County to consider accelerating renewable energy goal to 2030 |

County to consider accelerating renewable energy goal to 2030

The Summit County Public Health Department in Round Valley features a 70.8 kw solar system. The county may purchase 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources as soon as next year.
Photo courtesy Lisa Yoder

Summit County may transition to net 100 percent renewable energy two years earlier than previously thought.

The county had set a goal to have the ability to purchase all of its energy from renewable sources by 2032, but sustainability program manager Lisa Yoder explained that as the stakeholder communities and Rocky Mountain Power have met to design the program that would make it possible, it has become clear that it would require all entities to move forward on one timeline. Within the last several months, two other stakeholders, Park City and Salt Lake City, pushed up their own energy goals to 2030.

“Let’s make it so everybody can do it together, so we can get the best price and (the benefits of an) economy of scale,” Yoder said of the mindset to unify the target date.

Other benefits include aligning with findings of the International Panel on Climate Change that point to 2030 as what Yoder called a “point of irreversible harm to the environment” if energy-use trends continue. And it works with Salt Lake City’s goal of switching to renewable energy in time to potentially host the Olympic Games in 2030.

Finally, by joining in common cause with other consumers, it would create a larger project that may be more enticing for firms to bid on, Yoder said, and would simplify the logistics involved in overhauling the power system for such a large area.

The County Council expressed support for the move but did not vote on a proposed resolution that would officially change the goal. Yoder called the step “relatively inconsequential” and said it wouldn’t really impact the county’s efforts to make the switch.

Yoder and her team have been representing the county in talks with Salt Lake City and Park City officials, as well as representatives from Rocky Mountain Power, to design the community energy renewable program that was born from the passage of the Community Energy Act, or H.B. 411, in April.

That law requires municipalities that would like to participate in the program to pass a resolution setting 2030 as the target date for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy by the end of this year. Yoder said Moab has indicated interest in the program, as well, but was not present in the negotiations.

She also updated the Council about the progress in switching to 100 percent renewable energy for the county’s own energy use. The county uses about 3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, with roughly 14 percent coming from renewable sources like solar panels atop its buildings.

The county, along with its service districts such as the Park City Fire District and the Mountain Regional and Snyderville Basin water districts, is partnering with Salt Lake City, Park City, Vail Resorts, Deer Valley Resort and Utah Valley University in the commitment to make the switch. They have set 2030 as the target date, and the county has a sub-goal of attaining 50 percent renewable energy usage by 2025.

The first step in projects like this, Yoder explained, is to figure out how much power the renewable sources would need to create. After totaling the energy usage of the six participants, and in coordination with the stakeholder communities, Rocky Mountain Power sent out a request for proposals for the project in February.

After receiving about 100 responses, the group has asked for final offers from about 10 firms, Yoder said, and if the offers are acceptable, the matter may come back to the Council for approval as soon as August. In a best-case scenario, this could lead to a retail service agreement this fall and delivery of net 100 percent renewable energy for county use in late 2020, according to a memo Yoder submitted to the Council.

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