would have been reintroduced the following year. But the bill is essential to meeting Park City’s 2030 net-100% renewable energy goal. Had Rocky Mountain Power not agreed to participate, Park City would have had to create its own municipal utility—it’s not something that could have been accomplished by locally sourced solar alone.
"The bus charger out at Kimball Junction—if you wanted to power that thing exclusively off of solar panels, we’d have to cover the entire Walmart parking lot that's next door in solar panels to be able to do it," Cartin said. "We don't have enough rooftop space in the city to do that, so it would have been very hard, very complex, and we would have to pretty much restart a utility from scratch while we're buying our way out of an old utility."
Wright pointed to the impact the environment has on Summit County’s economy, both in tourism and agriculture, and implored communities who haven’t made a resolution to use renewably sourced electricity to join on.
“If you’re on a city council, or a county council, or a county commission, you've got the opportunity by the end of the year to sign on to work with us on this," Wright said. "If you're a voter in any of those communities, call your commissions and your counties and ask them to do so.”
Cartin says the implementation of the program is likely a couple years down the road, as the regulatory process plays out.