Renewable Energy

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HEAL Utah has a number of campaigns aimed at cleaning up our state’s fossil fuel heavy energy mix: our True Blue Sky campaign highlights Rocky Mountain Power’s dependence on dirty coal power, the eUtah Project studied renewable resources statewide and identified how Utah could be power by 100% renewables, and our Community Energy Choice campaign is a multi-year effort to make clean energy accessible to all Utahns.

Much of the rest of America is already well on its way to embracing renewables and energy efficiency. No fantasy there, just the reality of the 21st Century that Utah – and our elected officials – need to wake up and start acknowledging.

Along with growth in natural gas, the gap left by coal’s decline has been met by a sharp rise in renewables. More than 37 percent of new U.S. electricity in 2013 came from renewable energy sources, according to federal data. Our other neighbors are also proving that moving away from carbon polluting energy sources is possible. Let’s look at federal data from earlier this year on where our power comes from in the Mountain West. In Idaho, 23 percent of the electricity generated comes from renewables. In Colorado, 19 percent. Wyoming, 11 percent. Utah? 3.8 percent. A sad reality in a state blessed with bountiful wind, solar and geothermal resources.

Investing in renewable energy and energy efficient technologies will help clean our air, help our families stay healthy, and limit the toll of climate change. In addition, it can propel Utah into the ever-growing clean energy economy that our neighbors are taking advantage of.

Utah’s leaders must stop fighting the tide of shifting energy policies and put Utah on a path to embrace them. States across America are already moving away from coal power, and their electricity remains reliable and affordable.

Here in Utah, where we are blessed with abundant land and wind and solar resources, the sad truth is that our utility is even more dependent on polluting fossil fuels than the typical American one.

Despite a logo featuring wind towers, the awards their Blue Sky Program receives, and the many ways they repeatedly tout their alleged commitment to renewable energy, Rocky Mountain Power simply does not sell much renewably generated electricity to Utahns. It’s a company that is good at seeming green – without being so. Check out our True Blue Sky page for more!

According to the company’s own data in its planning documents filed with the state of Utah, the mix of electricity that Rocky Mountain Power sells its customers today is 65 percent coal, 10 percent natural gas, 7 percent hydro, 8 percent market purchases (nearly all natural gas power it buys during peak demand times) and a grand total of around 10 percent renewables, nearly all of that wind.

Another way to crunch our electricity mix is even more unfavorable to Rocky Mountain Power. If you look at power made here in Utah – which includes not just our main utility’s facilities, but some others’ as well – Utah has the worst record in the West. Just 3.8 percent of the power made in Utah comes from wind, solar and geothermal, according to federal data. That’s way behind Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada and Mexico. In the states that border Utah, 11 to 23 percent of the generated electricity comes from renewables.

HEAL is working hard to convince Utah’s elected officials and our dominant utility to embrace renewables. However, we need your help to be successful. Click here to sign up for action alerts and get involved!


Recent Posts about Renewable Energy…

Commentary: Utah undervalues citizen-supplied solar power

December 23, 2017
 

Previous commentaries in the Tribune have made the conjecture that non-solar customers are subsidizing Solar owners. This is a biased and unproven assumption. Several studies by Public Utility Commissions in other states have found that solar providers offer numerous benefits to non-solar owners. Roof-top Solar owners provide power to neighbors without the real and measurable costs incurred by traditional fossil-fuel production methods. Brookings Institute findings reported, “the economic benefits of net metering actually outweigh the costs and impose no significant cost increase for non-solar customers. Far from a net cost, net metering is in most cases a net benefit—for the utility and for non-solar rate-payers.”

Perhaps looking at some of the “Avoided Costs” may shed more light on the claims of Solar subsidies. Neighbors providing energy via roof-top solar help the power company to avoid construction of new production facilities at some distance from users. Proposals for RMP to invest in Wind farms in Wyoming are, at first glance,great due to Wind providing renewable energy. However, building a transmission line some 140+ miles is another expense which could be avoided by greater investment in roof-top solar closer to users. With roof-top solar producing energy in the neighborhood,the amount of power lost over extra high voltage power lines, over long distances is reduced. Even developing a solar farm out in the West Desert would require a considerable investment, which could be minimized by installing solar panels on existing roof-tops, including on businesses in our cities. Roof-top Solar owners have invested a great deal of their own money in the future, and RMP has avoided the primary cost of construction of such a production base. There have been government subsidies which have provided a portion of the cost, but the subsidies for solar panels are scheduled to be reduced annually and terminated in the near future (7 years in Utah). The consumption of water in traditional power production facilities, which is not needed with renewable energy power production, is another avoided cost. Water is always a concern in Utah as we are one of the driest states in the nation.

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Read the entire letter here.

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Episode #104: Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute

Matt chats with Richard, who has written extensively (13 books!) on energy and economic issues, about climate change, energy trends and more. Richard, a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, talks first about peak oil, a once popular theory about diminishing fossil fuel reserves which he believes will again soon rear its head, despite recent market trends. He also explains his pessimism about climate change solutions, including his belief that technological fixes won't work absent broader social changes. For more information, check out the regular Museletters Richard puts out, his page at the Post Carbon Institute,  his Twitter feed, or his latest is a talk/performance at New England Conservatory of Music.

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Episode #101: Dr. Peter Howe, Utah's Climate Change Polarization Paradox

Matt chats with Peter, an assistant professor in the Environment & Society department at Utah State University, about his research on public opinion and climate change. They talked primarily about new research, featured in the Salt Lake Tribune and more recently, in the Herald Journal, which found that while Utahns are among "the least-likely Americans to believe in human-caused climate change," they also "strongly support political action to curb climate change." They discuss that paradox, offering a range of possible explanations including the age of the state's population. More broadly, Peter and Matt chat about how climate change has become such a politically polarized issue and how, oddly, local weather plays a role in climate change polling. For more information, check out Peter's USU website, his CV and his Twitter.

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