A bill that creates the framework for communities to join Park City in its renewable energy goals will receive its first hearing this week.
House Bill 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, is the result of a collaborative effort between Park City, Salt Lake City, Summit County and Rocky Mountain Power. Sponsored by Layton Republican Rep. Steve Handy, HB 411 would require communities that want to participate in the renewable energy program to adopt a resolution—like Park City has—by December 31, 2019, with the goal of obtaining 100% of its electricity from a renewable energy source by 2030. The community will then enter into an agreement with Rocky Mountain Power and, finally, be approved for participation in the program by the state Public Service Commission. Handy calls HB 411 a “groundbreaking piece of legislation” that embraces an environmentally sustainable energy economy.
"It brings the power company, who most would think, oh they want to be siloed and the way they were 20 to 30 years ago," Handy said. "No--they want to provide customer choice, they want to serve their customers and they know that we are moving to new power generation sources off of fossil fuels."
While Park City, Summit County and Salt Lake City have made their own commitments to this goal, Handy says the legislation is necessary to provide structure for Rocky Mountain Power to begin its move to renewable energy. As Utah’s largest electricity provider, Rocky Mountain Power is regulated by the state Public Service Commission. Handy says that’s why there’s a need for the legislation—for the commission to be able to approve Rocky Mountain Power’s rate proposal for the renewably sourced electricity.
"This bill does not give them permission to do it," Handy said. "It provides legislative intent, direction and the guidelines to the Public Service Commission, who, at the end of the day, they have to approve what the proposal is from Rocky Mountain Power in support of the three communities.
This bill isn’t about rooftop solar—Rocky Mountain Power will build large solar farms, likely in southern Utah, to source the electricity. The project will be costly and take years, Handy says, resulting in a rate increase to the customer. But the bill does allow for ratepayers to opt out of the program, should they not want to pay extra for the solar-sourced electricity.
"They would settle back in, as I understand it, back to the same rates that I pay in Davis County, that’s not one of these cities," Handy said.
Handy says he’s about 90% sure the bill will pass this session, but if it doesn’t, he intends to run the same legislation next year. HB 411 is scheduled to be heard in the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee Wednesday at 8 a.m.