Survey: Majority of Ogden residents willing to pay more for renewable energy
OGDEN — A majority of Ogden residents are willing to pay 9.3% more for renewable energy above and beyond their current energy costs, according to a survey commissioned by the Ogden City Council.
The council heard the results during a work session Tuesday as the group wrestles with the ramifications of joining the Community Renewable Energy Program, authorized by the Utah Legislature’s House Bill 411 in 2019.
Once the program is implemented in a community, and the renewable resources such as wind and solar are online, Rocky Mountain Power customers would buy electricity from the utility as before, but rates would be adjusted to reflect the costs associated with using renewable sources, according to program plans. Customer costs could be higher, lower or the same depending on market conditions.
The Ogden survey of 669 residents, performed by Weber State University’s Community Research Extension, asked people about their ability and willingness to pay more for a communitywide effort to increase use of renewable energy.
Key findings included that while a majority would be willing to pay 9.3% more, an increase of 10% or more would cause about 20% of residents to opt out of the program. The program would automatically move to enroll all homes and businesses, but they would be given a chance to opt out before it started.
About 45% of respondents said Ogden should join the program, 46% said they weren’t sure and about 9% said the city should not join. A majority of Ogden businesses polled, 61%, said Ogden should participate in the effort.
A large majority of residents, more than 70%, said businesses, residents and local governments all should be doing more to seek out renewable energy.
Weber State’s Jenny Gnagey told the council that the average electricity bill of about $90 a month meant that, according to a key finding, a majority of residents would be willing to pay about $9 more a month for renewable energy.
Respondents with questions about the program gave reasons such as hesitation about renewable energy sources, not knowing how the program would benefit the community, and having to opt out instead of opting in. Some wondered about the negative impacts on the coal and natural gas industries and were concerned about the timeline being unclear.
If Ogden joins the state program, the city would agree to have 100% of its annual electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2030.
Council member Richard Hyer said he had remaining concerns about unknowns of the program, such as, “How many of our citizens are going to get stuck in the program before they have a chance to opt out?”
Council member Angela Choberka said the survey was beneficial. Without it, she said, “we would have been guessing.”
Council members and staff said they will continue to research the program or potential alternatives before deciding whether to proceed with it.