Op-ed: Is Utah missing the renewable energy boat?

Governor’s Office of Energy Development

The Scatec solar project is Utah’s largest utility scale solar farm. It is known as the Utah Red Hills Renewable Park in Parowan. (Photo: Governor’s Office of Energy Development)

Rocky Mountain Power and its parent company PacifiCorp generated some good news and bad news recently when they announced plans for a large investment in renewable energy. According to its press statement, Rocky Mountain Power intends to invest $3.5 billion for renewable energy infrastructure. That is the good news. Such an investment will undoubtedly generate thousands of jobs, as well as increasing the availability of new, clean energy for Utah. It sounds fantastic. So what’s the bad news?

The bad news (for Utah) is that, even though Rocky Mountain Power must request clearance from its regulator, the Utah Public Service Commission (PSC), this huge new investment will be targeted mainly in Wyoming and Idaho, despite the fact that the renewable energy they produce will be sold mostly to Utah consumers. Wyoming and Idaho will be thrilled with the millions in tax revenues and thousands of new jobs; Utah will receive little, if any, such benefit, yet will still have to pay for the transmission lines to bring it here.

So now elected leaders and legislators from Utah’s more rural counties have one question: “Why?” Why would the Utah PSC approve the use of precious Utah ratepayer-generated capital to create jobs and opportunity in other states? Let’s rewind back to January and Gov. Gary Herbert’s State of the State address. In it the governor acknowledged the need for broadening Utah’s prosperity to include all 29 Utah counties, not just the more populous, urban counties that are thriving economically. Specifically, he committed to help in the creation of 25,000 new private sector jobs in 25 of Utah’s more rural counties.

Citizens and leaders alike in those 25 counties greeted the governor’s statements with tremendous enthusiasm. Such a commitment to rural Utah counties is long overdue and would pay dividends for investors and consumers for decades to come. Everyone knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the governor promised to try.

That is why so many of us are puzzled…

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