OGDEN — City leaders in Ogden are firm in saying no final decisions have been made on participation in Utah’s Community Renewable Energy Act.
But they’ve also indicated they’re seriously concerned about the costs that might be passed on to residents if the city becomes involved.
And while the city hasn’t yet publicly released financial data on exactly how pricey the program could be for Ogdenites, a recent study might provide some clues.
Also known as House Bill 411, the CREA is the sweeping clean-energy program adopted by the Utah Legislature during 2019’s general session. The bill calls for Utah cities that choose to participate to move to a net 100% electric energy use from renewable resources by 2030. To be a part of the program, cities were first required to adopt a resolution, form an initial agreement with Rocky Mountain Power to develop program guidelines and submit an application to the Utah Public Service Commission, the body that will regulate the act.
The commission will develop rules that will address issues like customer termination fees, electricity rates and the process for procuring renewable energy resources. Rocky Mountain Power will develop the renewable energy resources that communities will use
In December 2019, the Ogden City Council voted 5-2 to adopt a resolution that established a citywide goal to transition to net 100% renewable energy by 2030. The vote also signaled the city’s intent to consider the CREA as the channel to reach that goal. The resolution allowed the city to enter into the H.B. 411 study phase, during which Ogden officials were to scrutinize things like projected energy rates and possible costs associated with participating in the program.
Now 10 months into its study phase, Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell and city Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson both have said they’re worried about increased utility bill costs that could be passed to Ogden residents. Both Caldwell and Johnson mentioned specifically low-income residents.
In its annual American Community Survey update released in September 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 9.3% of Weber County’s population subsisted at or below the federal poverty level in 2018. In Ogden, the number was a 19%. Income below the poverty line is $12,490 or less for an individual and $25,750 or less for a family of four, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
So how much more could Ogden residents expect to pay if the city participates in the program?
Ogden officials haven’t released data specific to Junction City, but a group of researchers from Utah State University took a look at some other Utah municipalities that have already adopted the program. According to USU professor Edwin Stafford — whose research expertise focuses on sustainability — Park City, Salt Lake City and Summit County commissioned studies by Utah-based consultant Energy Strategies, to evaluate various cost impacts.
Stafford said the studies concluded that electricity rates for residents of those municipalities could be 9% to 14% higher over the current standard rate by 2032.
“For a Park City resident, that could be $15 to $17 increase in a monthly electricity bill,” Stafford told the Standard-Examiner in an email. That’s around $200 more per year.
But while the study shows utility costs are indeed likely to increase under the program, the group argues that the stipulations of the CREA could be a model for other cities and communities across the nation and notes that recent polling shows that Utahns want a stronger transition to cleaner energy and air.
The study says wind and solar power costs continue to fall and are becoming increasingly cost-competitive, and in many circumstances less expensive than traditional fossil fuel as electricity sources.
“While these ... (Utah) cities may only have a marginal impact on reducing overall global greenhouse gas emissions, such local actions can inspire other communities to adopt similar measures and influence state and federal policies,” the study reads.