Summit County Could Take Center Stage in Community Renewable Energy Effort

Mar 15, 2021

Credit Wikimedia Commons

The Summit County Council is continuing to work on the Community Renewable Energy Program and is reviewing its financial participation as the funding benchmarks for the program are coming later in the year.

Summit County and over 20 other Utah locales are partnering with Rocky Mountain Power to receive their electricity from renewable sources. 

Councilor Roger Armstrong noted that the county will receive 100% renewable power for government operations by 2023.

The council is also looking at becoming an anchor community, meaning the part of the group which will fund the initial start-up costs for the program. Armstrong told KPCW it’s a worthwhile idea since their financial risk is just upwards of $57,000.

“There are probably other scenarios where the economic risk could go higher, but they would be, I think, pretty unusual,” Armstrong said. “It would seem that Salt Lake City is probably as committed to this process as we are. And with them as the big dog financially in this--these contributions are all population-based and possibly energy-load based, and they’re gonna be way ahead of us. So I think that we’re probably in good shape. I don’t think we’ll be at the lowest rung because I anticipate that some of these communities, probably a reasonable possibility that they will drop out. But even if the minimum number stay in, and we’re looking at a $57,000 overall commitment to get where we want to go, that seems to be a pretty reasonable risk.”

He said if other communities drop out of the program, it could affect their financial obligation. But their stake is still based on population.

“It would change it dramatically if the highest-population counties dropped out,” Armstrong said. “Because then the percentages—we’re less than 3 percent, I think we’re about 3 percent going into this. And if some of the smaller counties dropped out, it’s probably not gonna change our percentage that dramatically, and we kinda know where that winds up. But if the Ogdens and Salt Lake City and some of the other much-larger-population communities dropped out, that would change it. But I think if they were to drop out, we would probably have a bigger problem with the design of the program, or some other issue that would cause them to drop out. And we would have the right to drop out as well, and we might very well do that if something were going sideways.”

Armstrong said they have to live with the details of the program, which have been worked out after months of negotiations. At the last council meeting, there was a lot of discussion because the big players, such as Salt Lake City, could utilize a “weighted voting’ process.

“That’s a situation where two of the participants can request that an issue be subject to weighted voting, so population, and I assume electric load, would kind of carry the day there,” he said. “And you’d have to have a majority based on the weighted vote. But going into this, Salt Lake City has 28%. So they would have to cobble together another 22 or 23 percent to pass an initiative. So if they were able to join up with some of the larger jurisdictions, they could possibly pull something in a different direction.”

Armstrong added, though, they have cooperated for several years with Salt Lake City, and they have common goals in the program.

He said that the deadlines are coming up later this year for the county’s funding commitments.

“I think by the end of May, I think we have to commit,” Armstrong said. “First monies go in, I think, by the end of June or July. And then county money goes in by the end of, I think, January ‘22. So there are several steps between now and when we actually have to provide our funding.”