City council declares renewable energy study ‘no-brainer’
Nov 11, 2019 03:14PM
● By Zak Sonntag
By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]
The Holladay City Council in October passed the resolution, “Expressing the City’s Intent to Study and Consider Participation in the Community Renewable Energy Act of the State of Utah.”
The state law, HB 411, incentivizes municipalities to move to 100 renewable energy by the year 2030.
“We individually and collectively need to deal in some small way with climate change, especially as our federal government has not. This is a step in the right direction,” Councilmember Steve Gunn said.
The council’s unanimous support of the resolution is consistent with its constituency’s growing concern over environmental issues, indicated by the community priorities survey.
The survey, commissioned by the council and administered by Y2 Analytics in the years 2017 and 2019, revealed that “Environmentally sustainable buildings (and moving away from non-renewable energy)” is a high priority across all age groups in both polls.
“Tonight was a success. It shows that Holladay and Utah are joining the rest of the country in the revolution to move to renewable energy. It’s a substantial step forward,” said Lindsay Beebe, attending community member.
The state law was passed partly in response to Utahns’ swelling discontent with climate issues, particularly in reaction to an accruing body of evidence showing that air-pollution puts Wasatch Front families at greater health risk, including higher risk of miscarriage, premature death in the elderly and blood vessel damage even in young populations.
However, for Holladay residents, the bill’s impact on local air quality will be peripheral.
“The truth is this bill may have a limited impact on our air pollution. It’s much more about the climate generally than air pollution specifically,” said Steven Glaser, chemist and environmental consultant.
Rocky Mountain Power is the primary supplier of energy to Holladay residents, and because that energy is generated from coal plants outside the valley, its immediate repercussions to the city’s air quality are minimal.
However, Glaser believes moves like this will have an impact on consumer behavior in ways that may alter air-quality outcomes.
“The majority of our air pollution comes from automobile emissions. And when people know their electricity is being generated from wind or solar, they’re going to be more incentivized to get electric cars, which will bring pollution down,” Glaser said.
With climate-related threats mounting rapidly, many would like to see the transitions to renewable take place sooner.
But amongst energy suppliers and policy experts there is a consensus that shifting before 2030 is unpractical.
“The reason we can’t do it any sooner is because of cost. We’ve got power plants that are integrated with our communities. Even if renewable is cheaper, it’s not necessarily cheaper for us,” said France Barral, mother and community member, clapping loudly at the resolutions passage. “It’s like having a mortgage. The power plants have another 10 years of life—what do you do with this fixed cost?”
The council blazed through debate to quickly sweep up yes-votes.
The resolution’s easy passage owes partly to the fact that it doesn’t make any major changes.
“This step is a no-brainer. It’s low-hanging fruit. It just puts us in a larger process so we can contribute to solutions for addressing the issue,” Councilman Paul Fotheringham said.
Councilman Brett Graham agreed. “It gives us options. It doesn’t bind us. We’re all in favor of things that help with the climate, and because it allows us to study it, I’m in support.”