In 2002, Salt Lake City hosted the highly watched, successful Winter Olympics, and we are praised internationally for our continued maintenance of sports venues. In fact, the Deseret News recently reported Utah Sports Commission President and CEO Jeff Robbins saying Salt Lake City remains "ready, willing and able" to host another Olympics by maintaining the 2002 competition facilities and holding many national and international sporting events.
If we truly want to look toward a possible Salt Lake Winter Games in 2020, we need to remember that these venues are nothing without snow. If Utah wants to host future Olympic Games, we need to not only maintain our facilities, but our snowpack, too. A recent peer-reviewed study on climate change suggests a grim outcome for ski resorts if we don’t take greater strides to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to reduce our own carbon footprints — like installing rooftop solar — to reduce climate impacts on winter recreation. But we need the Utah Public Service Commission’s help.
Rocky Mountain Power’s recent proposed changes to net metering rates and additional fees for solar customers is a step backward in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Utahns are trying to do their part for air quality and the climate, and this proposal drastically limits important, affordable options to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.
As an Olympic athlete who has traveled the world to compete, I have witnessed the impacts of climate change firsthand. In Vancouver, organizers had to helicopter snow from higher elevations to some of the race venues. In Sochi, we had six days where the temperatures were above 60 degrees. The changes to our winters are undeniable, and I want to see my home state lead by investing in clean energy to protect our snowpack. I urge Rocky Mountain Power and the Utah Public Service Commission to think long-term about our state and the 110,000 people whose jobs depend upon the estimated $12.3 billion outdoor recreation industry that is so important to our economy.
Ski resorts across the state are taking ambitious steps to reduce their carbon footprints, which is in line with countless Utahns who are doing the same. Even municipalities are weighing in: the town of Park City, home to our state’s Olympic training facilities, has voted to go 100 percent renewable by 2032. Salt Lake City has done the same. But Rocky Mountain Power is making this more difficult for these leading businesses and municipalities.
The energy decisions we make today will have lasting consequences not only on Salt Lake’s future for hosting Olympic Games, but more importantly on Utah’s air, economy, health and environment. Let’s invest in the future of Utah by allowing solar adoption to thrive.
Member of the U.S. Ski Team and two-time gold medalist