The state should require utilities to supply a fixed percentage of electricity from renewable sources and promote the development of renewable energy projects using sources such as wind and solar power, according to a group working for the Governor's Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change.

The Renewable Energy Initiative focus group presented its final recommendations to the council on Friday. Among the group's top priorities are deciding how to create renewable-energy development zones and finding a way to integrate renewable energy into the existing electrical system, said the focus group's co-chairman Ernie Wessman.

The development zones would be similar to economic redevelopment zones that have been used to encourage economic development in Utah and other states, Wessman said.

"Current incentive programs should be expanded and new incentives should be created to encourage the development of renewable resources," he said.

The focus group has worked since July to generate ideas that could help the state achieve its goal of reducing Utah's emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The group reached a consensus on three recommendations.

The first recommendation is requiring utilities to supply a fixed percentage of electricity from renewable sources. Wessman said the group wants the state to conduct rate- and economic-impact studies of implementing such a requirement.

At least one Utah utility already wants to head in that direction. On Wednesday, Rocky Mountain Power proposed legislation that would increase the diversity of electricity-generating resources that serve Utah customers. The measure would establish a target of 20 percent of the state's electricity usage to be supplied by renewable sources by 2025.

The focus group's second recommendation is creating incentives to promote the development of renewable energy from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric sources. The third recommendation is enhancing the transmission and distribution system for electricity from renewable sources.

Wessman said an infrastructure authority similar to an agency created in Wyoming might help encourage the development of transmission infrastructure for renewable energy in Utah.

The Blue Ribbon Advisory Council will evaluate the recommendations and forward them to the governor.

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