Legislation designed to encourage broader development of clean, renewable energy sources in Utah made its public debut Wednesday inside the Capitol rotunda.
Sen. Scott McCoy said he wants to give his bill the title "Utah Renewable Energy and Economic Development Act of 2008," adding how it would help create an even competitive playing field for businesses trying to get into the business of providing energy for Utahns through solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric sources.
"I'm extremely excited that we are actually having the discussion about the need to move our state to a time and a place where a significant portion of our energy needs are coming from clean, renewable sources," McCoy, D-Salt Lake, told a small crowd of supporters that included Utah Moms for Clean Air and 3form, which bills itself as a leading manufacturer of eco-friendly materials for the architecture and design industry.
McCoy's SB173 would actually require "certain electrical corporations and municipal electrical utilities to provide specified amounts of electricity from renewable energy sources." He said Utah is in the minority of states in the West because it does not have a requirement or promise that a certain percent of its energy needs will be coming from renewable sources.
Following Oregon's "aggressive" lead, McCoy set a date of 2025 for 25 percent of electricity consumed in Utah to be coming from renewable sources. His bill would establish a task force to oversee zones within the state where certain types of clean, renewable sources of energy would be harvested. The bill also requires the measuring of progress toward reaching planned benchmarks along the way to 2025.
Right now, McCoy noted, all of Utah's eggs are in one basket in terms of where power users get their electricity.
Rocky Mountain Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen listened in on McCoy's pitch and commented afterward that his company's own efforts are being ignored and that SB173's mandates have "no engineering or economic basis."
"No one has done more in the last 10 years to bring renewable sources to Utah," Eskelsen said. It's estimated that currently about three percent of Utah's electricity needs are being met by renewable sources.
PacificCorp, which does business in Utah as Rocky Mountain Power, has in the past 18 months alone brought online 400 megawatts of renewable energy, mostly generated by wind power, Eskelsen said. About one third of the energy, he noted, was purchased from private developers.
Most of that wind energy has been brought into Utah from wind energy producers in Wyoming, Washington and Oregon where there are high volume wind areas that are close to existing transmission sites, according to Eskelsen. He said those wind resources translate into lower costs for consumers compared to what it would take to harvest wind energy in Utah's most likely candidates for wind sources, which Eskelsen said exist in Box Elder County.
SB173 may run into competition with legislation being proposed by Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble, R-Provo. 3form President Talley Goodson expressed concern about Rocky Mountain Power's influence over Bramble's bill, which Goodson worries will discourage free enterprise and "entrust" Utah's energy future to Rocky Mountain Power shareholders.
McCoy said a few differences between his bill and Bramble's will be in how much of a "monopoly" Rocky Mountain Power could end up having over renewable energy sources in Utah, the strength of either bill to guarantee reaching renewable energy goals and how much cost will be passed on to consumers.Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake City, also took a moment Wednesday to tout her own bill, which seeks a $1,000 tax credit for new vehicles meeting air quality and fuel economy standards and eliminates a provision excluding hybrid electric-gasoline vehicles from the tax credit. McGee's HB106 on Monday passed favorably out of a House committee meeting and awaits consideration by the full House and Senate.