Salt Lake City pursues aggressive clean energy targets

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, members of the City Council, other city leaders, and members of the business and non-profit community gathered on July 13 the steps of City Hall to launch Salt Lake City’s initiative to transition the community to 100% renewable energy sources by 2032 and to reduce carbon emissions city-wide by 80% by 2040.

The commitment, called Climate Positive 2040, comes as a result of a Joint Resolution signed by Mayor Biskupski and the Salt Lake City Council on July 12. The commitment makes Salt Lake City one of only a handful of cities worldwide to pledge an 80% reduction in community wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

“This is the most ambitious step ever taken by Salt Lake City to address the threat of climate change,” said Mayor Biskupski. “This commitment places the City among leading communities worldwide that acknowledge our responsibility to rapidly reduce emissions and forge a new path forward that protects our economies, societies and overall human well-being.”

In January, during the mayor’s State of the City Address, Salt Lake City committed to 100% renewable electricity sources for its government operations, along with major carbon reductions for city operations, but this resolution expands the scope to include all electricity and emissions on a community scale.

“The goals in our resolution may seem aggressive. To that I say, they are realistic if we want to actually change the air we breathe,” said Salt Lake City Council Member Erin Mendenhall who sponsored the Joint Resolution.

The Joint Resolution cited the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and being driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The resolution also acknowledged local impacts such as changes in water systems and extreme weather events that are affecting Salt Lake City already.

Notable is that the Utah electricity market has traditionally been dominated by coal-fired power, including the Hunter and Huntington plants of PacifiCorp, which are fueled by in-state coal. But PacifiCorp has been signing a number of agreements lately to buy electricity from solar and wind projects.

Salt Lake City said it is intent on forging new, transformative solutions through a variety of existing and emerging programs:

  • Clean Electricity Supply – The city recently partnered with Summit County and Park City to fund a renewable energy study that will reveal pathways forward, including towards 100% clean electricity by 2032. This study is underway and will offer results in late 2016. New clean energy options for homeowners and businesses, such as PacifiCorp d/b/a Rocky Mountain Power’s Subscriber Solar program, will also be key.
  • Reduce Energy Waste – Energy efficiency and conservation, both in buildings and vehicles, are essential to achieving sizable reductions in carbon pollution. The city continues to partner with large property owners and managers through Project Skyline and by exploring new options to advance energy savings in commercial properties.
  • Active Transportation and Clean Vehicles – Salt Lake City has been active by originally launching initiatives such as Clear the Air Challenge and the Hive Pass which offers discounted transit passes to residents.
  • Community Partnership – Partnership is key to succeeding on climate change. The newly-formed Utah Climate Action Network is one way the city is leading alongside other organizations committed to sharing and accelerating the adoption of climate solutions.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.