That’s a wrap. The final votes were cast last week, and the 2019 Utah Legislative Session closed. Utah Clean Energy’s policy team was there, lobbying till the end for some last minute wins! We'll be sending a more detailed update next week, but here’s a quick rundown on some key clean energy and air quality bills that passed and await a final decision from the Governor.
Local Governments Take Step to Get to 100% Net Renewable Energy
HB 411-Community Renewable Energy Act passed the Senate in the last hours of the legislative session by a vote of 23-6. This was an important step forward for renewable energy in Utah! HB 411 creates a pathway for communities served by Rocky Mountain Power to move to 100% net renewable energy. Should Governor Herbert sign the legislation, the action will shift to the Utah Public Service Commission, which will be charged with how to structure the Community Renewable Energy program.
Some Wins and Losses for Air Quality and Clean Energy Funding in the State Budget
The House and Senate came to a deal on the 2019 state budget. The budget (outlined in SB 2 and SB 3) includes about $28 million in funding for air quality programs. Of that amount, $1 million is allocated for the Weatherization Assistance Program, and $7 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure at business, government, and state agency locations. The budget also includes $250,000 to fund a study on electric transmission challenges, in an effort to address the bottleneck of large-scale, renewable energy projects that are stuck in transmission limbo. Last, but far from least, is $200,000 for a study by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute on air quality and climate.
Unfortunately, a few items that we supported did not make the cut. SB 111-Energy Storage Innovation, Research, and Grant Program that would have provided grants for residential and commercial energy storage did not receive any funding and did not pass. The same was true for HB 295-Vehicle Emissions Reduction Program that would have provided assistance to replace older high emissions vehicles.
Better Building Energy Codes Equals Cleaner Air
As reported earlier, HB 218-Construction Code Modifications (Rep. Mike Schultz) passed earlier in the session and included the adoption of the full 2018 commercial energy code, making Utah just one of a handful of states to adopt this code. The updated building code will reduce energy waste in new buildings, thereby reducing pollution. Unfortunately, the bill also modified energy efficiency standards for residential buildings by making future rules for air tightness less stringent.
Renewable Energy Options for Large Energy Users
Utah Clean Energy helped with legislation, HB 407-Renewable Energy Facilities Amendments (Rep Joel Briscoe), which would help large energy users such as data centers, get more renewable energy to power their facilities. This bill did not pass the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee last week, but did get referred to interim session for further study. We look forward to productive discussions on this during the interim session.
A couple more energy bills that passed in the last days of the session
SB 150-Energy Balancing Account Amendments (Sen. Daniel Hemmert): This bill codifies that Rocky Mountain Power can recover 100% of the funds in its Energy Balancing Account (EBA). We opposed this bill because it shifts risks from RMP's energy resource planning decisions away from the utility and towards customers.
HB 307-Utility Online Usage Data Amendments (Rep. Eric Hutchings): This bill requires Rocky Mountain Power and rural electricity cooperatives to provide access to nonresidential customers to the customer’s energy usage data in 15-minute intervals (or the shortest interval available through its existing electric meter)