Park City considers a no-nuclear stand for power portfolio
March 29, 2016
Park City leaders on Thursday are expected to discuss whether they want to exclude nuclear power in City Hall’s definition of energies that do not emit carbon emissions, a rare venture by the municipal government into the politically charged topic of nuclear energy.
Any discussion of nuclear power would occur as part of a broader talk about energy by Mayor Jack Thomas and the City Council. The meeting on Thursday is scheduled as City Hall and Rocky Mountain Power continue discussions about cleaner-burning energies.
Ann Ober, who is City Hall’s regional policy and energy director, drafted a report to the elected officials in anticipation of the meeting that broaches the topic of nuclear energy. Municipal staffers in the report recommend that the City Council adopt "a definition of carbon free power that excludes nuclear power."
Ober offers three arguments supporting the recommendation, saying the U.S. has not "determined a solution" to nuclear waste and that water "is a scarce resource in Utah and an important asset in the creation of power through nuclear plants." She also says nuclear power sometimes is not allowed to be considered as a community works toward a goal of cutting emissions to a net zero level.
But she also acknowledges that nuclear power is a "consistent and low cost" energy option and that "eliminating this option could make our portfolio more expensive."
"Should Council go against staff recommendation, staff believes that the community would be unhappy, as a great percentage of environmentalists do not see nuclear as a legitimate alternative," Ober wrote in the report.
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Rocky Mountain Power generates electricity largely through emissions-producing sources, a breakdown of sources included in the report shows. The breakdown indicates nearly 83 percent of the electricity is produced with coal. Another 9.8 percent comes from natural gas. Other methods account for less than 3 percent each, including 1.35 percent from nuclear power.
Ober covers other recommendations regarding renewable energy credits and a call for cleaner-burning energies Rocky Mountain Power pursues to be in Utah, including in Summit County.
The discussion about energy is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers at the Marsac Building. It is expected to last 30 minutes.
The talk on Thursday will continue the municipal government’s wide-ranging efforts meant to reduce carbon emissions. Leaders want municipal operations to reach what is known as net zero in carbon emissions by 2022 and have the goal of the wider community reaching net zero by 2032. Net zero carbon emissions does not require the elimination of emissions and it normally involves reducing the use of emissions-creating energies and some sort of offset for those that are used.
Energy is an important aspect of Park City’s overall environmental efforts. Leaders worry that a warming planet could someday threaten the ski industry that is critical to Park City’s economy.
Rocky Mountain Power’s breakdown of the sources of electricity it produces differs from the numbers contained in a Park City report prepared in anticipation of a Park City Council meeting scheduled on Thursday.
According to a Rocky Mountain Power estimate in 2015, coal accounts for 61.1 percent of the power portfolio, natural gas accounts for 14.1 percent, solar or wind accounts for 9.2 percent and hydroelectric produces 6.4 percent. Rocky Mountain Power says none of the electricity it produces comes from nuclear sources.