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2020 Utah Legislative Session Recap

2020 Utah Legislative Session Recap
27 February 2020

The 2020 Utah Legislative Session is over! We're pleased that the Legislature took some important steps on energy efficiency and clean air this session. Of particular note, the passage of HB 235-Voluntary Home Energy Information Pilot Program, the release of the Utah Roadmap for Positive Solutions on Climate and Air Quality, and legislative discussions around electric vehicle charging and carbon pricing, shows positive momentum on clean energy, climate and air quality action here in Utah.  

However, some important measures, like a clean energy standard as considered in HB 194-Clean and Renewable Energy Requirement Amendments, did not receive support this session. There continues to be much more that can be done to address climate change and to make use of Utah’s abundant and affordable clean energy resources.  

With that, below is a roundup of the major clean energy wins and losses, that came out of the 2020 Utah Legislative Session. You can also check out this Deseret News article for more information.

Home Energy Efficiency Score Legislation Passes!

One of our biggest wins this session was working with Representative Patrice Arent (Millcreek) and Senator Curt Bramble (Provo) on HB 235 2nd Substitute-Voluntary Home Energy Information Pilot ProgramHome Energy Efficiency Score Legislation Passes!

HB 235 will increase consumer awareness of energy costs, energy use, and emissions from homes. This bill will allow the Utah Governor's Office of Energy Development to create the model rules for a voluntary home energy efficiency report (think of it as a voluntary "miles-per-gallon" energy rating for homes).  Today, consumers have no way to easily compare energy costs, energy use, or emissions from homes that they are considering for purchase. This information is vital to unlocking demand for home energy upgrades and efficient new homes.

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We were honored to work with Rep. Patrice Arent, who has been a champion of air quality issues for years! 

Legislature Takes Steps Forward on Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

The Kem. C. Gardner Policy Institute’s Utah Roadmap for Positive Solutions on Climate and Air Quality, highlighted the need for Utah to develop more infrastructure for electric vehicle charging to address “range anxiety” by customers. Two pieces of legislation passed that will help to build more EV infrastructure, both the utility infrastructure for charging and the charging stations themselves. 

PASSED: HB 396 2nd Substitute-Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Amendments by Representative Lowry Snow (Santa Clara) focuses on utility-owned electric vehicle charging infrastructure and electric vehicle charging station services. The legislation authorizes Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) to collect up to $50 million in support of electric vehicle infrastructure and for electric vehicle charging services to customers through a program to be approved by the Public Service Commission. It will also allow RMP to develop a rate to charge customers for using electric charging stations. 

It was important to Utah Clean Energy that this bill was amended to allow private, third-party charging services to compete with RMP to offer electric vehicle charging services to customers. Electric vehicle stations have not, to date, been a utility-run service.  

PASSED: HB 259-Electric Vehicle Charging Network by Representative Robert Spendlove (Sandy) requires the Utah Department of Transportation to develop a statewide plan for an electric vehicle charging network. The plan will be developed with feedback from private entities and several state agencies: the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Office of Energy Development, The Department of Natural Resources, and the Division of Facilities Construction and Management. Utah Clean Energy has requested a role in developing the plan to help ensure that equity is a consideration in the location of charging stations, especially in the western part of Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and Tooele Counties where EV charging is not as abundant.  

The Legislature also appropriated $2 million for installing electric vehicle charging stations and charging equipment in areas of Utah served by rural electric cooperatives to help meet charging needs in all areas of Utah.

Clean Energy Standard Legislation Stalls

One area where we would have liked to have seen more action was in harnessing Utah’s abundant renewable energy resources. We worked with Representative Ray Ward (Bountiful) on HB 194-Clean and Renewable Energy Requirement Amendments, which would have required Rocky Mountain Power to achieve at least 50% zero-emission electricity resources (including solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear energy, carbon capture and sequestration, and other resources) so long as these resources are cost-effective. Unfortunately, we were not able to get a hearing on this bill before the House Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee, despite a productive discussions with our electric utilities and state regulators. We want to thank Representative Ward for his hard work. 

However, the work to advance zero-emissions electricity resources is far from over. Representative Ward has received a commitment to have a version of HB 194 heard and discussed during the 2020 Interim Session. We will keep you apprised as we learn more about the timing of that hearing. 

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Representative Ray Ward speaking at the Clean Air Caucus press conference

Other Notable Clean Energy and Climate Legislation

PASSED: HB 431- Energy Rebate Program Amendments by Representative Steve Handy (Layton) allows Rocky Mountain Power to use electric energy efficiency program funding to provide incentives for heat pumps. Incentivizing heat pumps can help reduce the cost of emerging highly efficient electric heat pump technologies, which are critical to decarbonizing energy use in buildings as our electric grid continues to shift to renewable energy.

The bill also allows those participating in utility-sponsored energy efficiency rebate programs, such as homebuilders, to make use of energy efficiency rebates for up to 12 months after a change in state building codes or other policy change. We believe this bill will help accelerate the adoption of energy efficient construction practices as they become standard practice.

 DID NOT PASS: Energy Storage Tax Credit and Incentive Legislation. Neither SB 77 5th substitute-Electric Energy Related Tax Credit (Sen. Derek Kitchen) nor SB 78-Energy Storage Innovation, Research, and Grant Program Act (Sen. Lincoln Fillmore) crossed the finish line this year. Each would have provided up to $5 million in funding for residential and commercial electric energy storage projects. While the bills received support from both Houses, the energy storage incentive bills did not pass because of funding constraints this year.  
 
DID NOT PASS: Climate Resolutions (HCR 11 and SCR 12).  Unfortunately, two climate change-related resolutions did not move forward this session. House Concurrent Resolution 11-Supporting the Utah Roadmap - Positive Solutions and Leadership on Climate and Air Quality by Representative Joel Briscoe (Salt Lake City) called on the Utah Legislature to support and implement the mileposts laid out in the Utah Roadmap. In addition, Senate Concurrent Resolution 12-Concurrent Resolution on Climate Action by Senator Kirk Cullimore (Sandy) called for the Utah Legislature to consider support for a carbon pricing policy called "carbon fee and dividend", which puts a price on carbon emissions and then refunds the proceeds back to taxpayers as a dividend. 
 
DID NOT PASS: HB 489-Wind Energy Facility Siting Amendments. Representative Paul Ray (Clearfield) introduced a bill that would require owners and developers of wind energy-related facilities to apply and receive certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense prior to construction. We believe that this legislation requires additional study and oppose it at this time because it could pose unnecessary obstacles to constructing wind energy in Utah. 

Hydrogen-Related Legislation: HB 269-Income Tax Credit Amendments by Representative Douglas Sagers (Tooele) passed, which creates an income tax credit and a gross receipts tax credit for hydrogen energy fuel and production systems of 2 megawatts and above. Separately, SB 154-Taxed Interlocal Entity Amendments by Senator David Hinkins has modified rules for the Intermountain Power Authority to allow it to be eligible to receive federal grants in support of hydrogen energy storage systems. This all shows rising interest in developing hydrogen and an energy storage resource in Utah. 
 
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