Rocky Mountain Power’s popular Blue Sky program is failing to move the utility away from its aging and polluting fleet of coal power plants towards renewable energy.
More than 35,000 businesses and families in Utah purchase Blue Sky “credits” each month. Yet, despite this clear support for greener energy, the utility’s power that comes from renewables – roughly 5% — has barely budged since the program began a decade ago.
What kind of electricity is Rocky Mountain Power selling?
Most comes from the utility’s aging coal power plant fleet and the next biggest chunk comes from natural gas facilities: Together, 80 to 85 percent of our electricity comes from polluting fossil fuels. A recent report demonstrated that among the top 10 biggest power producers in the West, PacifiCorp ranks worst for carbon dioxide, and second worst for mercury, and smog pollution.
Where does the money go?
Blue Sky spends their resources as follows:
- 41% on renewable energy credits, which allows Rocky Mountain Power to claim the “green” benefit of power they don’t actually buy or distribute
- 37% on “community based” renewable projects such as small-scale rooftop solar installations
- 22% for administration and marketing
The funds do support some nice, rooftop renewable projects – but what they don’t do is actually change the overall power mix Rocky Mountain Power produces.
How could Blue Sky be improved?
Many utilities across the nation are working to respond to their customers and bring renewable power on-line. Some even offer customers options of purchasing 50% to 100% renewables.
In Texas, Austin Energy offers their customers a program called Green Choice, via which the utility inks a 20-year contract with Texas wind farms. Unlike Blue Sky customers, Green Choice customers aren’t paying for dirty energy on most of their bills. Since the program’s inception 1,225 MW of Texas wind energy capacity has been acquired to serve Austin energy customers.
By comparison, since 2007, Blue Sky funding has paid for community based renewable energy projects totaling roughly 5MW, according to Rocky Mountain Power.
Put another way: Blue Sky has funded projects that could power about 5,000 average homes. Meanwhile, Austin’s Energy Choice program powers about 1.2 million.
|Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Program||Austin Energy’s Green Choice|
|Option to Purchase 50% Renewable Power||
|Option to Purchase 100% Renewable Power||
|Supports Utility Scale Renewable Development||
|Protects Consumers against Volatile Fossil Fuel Prices||
|Resulting Renewable Energy||5 MW||1,225 MW|
What can we do?
It’s time for Rocky Mountain Power to come up with a better program, one that allows customers who want green energy to directly buy it from utility-scale renewable energy projects. Such a program would have significant advantages, including:
Interested in Solar? Check out our partner organization Utah Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy (UCARE).
Recent Posts about True Blue Sky…
As you might have noticed, we here at HEAL can be pretty critical of our utility Rocky Mountain Power. We often highlight their reliance on coal-fire power and their attempts to undermine the development of independent renewables in Utah. You can read more about it in our infamous Brown Sky Report.
However, that does not mean we don’t want to give a shout out to the utility when they make a move forward. Which brings us to their new program Subscriber Solar. The idea is definitely a step in the right direction for Rocky Mountain Power.
Subscriber Solar works like this; Rocky Mountain Power has contracted with a 20 megawatt solar plant in Millard County, Utah to provide power for the next 20 years. Customers will be able to sign up for “blocks” of energy usage. These blocks are for 200 kilowatt hours (kWh) of solar energy each month. To put that in perspective, the average Utah home uses about 747 kWh a per month. So if you purchase one block you will be supplementing almost a fourth of your electricity usage with homegrown green energy. If you would like, you can purchase enough blocks to make your electricity use 100 % renewable energy!
Unlike Rocky Mountain Power’s other program “green energy program” Blue Sky which partly involves purchasing green energy in the form of Renewable Energy Credits from out of state, Subscriber Solar in generated right here in Utah. This is a big plus because it increases Utah’s overall clean energy portfolio and gives options for individuals that cannot install rooftop solar in their home, but still want to support renewable energy. The program also differs from Blue Sky in that it allows customers to lock-in the “Energy Generation Charge” portion of their bill for up to 20 years.
HEAL is strongly encouraging Utahns to sign up. Not only because we want to see more renewable energy use in our state, but also to show Rocky Mountain Power that there is a demand for this type of energy. You can watch a video and learn more about the program by going to https://www.
Your Clean Energy Jedi,
Michael SheaRead more...
Salt Lake Tribune
Nov 28, 2015
In September, HEAL Utah published a detailed report critical of Rocky Mountain Power's reliance on fossil fuels and its failure to move forward on clean energy.
Our report, entitled "Brown Sky: The Truth About How Rocky Mountain Power Obstructs Renewable Energy," led to local press coverage. Our utility then responded on Nov. 14 with "In Attacks on Rocky Mountain Power, Facts Don't Seem to Matter."
The utility accuses HEAL of being "misleading," "false," and "strident." It calls our report (which you can read at www.healutah.org/brownsky) "elaborate opinion pieces with no more integrity than a typical political smear campaign."
To read more, click here.Read more...
The Salt Lake Tribune
October 27, 2015
Rocky Mountain Power, sellers and distributors of most of the electricity in Utah, has announced a wish list of regulatory changes it seeks to modernize its system. Utah legislators should embrace RMP's move and thoroughly scrutinize it in a transparent process.Read more...