Guest opinion: Renewable energy program will be responsible, affordable, impactful
We are elected officials who serve on the executive committee of the Utah Renewable Communities (URC) — a coalition of 18 towns, cities and counties working to launch a new net-100% renewable electricity program for Rocky Mountain Power customers in our communities. We hope to clear up some misinformation and misunderstanding about this program.
Our goal is to offer customers a choice to supplement their current energy mix with additional renewable energy at a minimal cost increase. We are currently in the process of submitting a program application to the Utah Public Service Commission for review with a program launch targeted for 2024 or early 2025. By law, the program cannot increase costs for customers who choose not to participate.
URC’s No. 1 priority is creating a program that will be affordable for most Utahns. We estimate that households in our program will pay between $2 and $7 extra per month to have the amount of electricity they use every year matched with renewable energy. A survey of Ogden residents conducted by Weber State University showed that almost 80% of residents would likely participate in the program if it meant their bills would not increase by more than 10%.
However, we know that not everyone who wants to support renewable energy can afford this modest expense. That’s why our board voted to support providing an extra bill credit for qualifying households designed to offset the average additional cost (up to $7 per month). We want all participants who currently receive bill assistance from Rocky Mountain Power to automatically qualify for this additional bill credit.
Unlike other renewable energy programs, ours will be designed to bring new large-scale renewable power plants online this decade. The amount of new renewable energy will be calibrated to complement the renewable energy Rocky Mountain Power is building so that all program customers will be served by net-100% renewable electricity by 2030. The more renewable energy Rocky Mountain Power builds for all customers, the less our program will need to acquire to serve program participants and the lower the cost will be.
However, controlling costs is paramount. That’s why our communities agreed to a cost control measure that makes it very difficult for the URC board to acquire new renewable energy resources if doing so would increase participating customer costs by 10% or more. Any vote to approve a new resource that exceeds that 10% threshold could be vetoed by only seven of our 18 member communities.
While our communities were given authority by the Utah Legislature to acquire energy from new renewable energy resources for program participants, the URC has no authority to close fossil fuel power plants or limit the use of natural gas for heating or cooking. Adding more renewable energy to the mix allows fossil fuel plants to run less often, reducing climate pollution and saving on fuel costs.
Our residents and businesses want the choice to support clean energy, but current options are limited or expensive. We are designing this program to be accessible for everyone — so our individual actions will add up to a huge impact at a small price.
After the costs have been identified and the program is approved, we believe joining will be the single most impactful and affordable step our communities can take to leave a better environment for future generations. All we ask is that community leaders allow the process to play out and the facts to be known before closing the door on this once-in-a-lifetime clean energy opportunity.
Angela Choberka, vice chair of the board, is a member of the Ogden City Council (District 1). Dan Dugan, chair of the board, is a member of the Salt Lake City Council (District 6).