Recently Rocky Mountain Power has been running a series of ads thanking its customer base for being patient as the first section of the Gateway Project nears completion. Perhaps a more appropriate thank you would be from the consumer to Rocky Mountain Power.
Two years ago, I was asked to serve on an Advisory Board to the President of Rocky Mountain Power. I accepted the position with the acknowledgement that I knew very little about power issues and I expected my learning curve to be steep. Immediately, I was introduced to the Gateway Project and the controversy that surrounds a project of this magnitude. Understandably, no one wants a new power pole in their backyard and the politicians certainly needed to make a case to preserve the aesthetics of their communities. I listened to hours of testimony from local residents, power company officials, medical, geological and engineering experts. I was made aware of the discussions between Rocky Mountain Power and the Public Service Commission, Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the North America Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC), Utah State Legislature and the elected and appointed officials in cities affected by the proposed transmission line site.
Independently, I concluded that the Gateway corridor, although a difficult bullet to swallow for some residents, was the only logical place to locate new transmission lines.
Within the last 20 years household demand for power has more than doubled. Remember the days when you had one light bulb in your kitchen and perhaps a single TV in your home? We have come to expect kitchens with double ovens, huge side by side refrigerators, microwaves and a multitude of digital appliances.
Home theatre rooms are becoming more prevalent and central air conditioning is no longer a luxury. Frankly, our monthly power bills are going up because we are using more power--the rate per kilowatt hour is actually lower than what it was in l986. We are fortunate Utah's electrical rates are among the lowest in the country.
Without a doubt, unemployment is the number one issue Americans are most concerned about. We recognize that in order to achieve a healthy economy we must attract new industry and encourage local businesses to expand. All this comes with a price to include a need for more power. To meet projected electrical power demands, Rocky Mountain Power must build one 500 megawatt plant about every 18 months. And whether the power comes from coal, natural gas or wind power in Wyoming, we can't have the power without new transmission lines.
The Gateway Project when completed will represent an investment of 1.8 million construction man hours -- an economic impact of over 750 million dollars. As you think of this project, consider the 525 contractor jobs that have helped fuel our local economies. If you have a chance, drive the corridor north of the Ben Lomond substation as I did and take a look at the new transmission poles. For the most part, I found them to be unobtrusive and they actually blend into the hillside. Rocky Mountain Power has pledged to minimize the platform bases and restore the overturned soil to a natural vegetative state.
Looking to the future we can all play a role in controlling the need for yet another transmission line or power plant. Start by turning off your lights, unplug appliances that draw power when not needed and conserve energy by removing old refrigerators and freezers from your homes. Consider subscribing to Cool Keeper which will reduce the demand for expensive power during peak hours of the day.
And, if you're truly interested in going "green" check the Blue Sky box on your Rocky Mountain Power bill -- invest in wind power!
For me, a special thanks to Rocky Mountain Power for working to provide affordable, dependable power now and in the future.
McCall is a Realtor. She has a long record of service in the Top of Utah, including past president of the Ogden Weber Chamber of Commerce.