Final Week of the 2019 Utah Legislative Session

Final Week of the 2019 Utah Legislative Session
11 March 2019

Just four more days left in this year’s 2019 Legislative Session and a lot of energy and air quality issues remain in the balance. Utah Clean Energy will be working in support of legislation providing communities with a pathway to move to 100% net renewable energy and looking to see the final decisions the Legislature makes on appropriations, especially potential new funding for low-income energy efficiency programs, energy storage grants, and air quality investments.

We also had a great time with many of our Clean Energy Business Coalition members at this year’s “Clean Energy Business Day” held at the Capitol last Wednesday, March 6! Special thanks to First Solar for sponsoring and for all the great businesses that joined. Last but not least, take a look at Utah Clean Energy’s Legislative Tracker for a complete list of all the bills that we are monitoring.

Community Renewable Energy Act Passes Out of Committee, But Prospects Uncertain in the House

HB 411-Community Renewable Energy Act (Rep. Steve Handy), would allow Utah communities that are Rocky Mountain Power customers to create a program that would provide 100% net renewable energy supplies for all of their residents and businesses by 2030. The bill passed out of the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee last Thursday by a vote of 7-4. This came after the Committee had voted to hold the bill the day before. While the majority of Committee members supported the bill, many objected to the idea that customers in participating communities would have to “opt out” of the program, in spite of provisions providing for significant public processes and allow for any customer to opt out.

Status: HB 411 now awaits a vote in the full House of Representatives, likely Monday (3/11). If it passes there, it would still need a vote in the full Senate.

Energy Efficiency and Air Quality Programs Funding May Not Be Resolved Until Special Session Later This Year

Utah Clean Energy has supported a number of bills that would improve air quality and advance clean energy that are awaiting final word on funding. The Executive Appropriations Committee is in charge of finalizing the FY2020 budget and appropriations requests, such as the one Utah Clean Energy has supported to expand state funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program. However, news outlets are now reporting that the Utah Legislature may postpone final decisions on appropriations requests until it passes a tax reform bill, likely in a special session later this year. We will await final word on appropriations later this week.

Status: The Executive Appropriations Committee is now set to meet March 12, to conclude the appropriations process for this session.

The latest on other energy bills we’re following

HB 407-Renewable Energy Facilities Amendments (Rep. Joel Briscoe) would modify “Schedule 32” rates for large energy users that seek to contract for new renewable energy resources. The bill was heard in the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee last Monday (3/4) and Utah Clean Energy testified in favor of the bill with the sponsor, along with a representative from eBay. HB 407 was held for further study in interim committee.

HB 304-Fossil Fuel Tax Amendments (Rep. Joel Briscoe) would create a tax on emissions from fossil fuels created by Utah facilities, such as power plants, refineries, cement making facilities, and others. HB 304 would refund most of the revenues generated by the new tax through a reduction in other taxes. HB 304 received a hearing in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Friday, March 8, though the bill did not move forward out of committee.

HB 307-Utility Online Usage Data Amendments (Rep. Eric Hutchings) would allow nonresidential electricity customers of Rocky Mountain Power and rural electricity cooperatives access to more granular data on their energy use through an online portal. The bill is awaiting a final vote in the Senate after passing out of the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee.

SB 150-Energy Balancing Account Amendments (Senator Daniel Hemmert) would allow Rocky Mountain Power to retain 100% of the balance of funds in its Energy Balancing Account, which the utility uses to pay for its power costs. SB 150 passed out of the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee and now awaits a final vote in the House to pass.