2018 Legislative Roundup: Clean Energy Wins and Challenges

2018 Legislative Roundup: Clean Energy Wins and Challenges
02 March 2018

And that's a wrap! The 2018 Utah General Legislative Session has come to a close. By midnight last night, all of our priority bills had passed, and while we didn't get everything we hoped for, things shook out well for clean energy, climate, and air quality progress. Here's where things landed:

Passed - Renewable Energy AmendmentsUtah Clean Energy's policy team (from left): Kevin Emerson, Sarah Wright, and Josh Craft

HB 261-Renewable Energy Amendments by Representative John Knotwell allows Rocky Mountain Power to construct or own a solar generation facility. We worked hard to ensure the bill has language to protect consumers and competition for Utah's solar future.

End result for Utahns: More solar energy in Utah!

Passed - Rooftop Solar Tax Credit Extension Legislation

SB 141-Electric Energy Amendments by Senator Curt Bramble maintains the renewable energy systems tax credit for rooftop solar arrays at $1600 through 2020 and then phase out by 2024. It also modifies the net metering statute to clarify that the net metering program will close for Rocky Mountain Power customers on January 1, 2036. Of note, there are some funding details that need to be worked out for 2020, but we're confident they'll be resolved.
End result for Utahns: Households going solar can access state tax incentives on their install through 2024.

Passed - Residential Solar Energy Amendments

SB 157-Residential Solar Energy Amendments by Senator Lincoln Fillmore requires solar energy companies to provide customers with disclosures on estimated customer savings, future operations and maintenance services, among other items. It also authorizes the Division of Public Utilities to impose fines on solar retailers who violate the disclosure requirements.

End result for Utahns - More accountability in the solar industry and consumer protection.

Passed - Concurrent Resolution on Economic and Environmental Stewardship

Representative Rebecca Edwards’ HCR 7, “Concurrent Resolution on Economic and Environmental Stewardship” commits the Legislature and the Governor to the “use of sound science to address causes of a changing climate and support innovation and environmental stewardship in order to realize positive solutions.” This represents a significant step forward in our policymaker’s discussion of the challenges that climate change poses and the need for state solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

End result for Utahns - The need to address climate change is on the books in Utah

Passed - Auto Dealer License Amendments

This bill sponsored by Representative Kim Coleman, allows a "direct sale manufacturer" of automobiles to sell cars at a showroom and maintain a service center in Utah under certain circumstances. It took a couple of years, but we're so happy this one finally made it through!

End result for Utahns - Anyone who wants to buy a Tesla cannot only test drive from the South Salt Lake store, you can buy directly from there as well.

Passed - Transportation Governance Amendments

We're not thrilled with this one, but at least some progress was made.  SB 136, Transportation Governance Amendments imposes new fees on electric and hybrid vehicles. We acknowledge that the bill has some positive changes to transportation including allowing UDOT to invest in transit projects, and providing a new pathway for local governments to help increase transit funding. Perhaps most bizarrely, it would also require the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to rebrand as the “Transit District Authority of Utah.” (For more detail on the bill, see this Deseret News article here).

As we have updated you, Utah Clean Energy put significant time and effort into SB 136 because we don't want to see new annual fees for low and zero emission vehicles period. But, we are happy to report that some progress was made to improve the bill.

The final bill passed includes some changes that improved the bill’s treatment of electric vehicles. The fees for electric vehicles, for example, fell from $156 to $120 and are now phased in over three years, while the fees from plug-in vehicles fell from $80 to $52. Moreover, HB 3-Appropriations Adjustments was passed, directing the Utah Department of Transportation to invest up to $200,000 (roughly equal to the amount collected through the new fees from EVs each year) in new EV charging infrastructure. UCE will be following this closely to ensure it happens. This doesn’t mitigate the fees, but at least it ensures that electric vehicle fees support EV infrastructure.

End result for Utahns: EV owners are getting hit with an annual road usage fee, but the fees are lower and will be used to expand EV infrastructure.