Summit County Sustainability Eyes Legislation To Expand Clean Energy Infrastructure In The State

Mar 5, 2019

Credit Summit County

Summit County has recently been recognized for its efforts at Sustainability. At the same time, county officials are pursuing one of their major Green goals on Capitol Hill.

The county’s Sustainability Coordinator, Lisa Yoder, said that an online publication, Business Review, contacted her for an article about the county’s goal of moving government operations, residents and business to renewable electricity by the year 2032.

Yoder told KPCW a major step toward that is the proposed Community Renewable Energy Act. Its aim is to kick off a process for Rocky Mountain Power to create solar farms, in partnership with local entities like Summit County and Park City. The process will be regulated by the Public Service Commission to guard against exorbitant rates.

Yoder said a new process is being set up under the bill, HB 411, sponsored by Rep. Steven Handy.

“It’s a process where solicitations would be obtained by private developers as well as Rocky Mountain Power,” Yoder explained. “It sets a fair process of competition between solicitors who want to build it and Rocky Mountain Power. So whatever gives the best and most fair price and the best transmission connection would be enabled through this process.”

She said other communities don’t have to participate, but they can join if they want to.

“They would have until the end of the year,” Yoder continued. “Everybody who wants to participate has this year to opt in to participate. If they want to participate than the utility aggregates that amount of power for the communities. Goes out and does acquisitions and requests for proposals and determines the rate. Then the cities have to adopt an ordinance saying they will participate, and all their customers are in. Then the customers are given the rate that they will have to pay for the utility and given the opportunity to opt out.”

She said if the legislation fails, they will analyze what happened and come back next year.

“We need to be able to have that scale of power be enabled,” Yoder said. “It advances the effort probably by decades. We envision a utility; many utilities are going towards renewables as coal and natural gas are more expensive than renewables that are coming down in price. So, this assist in making that transition may be sooner. So, it’s essential but if it has to be put off a year then I mean there’s nothing we can do except work with that and improve our bill for next time.”

Meanwhile, the county is encouraging residents to take actions, big and small to be more energy-efficient.

“First thing is energy efficiency,” Yoder explained. “In our buildings and with the community through Summit Community Power Works the SCPW challenge. Which is a web application that people can participate in. Individuals can go to the website and find all these different energy efficiency actions they can take from low-cost, no-cost, to expensive. Reducing energy consumption is the first step.”

The next step is to move to renewable energy whenever possible.

“The county just installed two solar systems and we’re looking at one for the public works building,” Yoder continued. “That would probably be the last renewable solar system we’ll put on that’s appropriate for our buildings. We’re putting in a lot of EV chargers. We’ve got 11 going in this year and 11 level 2 dual chargers and one more fast charger at four different facilities and we’re putting EV chargers in the park n ride lots.” Yoder also explained why the county is paying for the electricity. “Initially the county pays for electricity. You have to realize on a level 2 charger that amounts to about $120 a year. If we do charge for those chargers, they will get used less.”

She said the county is willing to bear a nominal expense, at least for now, to encourage use of the chargers.

“The benefits we gain by that are no tail pipe emissions so it’s a tradeoff,” Yoder said. “We’re willing to pay, at least for the time being, and then we’re putting in smart chargers so that at any time the council elects to charge a fee we can enact the fee at the chargers. So, we have that option down the road.”