August Miller, Deseret News
Greg Abel, president and CEO of PacifiCorp, talks at the Western States Energy Conference at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake.

The head of the parent company of Utah's largest electricity supplier says the nation should work to create funding for developing energy resources that use more efficient technologies in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Speaking Thursday at the Western States Energy Conference at the Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, PacifiCorp chairman and chief executive officer Greg Abel advocated a public-private partnership between government and energy companies that would create the funding necessary to develop the technology needed to move the nation's energy program forward. PacifiCorp owns Rocky Mountain Power, which provides the majority of Utah's electrical power.

"If we really have this vision that we're going to deliver the next solution on energy 10 years from now, we have to be committed to funding it," he said. "If we raise a tenth of a percent per kilowatt hour used by customers and if that is matched by the government, we could use it for research and development."

In the long term, such a partnership would deliver the cheapest solutions to the nation's problems of rising demand for energy, and a reliance on fossil fuels that has contributed to carbon emissions that cause global warming.

Those solutions would include developing renewable sources such as solar and wind energy, Abel said. A viable energy plan also would better handle emissions from coal-fired power plants by capturing carbon dioxide, sequestering it and injecting the carbon emissions into the ground to avoid the harmful effects of greenhouse gases.

"The resources that we've traditionally had available to us like coal, oil and natural gas are quickly depleting," Abel said. "We have to start developing the next wave of technologies that will either better utilize our coal resources or properly develop other renewables."

If government and private companies work together over the next 10 years, the U.S. could research and develop viable renewable resources that would provide energy for future generations.

"We need a program like when President (John F.) Kennedy introduced with the Apollo space program," he said. "Nine years from now, they said, they wanted a man on the moon. We're saying when it comes to energy, 10 years from now we should know what our next form of energy is."

States like Utah and Wyoming could develop technology to utilize their coal resources in a way that doesn't impact the environment, he said.

Meanwhile, a research report released Thursday by Utah Foundation, titled "Utah's Energy Use and Resources: Powering Our Standard of Living," examined the state's energy use, energy resources and what Utahns can expect as far as energy prices and supplies in the future.

"The good news is that Utahns generally enjoy large quantities of cheap energy, relative to the rest of the country," said David Newell, a research analyst for the foundation.

"The bad news that is it won't last forever," he wrote in the report. "Utah, which depends heavily on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, will need to start looking into other energy sources that are viable in the long run, such as nuclear and renewable energy, in order to maintain the standard of living Utahns have come to expect."

Abel said that nuclear power must be part of the future energy equation if the nation is going to meet its goal of generating carbon-free energy. He said he believed the energy industry would eventually be able to address safety concerns of nuclear power and provide it in a cost-effective manner.


E-mail: jlee@desnews.com