On June 8, 2010, Utah Governor Gary Herbert launched a formal planning process for the Utah Energy Initiative. Over the past several months the members of the Utah Energy Initiative Task Force and various subcommittees have conducted public hearings and a series of meetings to gather input for purposes of drafting a 10-year strategic energy plan. The Energy Initiative Task Force issued a draft report on November 3, 2010. Written comments on the draft report are due by November 10, 2010 and should be submitted to abuchholz@utah.gov. A public hearing at which public comment will be accepted will be held on November 10, 2010 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., at the Senate Building (State Capitol complex east building), Room 215, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The energy plan outlined in the report contains the following themes:

  1. Economic Development and Energy Jobs
  2. Energy Development and Environment
  3. Energy Efficiency, Conservation and Demand-Response
  4. Transportation and Air Quality
  5. Transmission, Infrastructure and Transportation
  6. Developing and Applying Technology and Science  

Summary of key points in the report:

Economic Development and Energy Jobs:

  • Conventional energy and mineral resources have historically served as the backbone of Utah's energy production -- however, Utah also possesses an array of renewable resources
  • The study raises both a concern and an opportunity: energy-focused counties, and by extension the state, need to have strategies in place to adequately balance their reliance on energy as an economic and employment driver
  • As the cost of renewable energy continues to decline, regulatory reforms which encourage renewable energy development and use, once the cost tipping point is reached, will grow Utah's economy
  • Utah must show an unwavering commitment to the future energy economy that includes balancing fossil fuel development with development of renewable and alternative energy

Energy Development and Environment:

  • Utah's energy portfolio should include fossil fuels, alternative fuels, renewable resources, and energy efficiency
  • Future energy projections place significant demands on natural gas production in Utah and may require importation of additional natural gas supplies from neighboring states
  • Electricity generation in Utah is undergoing a transition from predominantly coal-fired generation to a more diverse portfolio of natural gas and renewable resources
  • Utah has vast untapped renewable energy potential, but policy, economic, and regulatory barriers currently impede widespread market adoption
  • Nuclear power generation deserves additional evaluation, but will not be available for electricity generation in this 10-year strategic plan
  • Energy development can occur in concert with protection of our air, land, water, and wildlife resources

Energy Efficiency, Conservation and Demand-Response:

  • Models and studies recognize energy efficiency as a cost-effective energy resource
  • Constructing buildings to current or above energy code standards reduces the occupant's energy costs and puts downward pressure on utility rates by deferring investment in new energy generation that would otherwise be needed to meet rising demand
  • A barrier to widespread adoption of energy efficiency and conservation is the lack of public awareness and understanding about energy, energy-efficiency technologies, practices and programs
  • In many situations, incentives are sufficient to encourage businesses and residential consumers to pursue individual energy-efficiency measures, but barriers remain for obtaining significant energy savings on a whole-house or whole-building basis
  • New home and new commercial building design and construction should be energy efficient
  • Strategies are needed to advance energy efficiency in Utah's industrial sector
  • Utah's regulatory framework is most effective in focusing its efforts on reducing overall energy consumption, managing peak loads through best practices, and supporting energy-efficiency and demand-response programs, consumer education, and utility rate design to promote energy efficiency and conservation

Transportation and Air Quality:

  • Utah needs to improve vehicle technology/efficiency and alternative fuels (refueling) infrastructure
  • Fuel consumption and air pollution can be reduced through more efficient traffic flow, using engineering and technology to effectively manage all modes of traffic and maximizing the effectiveness of our transportation systems
  • Changing behavior is difficult, but communication strategies and tactics that provide awareness and education, supported by incentives, marketing and promotions can succeed in reducing unnecessary travel, particularly the number and duration of solo-driver trips
  • Assist communities in choosing land-use options that reduce per-capita energy consumption, improved air quality, and make it easier for people to get from one place to another
  • Changes in fuel prices can change behavior
  • A better balance of regional travel choices between auto, public transit, bicycling and walking is imperative

Transmission, Infrastructure and Transportation

  • Electric and natural gas transmission is a key part of any state's overall energy policy, but it is the most difficult component of the energy delivery system to construct
  • The current lack of transmission capacity in Utah could prevent the state from reaping the economic and environmental advantages of developing renewable energy projects within our borders
  • With the projected increase in travel and population, there is a need to expand the state transportation system, as defined in the Utah Long Range Plan
  • Need to develop a state level position to propose alternatives to current regulation and funding sources to encourage transmission line and pipeline construction in areas that promote economic development or renewable resource development
  • The state needs a clear process for siting and permitting transmission infrastructure projects as part of its State Energy Plan
  • Various linear infrastructure projects create competition for scarce corridors that creates a greater impact on citizens
  • Public interest multiple infrastructure corridors cannot be secured without funding and right-of-way acquisition
  • Infrastructure should be built in a way to minimize environmental and social impacts
  • Encourage strong energy efficiency, demand-side management measures and distributed generation to minimize the need to build additional transmission  

Developing and Applying Technology and Science:

  • Enhance the state's energy research facilities and continue to attract world-class researchers to the state
  • Align the state's main research universities - University of Utah (U of U), Utah State (USU) and Brigham Young University (BYU) -- into a powerful energy research and development triangle
  • Connect this "research triangle" with industry, national laboratories and regional universities to effectively commercialize new energy technologies and develop Utah's conventional, alternative and renewable energy resources
  • Empower Utah's education system to expand its ability to train, attract and retain the skilled talent necessary to grow Utah's energy economy
  • Utah's energy industry research and development leads in such fields as geomechanics, new material technology and clean coal technologies
  • The eight Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT) campuses, community colleges, and other higher education institutions offering energy-related technical training, fill an essential role in developing and maintaining a technically-trained Utah workforce