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Salt Lake Chamber Steps Up Clean Energy Focus

Basic Research
The Basic Research headquarters and manufacturing plant near the Salt Lake International Airport has 4,700 solar panels that generate 1.4 megawatts of emissions-free energy. Highlighting innovations like these is part of a broader clean-energy strategy.

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is embracing the challenge of bringing clean energy and clean air to local communities nationwide. It’s part of a national initiative by a group called “Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy” that focuses on the business benefits of a healthy environment.

“Clean energy is an important economic development opportunity. And local chambers are always looking at how they can grow the economies of their communities,” says Diane Doucette, the group’s executive director.

Companies like Google and Amazon, she says, are locating data centers around the country where they can tap into solar and wind power. That means jobs and economic vitality.

“Local chambers are seeing that,” says Doucette. “And they want to prepare the groundwork in their communities to attract big investors.”

The group isn’t related to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a national trade group famous for opposing environmental regulations and promoting fossil-fuel development. The innovation group focuses more on information sharing that can help local communities find practical strategies.

Locally, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce has been focusing on the problem for years.

“It helps change the conversation within the state when you have strong business leadership involved in the clean-air conversation,” says Ryan Evans, vice president for community and business relations who sees a healthy environment as a business opportunity. “Should we be able to clean up our air, we just open up opportunities for greater expansion as well.”

Evans is featured in a new video series by Chambers for Innovation. In it, he points out that energy is a $5.3 billion industry in Utah but says more energy production isn’t the answer. Efficiency, he says, will fulfill more than half of our growing energy needs over the next three decades as population doubles. 

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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