Utah’s 2021 Legislative Session is off and running. Utah Clean Energy’s policy team is working on and tracking several bills that impact clean energy, climate, and air quality issues. Read on for a glance at some of our high-priority legislative items.
Clean Energy Fund (Representative Briscoe)*
Representative Briscoe is sponsoring legislation that would help to develop a new state supported non-profit clean energy and innovation fund in order to provide low-interest financing to clean energy and energy efficiency projects in Utah. Utah Clean Energy strongly supports this legislation. By leveraging private and public capital, this bill will create jobs and grow Utah’s clean energy industry. The Clean Energy Fund would support solar, EV, wind, energy efficiency, and other projects that have added benefits of cleaner air and a healthy climate.
We are opposed to HB 17-Utility Permitting Amendments, which would prevent Utah cities and counties from restricting new gas connections. This legislation is quite broad and could prevent Utah communities from putting in place policies or ordinances the promote all-electric homes and buildings, which can dramatically reduce emissions and improve air quality as our electricity sector is increasingly powered with renewables. The Utah Legislature should be encouraging local experimentation in reducing emissions and promoting clean energy, not restricting it.
Uniform Building Code Commission Amendments*
Another very concerning bill deals with homebuilders and consumer protection. There is likely to be legislation that would alter the important Uniform Building Code Commission, which makes recommendations on statewide standards for new homes and commercial buildings. State building codes are critical for ensuring that new homes and buildings have strong minimum energy efficiency standards, which reduce pollution and save building owners money on energy costs. This bill would essentially modify the commission assigned to study and recommend building code changes to increase the number of homebuilders and building operators and reduce public participation. We need strong public interest representation on the UBCC to ensure that building costs are in the public interest.
Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Statewide Emissions Reduction Goals* (Rep. Steve Handy)
Legislators are likely to introduce a resolution, which we support, that would adopt the reduction goals for criteria pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions recommended by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute in the “Utah Roadmap: Positive Solutions on Climate and Air Quality.” The resolution would call for a reduction of 50% in greenhouse gas emissions and criteria pollutants by 2030 and a reduction of 80% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Setting goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a critical step in creating policies and programs to address the risks of climate change and harness Utah’s abundant clean energy resources.
HB 209-Vehicle Registration Fee Amendments (Rep. Kay Christofferson)
This bill would substantially increase the additional annual fees for electric, plug-in electric, and hybrid passenger vehicles. The fees for an electric vehicle would increase to $300 (from $120), to $260 for a plug-in electric vehicle (from $52), and to $50 for gasoline hybrids (from $20). The new fees would be among the highest in the nation for electric vehicles, potentially deterring Utah customers from purchasing an EV at a time when EVs represent a small share of the vehicles on the road (just 1.8% of new car sales in Utah).
*Bills without a number have not yet been finalized and released publicly.
A few other notable bills we will be monitoring:
- HB 98-Local Government Building Regulation Amendments (Rep. Paul Ray)-This bill seeks to circumvent the current process for local building inspections and restrict the design elements that local governments that regulate in new residences.
- HB 123-Feasilibity Study for Air Quality Laboratory (Rep. Steve Handy)-This bill calls for the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to study the feasibility of a state air quality solutions laboratory.
- HB 131-State Facility Energy Efficiency Amendments (Rep. Steve Handy)-This bill would require all state agencies to provide information on utility use for their facilities to the Division of Facilities Construction and Management.
- Integrated Resource Plan Amendments (Rep. Steve Handy)-This bill would seek to evaluate energy storage as an energy resource in electric utility resource planning.
- Wind Facility Siting Amendments (Rep. Paul Ray)-This bill would seek to restrict where wind energy generating facilities can be located in Utah.