Utah is making progress with efficiency

Achievements so far are sizable, report states

Published: Wednesday, June 4 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Attendees look over posters on Utah energy efficiency at the Digital Learning Center at UVSC in Orem where the Attendees look over posters on Utah energy efficiency at the Digital Learning Center at UVSC in Orem where the "State of Utah Energy Efficiency Initiative Report 2008" was presented on Tuesday. (Jason Olson, Deseret News)
The "State of Utah Energy Efficiency Initiative Report 2008" released Tuesday shows off the state's energy conservation efforts toward reducing its operating costs while also helping the environment.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in 2006 announced he wants Utah to increase its energy efficiency 20 percent by 2015.
"Achievements to date, while sizable, lag behind interim targets because of limited funding," the report states.
Huntsman's appointed state energy adviser Dianne Nielson said the report proves the state is doing what it said it would two years ago.
"We have set an aggressive target and we're moving forward to accomplish it," Nielson said about progress so far. "I'm comfortable with where we are."
More than $2.4 million invested in state-owned buildings on new lighting systems, fixes to existing buildings or using "High Performance Building Design Standards" on 20 new construction projects over the past two years is eventually expected to reap over $11.7 million in actual savings. Five of the new projects were completed last year and Utah Valley State College's Digital Learning Center, with the new design standard, is supposed to be complete this summer.
"The projects undertaken so far show that significant inroads toward its energy efficiency target will require the state to invest in making its facilities more energy efficient," according to the report, which calls for $5 million a year to help fund efforts to reach 15 percent energy efficiency by 2015 in state buildings only.
Nielson didn't make any predictions about getting those funds, but she lauded the Legislature for being focused on making Utah a leader in energy efficiency.
The 142-page report highlights successes of the State Building Energy Efficiency Program, with utility cost savings estimated in the millions and carbon emission reduction expectations in the thousands of tons statewide.
For example, Utah's Department of Corrections is using a geothermal spring to heat 332,000 square feet of building space. About 150 employees for the state's Department of Commerce have pledged to replace 592 light bulbs in their homes with new compact fluorescent bulbs.
The Utah National Guard is using wind energy at Camp Williams to meet 22 percent of the facility's energy requirement and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2,915 tons. And the state's Department of Natural Resources reduced annual fuel consumption by 11,700 gallons when it switched to using compact trucks instead of the one-ton models.
Last August Huntsman ordered the state's Department of Administrative Services to purchase more high-efficiency vehicles like hybrids or alternative fuel vehicles.
With the state making strides to reach 15 percent efficiency by 2015, Nielson said the public sector is providing a road map for how private industry can make up the 5 percent to achieve Huntsman's 20/2015 goal.
The nonprofit Utah Clean Energy's Kevin Emerson singled out St. George, South Jordan and Logan as places where Energy Star homes and commercial sites are increasing in popularity. Emerson's group last year helped author "Utah Energy Efficiency Strategy," a set of policy options designed to assist Huntsman in reaching his goal.
"The state is most certainly leading in setting an example of how energy efficiency can be implemented," Emerson said Tuesday. In the private sector, he added, new-home builders are coming around, effectively aiding the state in reducing carbon emissions. "That's a really exciting thing to see."

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