Some Utah cities may soon have a chance to cut down on carbon emissions, but consumer advocates are worried about rising costs and other unanswered questions about the program.
A new state law, passed in the Legislature’s General Session as H.B. 411, allows for Park City, Salt Lake City and Summit County to work with energy company Rocky Mountain Power to offer customers more clean energy options, and the shared goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030.
“These communities have been coming to us and saying ‘Hey, we want to set these goals. … We want to be on all renewable energy by 2030,’” Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Spencer Hall said.
Gov. Gary Herbert signed the bill into law earlier this month, but the Public Service Commission still needs to meet to give final approval. The commission is scheduled to meet on the issue next month.
As Rocky Mountain Power explored the shift to generating more renewable energy, the energy company soon realized mounting regulations and questions of financial impact needed to be sorted out.
“Really, House Bill 411 is the result of three years of collaboration between Rocky Mountain Power and these communities” Hall said.
Another consideration was giving customers the option to not participate, Hall said. During a committee hearing during the legislative session, a rate hike as high as 7% was suggested. Rocky Mountain Power could not confirm that amount.
Hall expects the cost will ultimately drop based on renewable energy trends elsewhere in the West.
Questions remain on the price increase, how these changes will be implemented and whether people will participate. Some of that burden will fall on local governments.
“It’s a hard thing to figure out how to make those goals happen,” Hall said. “How do we move entire communities to a renewable portfolio?”
Kelly Francone, executive director for the Utah Association of Energy Users, said the consumer advocate group will keep an eye on the program especially with no one knowing the price tag.
“There hasn’t been any cost breakdown,” she said. “How they are going to make sure other customers aren’t paying for that transition?”
Correction 4:23 p.m. 4/17/19: A previous version of this story said that the Public Works Commission needs to meet to give final approval to H.B. 411. It is the Public Service Commission that will give its approval.