Utah Communities Moving Forward With Plans For Clean Energy Transition
By Jon Reed
At the end of 2019, 23 cities and counties in Utah made an ambitious pledge to transition to 100% net renewable energy by the end of the decade.
It’s a plan participating city and county officials are calling a first in the country, paving the way for a partnership with the state’s largest energy utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to develop a greater arsenal of clean energy resources.
“If this program is successful, this will be the biggest reduction in emissions in state history,” said Michael Shea, environmental program manager for Salt Lake County. “It's an incredible amount of energy that we're looking at.”
Pamela Gibson, a council member in the small town of Castle Valley, said she was initially skeptical of the proposal, thinking it was unlikely to take shape in conservative-leaning Utah. But over the last year, she’s grown more confident watching the project’s leaders hash out a governance agreement for how the program will be managed and start to figure out how to pay the $700,000 in estimated startup costs.
“This is going to work,” Gibson said. “It's like being a powerful entity, like an Apple or a Google, where you can go and negotiate with a power company. The communities will be the ones directing what things to buy, where those things will be.”
So far, 16 of the original 23 communities have signed off on the governance agreement, Shea said. The others have until January 2022 to do so, though they could still opt out of the program later.