Summit County and Park City leaders celebrate signing of renewable energy legislation
Summit County and Park City’s elected leaders celebrated Earth Day by attending the signing of what officials say is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will help further the city and county’s renewable energy goals.
Summit County Councilor Glenn Wright and Park City Councilor Tim Henney joined Gov. Gary Herbert for a ceremonial signing of H.B. 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, in Salt Lake City on Monday. A number of other clean air and energy bills were also signed.
“This has been one of the most groundbreaking legislative activities in the history of our state,” Wright said during a livestreamed press conference. “It affects not only the environment, but also the future economy.”
The Community Renewable Energy Act authorizes a process that will enable an electric utility to enter into a renewable energy program with a municipality or county. The legislation is intended to prevent shifting the costs or benefits of the program to nonparticipating customers. It is the result of several years of negotiations among officials from Park City, Summit County, Salt Lake City and Rocky Mountain Power.
The Summit County Council authorized a resolution in 2017 to transition to 100 percent renewable electric energy by 2032. Park City and Salt Lake City leaders have established similar goals.
“The language in the bill protects Summit County and the cities from practices that would only benefit Rocky Mountain Power,” Wright said. “Everyone wants to protect their own assets.”
Other communities will be encouraged to pass similar renewable energy resolutions in order to participate in the program. However, to participate in the program municipalities and counties will need to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.
“We are on the cusp of what I am going to call the new energy economy,” said Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, during the press conference. “It is all about what the people want when it comes to energy issues like this. It is the responsibility of the Legislature to remove barriers and this legislation removes barriers. It is groundbreaking. There is nothing like this in the country.”
Officials say the Community Renewable Energy Act is an indication that Rocky Mountain Power is shifting its views on the use of renewable energy.
“An integrated resource plan that came out a few months ago indicated renewable energy is cheaper than a lot of their existing coal plants,” Wright said. “I think that has gotten their interest in being a partner in this process. But, that is not to say we all don’t have our own interests.”
Wright said Summit County’s interest is in getting the lowest possible rates for renewable energy. The rate structure that will be applied under the program will be determined by the Utah Public Service Commission by the end of the year.
“Once the rates are established, then it will come back to municipal and county entities to pass an ordinance to participate in the program,” he said. “If the rates are too high, then we won’t commit.”
If the county opts into the program, elected officials will need to pass a resolution that authorizes participation. Wright said several notices will go out to the public as the process is underway and public comment will be accepted at any hearings addressing the matter. It will likely be a couple years before the program is available.
“We are at a paradigm shift for renewable energy,” Wright said. “It is a very competitive with fossil fuels and Utah has always been an energy state. But, we have to make the transition to renewable energy and this bill allows us to do that.”
A critic of a Park City workforce or otherwise affordable housing project in Old Town said he is considering an appeal of the Park City Planning Commission’s approval of the development.