With all the disruptions of 2020, you may have missed the good news: Ogden City has finalized a plan to reduce energy costs, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create stronger, more resilient municipal operations, businesses and residential areas.

The Energy Wise Ogden Strategic Implementation Plan, which represents the collective work of more than 30 committee members and hundreds of residents who provided feedback over the past two years, outlines 10 specific strategies to achieve the energy savings goals. These strategies included determining the community’s current energy use, recommending efficiency improvements such as facility upgrades, and coordinating an energy-efficiency awareness campaign with the community.

We are excited to see Ogden City make this important commitment. Improving the efficiency of municipal buildings will reduce operating costs, which will reduce the financial burden on taxpayers.

Similarly, when our local businesses reduce costs by operating more efficiently, they gain a competitive edge and can reduce consumer prices.

The plan will also help Ogden residents reduce energy costs at home, which can sometimes mean the difference between being able to put food on the table or not — especially during these difficult economic times. A report released by the Energy Information Administration in September 2018 found that 31% of U.S. households struggle to pay their energy bills. The same study found that about 20% of those surveyed had to go without essential needs such as food or medicine to pay utility bills.

Weber State University recently built a new home in central Ogden that demonstrates how incorporating energy efficiency in the design and construction of homes can provide long-term energy savings. In this collaborative effort, university faculty and students designed and built the home on a lot provided by Ogden City. The completed home features a tightly sealed building envelope, above-code insulation, LED lighting, a hybrid heat pump water heater, and Energy Star certified appliances. This all-electric home utilizes no natural gas and is entirely powered by solar. The total annual utility costs for this super energy efficient home are estimated to be just over $100, making the cost of homeownership significantly more affordable.

In addition to financial savings, Ogden’s Energy Wise plan will result in improved air quality because less electricity and natural gas will be necessary to provide for our businesses and homes. Weber County often exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency’s air-quality standards, and various studies have linked poor air quality to lung and heart disease. Using fossil fuels more efficiently also means that Ogden will contribute less to the emissions that cause climate change, which contributes to heat waves, increased drought, increased insect outbreak, and more intense wildfire seasons and storm events.

Without significant cuts in emissions, we can expect these negative impacts to intensify resulting in reduced security and increased disruption to our lives. Reducing Ogden’s contributions to air quality and climate change will directly benefit the health, prosperity and security of the Wasatch Front.

In 2020, we’ve had plenty of disruptions, and we welcome a plan to improve our community in the face of hardship. This plan strengthens Ogden’s resilience to the disruptions from market volatility and climate change. As we move forward, we must rapidly reduce energy waste and transition away from fossil fuels. Furthermore, we must use the best science and technology available to prepare and prevent disruptions down the road.

With the completion of the Energy Wise plan, Ogden City has chosen to address the challenges we face.

The city should be commended for tackling problems head-on and planning for our community’s future.

The U.S. Department of Energy, Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development, and Utah Clean Energy also played an important role in this effort. Ogden City can be used as a model for further progress in this state and across the country.

Jennifer Bodine is a sustainability manager at Weber State University and Dr. Heather Root is an Assistant Professor of Botany at Weber State University.

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