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Guest opinion: Utah’s Community Renewable Energy Program and its impact on utility prices

By Staff | Aug 31, 2023

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David Willis

We all want clean air and water and a healthy environment to live in, but Utah House Bill 411, the Community Renewable Energy Act, is not the path to get us there. The free market where consumers have energy choice and providers compete is the way forward that will produce the best results. H.B. 411 is an opt-out policy which amounts to a compulsory costly policy. The majority in Ogden would opt out, as per the Weber State survey on this issue; it is not popular. Below are some of my concerns that are also shared by many in Ogden.

Disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations: The elderly, disabled individuals, children and financially struggling families are the most vulnerable in society. The added financial strain from increased utility costs will disproportionately affect these groups, jeopardizing their well-being and quality of life, making them choose between heating and eating.

Higher cost of living: Utility costs are a fundamental component of the overall cost of living. As utility prices rise due to the implementation of H.B. 411, the general cost of living in Utah will also increase, affecting all residents across various income levels.

Loss of natural gas access: Heating your home with electricity is three times as expensive than with natural gas. As the program pushes for renewable energy adoption, there’s a possibility that traditional energy sources like natural gas might be phased out. This is happening now in various cities around the nation, one example is San Francisco. This will result in higher costs for alternative energy sources, putting additional financial strain on consumers.

Cumulative utility increases: The utility prices in Utah have already experienced significant increases in recent years due to various factors such as infrastructure upgrades and regulatory changes. The implementation of H.B. 411 will compound these price hikes, exacerbating the financial burden on all consumers.

Inadequate preparation for transition: Rapidly transitioning to renewable energy without comprehensive planning and preparation could lead to inefficiencies and increased costs. The lack of a well-executed roadmap for the transition will contribute to higher utility prices.

Heating and energy costs: The transition to renewable energy sources will involve expensive infrastructure changes and technology upgrades. This will result in higher costs for heating and energy, directly impacting consumers who rely on these services for their daily needs. The impact on business and specifically restaurants will be devastating and they will have to increase their prices or make other sacrifices to survive.

Unpredictable future energy prices: Renewable energy costs are subject to fluctuations, and the long-term stability of these costs is uncertain. Depending heavily on renewables might expose consumers to volatility in energy prices and will lead to even higher utility bills in the future.

Limited tangible benefits: While the program aims to promote compulsory renewable energy, the immediate benefits to consumers will be overshadowed by the higher costs they face. The transition to compulsory renewable energy will increase the economic burden on consumers and will outweigh the potential benefits. H.B. 411 has an opt-out provision, and if you do not opt out within 60 days you are in it — and it appears you get charged to opt out, so you pay more anyway you look at it and get reduced choices on the source of your power.

Lack of cost control measures: H.B. 411 lacks stringent cost control mechanisms, which could lead to unchecked spending on renewable energy projects. Without proper oversight, utility companies might pass these additional expenses onto consumers, further increasing utility prices.

Potential for regulatory uncertainty: Transitioning to “renewable” energy involves navigating a complex regulatory landscape. Changes in federal or state regulations could impact the program’s costs and implementation, leading to unforeseen financial consequences for consumers.

While the intention behind Utah’s Community Renewable Energy Program is commendable, there are serious legitimate concerns about its potential impact on utility prices. The program’s lack of robust cost control measures, coupled with the existing trend of rising utility costs, raises legitimate worries about the financial burden it could place on consumers, particularly the most financially vulnerable members of society. It’s crucial for policymakers to carefully consider these concerns and the economic well-being of all Utah residents.

David Willis moved to Ogden in 2008 and has established a successful career as a real estate agent serving Ogden and the rest of Northern Utah in residential and commercial real estate.

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