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My view: Powdr Corp and Park City Mountain Resort against solar fees

By Brent Giles

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, July 30 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, July 29 2014 5:48 p.m. MDT

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News Archives

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It may be offseason for ski resorts, but a proposed fee on rooftop solar users has caught the attention of several of us in Utah’s ski industry — and it deserves to be catching some heat.

Powdr Corp and Park City Mountain Resort recently joined 40 other Utah businesses, representing a dozen different industries and thousands of jobs, in a unified letter asking the Utah Public Service Commission to decline Rocky Mountain Power’s push to levy a rooftop solar fee. I can’t speak for the other businesses as to why they oppose the solar fee, but for Powdr Corp and Park City Mountain Resort, it comes down to protecting Utah’s ski industry.

Nonpolluting solar energy is good for our state’s $5.8 billion outdoor recreation industry, supporting 65,000 Utah jobs — that’s now. And in the days and years to come, private investments from rooftop solar will help keep Utah’s economy strong and attract new tourists, businesses and residents by improving our air quality and protecting the snowpack on which the ski industry depends — and that means ensuring a stable climate through carbon reduction.

Utah needs to encourage additional solar investment, but the proposed solar fee would have the opposite effect: dimming the economic value for solar growth. Our policymakers should embrace nonpolluting solar energy with open arms. Rocky Mountain Power’s approach of using tactics to block solar investments is not in the best interests of Utah’s ratepayers and more broadly, our economic future.

Ski resorts are stewards of winter recreation and natural resources because the snow and the lifestyle that fresh powder provides are part of our core values. As a business, Powdr Corp and our nine mountain resorts (including Park City Mountain Resort) have had to evolve and update our business model based on the realities of climate change and its impact on our industry. In the past years we have worked to cut our energy consumption and green the energy needed to power our businesses. Through this approach we’ve learned that leading by example is a powerful motivator.

Our investment in a wind turbine and rooftop solar at Park City Mountain Resort is generating about 70,000 kwhs annually, equivalent to cutting 49 tons of carbon pollution. Over the past nine years, Powdr has kept more than 250,000 tons of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere, or roughly what 47,750 cars produce. In fiscal 2014, Powdr reduced its carbon footprint by more than 63 percent.

I know that Powdr Corps’ sustainability initiatives alone will not protect our snowpack, air quality or cherished natural landscapes. However, if our continued commitment to reduce our carbon footprint is coupled with other businesses and homeowner efforts to use less polluting energy (through energy efficiency or solar) — those combined efforts will help reduce the worst effects of climate change. Unfortunately, roadblocks like the proposed solar fee threaten that unified effort.

We all have a role to play in encouraging more renewable energy for Utah’s future; every little bit helps and every small step makes the next step easier. The Utah Public Service Commission shouldn’t allow Rocky Mountain Power to take us a step backward and charge a fee for rooftop solar — that’s the wrong direction for Utah.

Brent Giles is the Chief Sustainability Officer for Powdr, a leading active lifestyle company that owns and operates mountain resorts.

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