Sunday Nov 27, 2022

Is renewable energy worth the costs? Ogden City Council wants to hear from community – Standard-Examiner

MATT HERP, Standard-Examiner file photo

Solar panels are seen on the roof of the Ogden Rescue Mission on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Ogden. <!–

OGDEN — City Council members are seeking out local residents’ opinions about a first-of-its-kind renewable energy program being developed in Utah.

The Renewable Energy Agency, established in August 2021, provides cities and counties with the authority to choose where their energy is sourced, making it a unique program.

In April 2019, the Utah Legislature passed House Bill 411, enabling the Community Renewable Energy Program. Salt Lake City, Park City and Summit County began drafting the legislation in 2017 to provide customers with greener energy options.

Ogden City Council Executive Director Janene Eller-Smith said city leaders do not know whether renewable energy sources will include solar, hydropower or wind as they are still in the beginning stages of development.

The Ogden City Council is currently working with Katherine French-Fuller and her team from Weber State University’s Center for Community Engaged Learning to send out 10,000 surveys to businesses and select households. The city is looking for community input on the importance of renewable energy as well as potential costs. The survey is expected to be mailed out Friday and remain open for 30 days. Approximately 1,500 responses are needed for an accurate sample.

“People are probably going to say they think renewable energy is a good idea. But when you ask how much they are willing to pay for it, that’s where the rubber hits the road,” Eller-Smith said.

The agency’s low-income committee is designing the program with certain customers in mind. However, it has not been determined how they will be able to provide help to those who may want to participate but cannot afford to.

According to Eller-Smith, City Council members have been concerned from the beginning as to how low-income residents will be affected.

While the potential increase in costs is still being discussed, Eller-Smith said it is likely for renewable energy products to be higher in cost.

As with any city utility, rates must be approved by a state agency. Once the program is fully developed, it will go to the Public Service Committee for rate approval.

If the city adopts the ordinance, customers will be given the opportunity to opt out of the program, developed in conjunction with Rocky Mountain Power, provided they are not renting from someone who has the service.

Should the city adopt the renewable energy ordinance, it will be automatic. City officials are asking residents to be aware of possible changes to occur in billing as there will only be a 90-day window, spanning three billing cycles, to opt out.

Eller-Smith said she does not anticipate an ordinance to be adopted until 2023 at the earliest.

The agency’s goal is to be 100% operational with renewable energy options by 2030, but Eller-Smith said she believes this goal to be “really aggressive” when the program has not yet been fully developed.

In July 2021, Ogden officially joined the CREP along with 12 other communities. The city paid half of $72,000 to be a member of the agency, with fees going toward legal services, technical reviews and filing. The remaining balance is due around May or June.

Representatives from Rocky Mountain Power did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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