Summit County to transition to 100 percent renewable electric energy
Elected officials agree to reduce reliance on fossil fuels
October 13, 2017
Summit County's elected officials agreed last week to help the community completely transition to renewable electric energy by the year 2032 as part of the county's ongoing effort to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
The Summit County Council joined only three other confirmed counties in the country in making a similar declaration, according to a media release. It is the only resolution of its kind by a county in the state.
One hundred percent renewable electrical energy means that the amount of electrical energy that is annually consumed is equal to the amount of electricity that is produced through clean, renewable sources.
"This puts our community on the record that we are going to solve the problems that are facing the world right now," said Glenn Wright, County Council member. "Climate change is going to have dramatic effects on Summit County."
The resolution, approved on Wednesday, Oct. 6, recognizes the role people have played in accelerating global warming and creating greenhouse gases due to the overwhelming use of fossil fuels. According to the resolution, fossil fuel-based electricity generation causes about 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county, while combustion of fossil fuels due to transportation causes an additional 47 percent of gases.
It highlights the devastating effects a warming climate would have on the county, such as shorter and warmer winters, variations in snowpack and precipitation, reduced stream flow, and devastation to forests, among several others.
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Reducing the electrical energy supply to 100 percent renewable would require "combining renewable power generation with energy efficiency, energy storage, demand management and an enhanced transit and transportation system," according to the resolution.
"If you look at the scientific projections for the change in our snowpack, it will dramatically decrease over the next 20 years," Wright said. "It will be gone in 50. The effects worldwide have the potential to be catastrophic. My view is we all have to do our part and that's what the resolution says about Summit County."
County Council members spent nearly an hour discussing the costs and practicality of attaining the goals set in the resolution. They discussed similar plans that have been passed in Park City and Salt Lake City.
The resolution calls for an 80 percent reduction of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions from government operations by 2040 and requires annual emissions reporting. Elected officials plan to review the county's progress every two years.
It outlines specific objectives to guide county departments, including collaborating with Rocky Mountain Power and other municipalities to advance legislation and policies supporting the resolution.
"Rocky Mountain Power is really key to this," Wright said. "It is very difficult to do anything without involving them. I think dealing with Rocky Mountain Power will be interesting because, I think, in some ways senior corporate officers are recognizing the problem. But, they are also tasked with making the largest return they can for their investors. We have to make sure they make the right decision."
Erin Bragg, executive director of Summit Community Power Works, said the organization worked closely with the county throughout the Georgetown energy prize competition and is familiar with helping advance the county's initiatives.
"We are super excited and 100 percent behind the county moving in this direction," Bragg said. "We are happy to see them taking the lead and they are only the third county in the nation to move to a 100 percent goal of renewable energy. It will be an asset to have the same goal as Salt Lake City, Park City and Moab."
When it comes to sustainability and clean energy, Bragg said, Summit Community Power Works can help the community follow that path.
Since at least 2015, the County Council has identified environmental stewardship as one of its strategic goals. Council members have dedicated resources and programs to exploring sustainable options for county operations and discounted services, such as solar installation, for community members.
"This is one of the main reasons I ran for the County Council," Wright said. "I thought we had to do more."
To view the resolution, go to https://www.summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/6795