2021 is here! SLCgreen is excited to move forward. But as we prepare for the year to come, we’re also ready to incorporate what we’ve learned from 2020.
At the beginning of 2020, SLCgreen was eagerly preparing for a new administration and planning for a year of innovative sustainability projects. After a busy 2019 we were ready to take the next steps towards bringing net-100% renewable energy to our community. A new state-of-the-art recycling facility was near completion. And an innovative resident-led food equity program was convening to help improve food access in Salt Lake City.
The challenges of the past year have been harrowing. Within the first months of 2020, Salt Lake City pivoted our work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We experienced an earthquake that damaged our homes and businesses. Hurricane-force winds toppled thousands of trees and left many members of our communities without power for several days.
Despite it all, SLCgreen was able to accomplish many of our goals with the help of our dedicated crews and community members. The challenges our community faced in 2020 laid bare the deep connections between equity, resiliency, and climate action. The year required us take more direct actions to improve our emergency response plans, to better support the voices of residents who have been excluded in the past, and to expand our communications to facilitate more collaborative work.
SLCgreen is ready to build off of what we learned during the past year, but before we set our sights on 2021, here are a few highlights from 2020.
In 2019, Salt Lake City set an ambitious goal of reaching 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Transitioning to clean energy will help the City reduce its carbon footprint and build more climate resilient communities. Last week, Salt Lake City took an exciting step towards reaching our climate goals.
The Utah Public Services Commission recently approved an application that allows Rocky Mountain Power to purchase the output from a large new solar farm to be built in Tooele County, Utah, on behalf of six large customers, including Salt Lake City Corp. This solar project, which will be among Rocky Mountain Power’s largest, will provide renewable energy to Salt Lake City Corporation, Park City, Summit County, Utah Valley University, Park City Mountain and Deer Valley ski resorts.
For Salt Lake City, this project will help meet nearly 90% of the City’s municipal electricity needs by 2023.
This means that Salt Lake City’s government buildings and operations will primarily source its electricity from renewable energy. This substantial shift to renewable energy is projected to increase in the city’s electric bill by less than 2%.
Next Steps Towards Community-Wide Renewable Energy
Moving Salt Lake City’s internal electric consumption to renewable energy is a first step towards community-wide renewable energy. In 2019, the Utah State legislature passed HB411, the Community Renewable Energy Act. This law establishes a legal pathway for communities serviced by Rocky Mountain Power to create a net-100% renewable electricity portfolio.
So far 2020 has been a record year for climate-related natural disasters. Alongside the global coronavirus pandemic, severe weather like what we experienced with last week’s wind storm, record breaking temperatures in August, and fires burning throughout the Western United States, have shown us first-hand the effects of climate change in our backyards.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to call attention to climate change– and the urgency of taking action at all levels.
We’re in luck because the Fourth Annual Utah Climate Week is coming up from September 21 – September 27 and offers everyone the platform not only to learn and engage, but also to call attention to climate change during what has seemed like a year of jumping from one immediate crisis to another.
So many people are struggling and so many are exhausted with all 2020 is bringing to bear on our communities. We hear that and we feel it too.
And that’s exactly why we must continue looking at the big picture, and to draw the connections between immediate events and the larger harm we’re doing to our planet.
This year’s Climate Week will be a little different– there won’t be in-person events, but there are a suite of interesting and engaging events taking place online and we hope to see you at one or more of them.
Then join us on social media to highlight why you care about climate change. Use the tags #UtahClimateWeek and #ActOnClimate to call attention to this issue!
If you’re not a big social media user, take the opportunity to do some learning, then perhaps have a conversation with your friends, family, or other networks. Whatever you do: Learn. Activate. Engage. Let’s go!
We’ve been involved in planning and coordinating one event in particular and we’d like to invite you to attend.
The Utah Sustainable Business Coalition and the Salt Lake City e2 Business Program are hosting a panel discussion on how local businesses of all sizes are working to improve sustainability at their companies.
As we have noted in previous blogposts, sustainability and resiliency intersect with environmental, social, economic, and equity work.
Communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change. In Utah, the health threats of air pollution are the most obvious example. On a global scale, climate change and pollution are affecting us all, especially coupled with COVID-19, starting with communities who are already experiencing systemic racism and inequity.
Because these areas of life are directly connected, it is important to take action on every level. Individuals; businesses; and local, state, and national governments have an important role to play in addressing inequity and supporting sustainability.
Salt Lake City recently “flipped the switch” on its latest municipal solar installation on the roof of the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. The 360-panel array was funded in part by a grant from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky customers and will generate about 34 percent of the amount of electricity the Sorenson Community Campus consumes annually. This amount of solar generation is equivalent to burning about 129,000 pounds of coal annually.
The 115-kilowatt system was installed as part of the Campus’ larger two-year renovation project.
Through its Blue Sky program, Rocky Mountain Power agreed to fund 41 percent of eligible project costs, up to a maximum of $140,000. The remainder of the solar installation is being funded by the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department.
“We are thrilled to unveil this impressive solar array at Salt Lake City’s flagship community center serving our Glendale and Poplar Grove residents,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said. “We’re committed to bringing the benefits of clean energy to all areas of our city and we extend our deepest gratitude to Rocky Mountain Power and its Blue Sky participants for making this possible.”
Blue Sky is an opt-in program that gives Rocky Mountain Power customers the opportunity to financially support renewable energy development. Since 2006, Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky customers have voluntarily supported wind and solar energy generation in the region. Blue Sky has provided more than $11 million in funding to community-based renewable energy projects.
The Sorenson Community Campus includes both the Sorenson Unity Center and the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center. The Sorenson Unity Center, located at 1383 S 900 W, houses a fitness center, computer labs and technology center, classrooms, a theater space, art galleries, and more. It offers many community programs, including donated dental services, tax prep assistance, early Head Start, and afterschool and summer programs run by Salt Lake City’s Youth & Family Division.
The Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center offers many youth and adult programs and houses a swimming pool, boxing gym, drop-in childcare, and basketball gyms.
“The installation of a solar array on the Sorenson Campus is a great complement to our educational offerings and community programming,” said Ken Perko, Associate Director of the Division of Youth and Family Services. “Patrons will be able to see the impact of solar production from a cost-savings and energy efficiency standpoint, allowing us to provide direct connections to our environmental education programs.”
“Organizations like the Sorenson Center play a crucial role in our communities and we are grateful to our Blue Sky customers for making renewable projects like these possible,” said Bill Comeau, Rocky Mountain Power Vice President for Customer Solutions.
The Sorenson solar installation is the latest clean energy project for Salt Lake City. The City has installed solar on over a dozen buildings, purchased 3 MW of Subscriber Solar from Rocky Mountain Power, and is working to source at least half of its municipal electric consumption from renewable sources. The City is also partnering with Rocky Mountain Power to achieve net-100 percent clean electricity for the whole Salt Lake City community by 2030. Twenty-two other Utah communities are also currently participating in this initiative.
The Engineering News Record (ENR) chose Salt Lake City’s Fire Station 14 as their “Best of the Best Project” in the national Government/Public Building category. This is the seventh award for Utah’s first Net Zero energy fire station which was built in 2018.
The latest award, which is detailed in the March 23 issue of ENR, is the culmination of a year-long process during which construction experts from ten different regions selected finalists. Those 200 finalists then moved to the national competition and were vetted by a different panel of judges.
Fire Station 14is believed to be not only Utah’s, but the nation’s, first Net Zero energy fire station. That means it produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis.
It’s also expected to become certified as LEED Gold, showing it meets a range of holistic sustainability benchmarks, including material management, waste diversion, water conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and more.
The project was recognized last year as the Best Government/Public Building for the Mountain States Region. As a result, it was automatically entered into ENR’s national “Best of the Best” Competition. Representatives from Zwick, the general contractor, anticipate accepting the award as a representation of the collaboration between the architects, Blalock & Partners, Salt Lake City (Engineering/Fire Dept.), and themselves.
Fire Station 14, near California Ave. and 3800 West, and Fire Station 3, in Sugar House, are both Net Zero and were opened within months of each other in 2018.
It’s 2020 already and we can hardly believe it! Salt Lake City finished out 2019 strong alongside 19 communities that opted into the Community Renewable Energy Act’s pathway to achieve net-100% renewable energy.
But that’s not all SLCgreen got up to in 2019. It was a busy year, and as a community, we have taken major strides in accomplishing our goals. See our full 2019 Year in Review here and read below for a few of the major highlights.
Thanks to all our partners in City government, other government agencies, non-profit associations, neighborhood groups, business partners, and community councils, we are continuing to make SLC more sustainable and resilient.
You can take a look at the 2017 and 2018 reports to see what we’ve been working on over the last few years. Before we set our sights on 2020, here are a few highlights from 2019!
Air Quality, Climate Change & Energy
After a three-year collaboration with Park City, Summit County, Rocky Mountain Power, and the state legislature, we successfully saw passage of House Bill 411 the “Community Renewable Energy Act” in the 2019 legislative session. The law establishes a legal pathway for communities with 100% clean energy goals to achieve them in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Power.
Expanded public EV charging infrastructure, increasing the total number of city-owned EV charging ports to 38, plus 16 at the airport.
With Utah Clean Energy, launched “Empower SLC,” a neighborhood energy efficiency program targeting the 84116 and 84104 neighborhoods to improve energy efficiency and conservation measures that reduce pollution and lower utility costs. As of September, over 450 households have been engaged, resulting in an estimated savings of 335,353 kWh per year!
Developed an energy after-school curriculum for youth groups and created a new partnership with YouthCity on programming for the Fall 2019 programs. This resulted in the adoption of “energy” as the central theme of their Science Fair.
Hosted the Elevate Buildings awards luncheon, recognizing first-year reporting commercial buildings with ENERGY STAR scores 75 and above and Mayoral recognition of exceptional performers.
With the votes yesterday from Coalville and West Valley City, 19 communities in Utah have now joined Salt Lake City in passing resolutions opting into the process created under HB411, the Community Renewable Energy Act.
HB411 was made possible in part through the work between Rocky Mountain Power and Salt Lake City, Park City, Summit County, and Moab, cities that had previously committed to net-100% renewable energy. In 2016, Salt Lake City committed to becoming powered by 100% clean energy by 2032, updating the goal to 2030 earlier this year as the legislation requires.
Passing a resolution by December 31, 2019 is the first step in the public and regulatory process and allows communities to participate in further rulemaking and ratemaking at the Utah Public Service Commission. It also kicks off the process for additional public outreach, which will also allow any Rocky Mountain Power customer in a given participating community to opt-out of the renewable portfolio if they so choose.
“This is very exciting progress,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who also serves as Co-Chair of Sierra Club’s Mayor’s for 100% Clean Energy. “The collaboration we’re demonstrating in Utah—between residents, communities, and our investor-owned utility, Rocky Mountain Power– is not happening anywhere else in the country.
“We’re showing that we can work together to tackle big problems and to seize opportunities. Twenty communities have now taken the first step in moving toward a net-100% clean electricity future as outlined in the Community Renewable Energy Act. I look forward to seeing the continued public processes unfold and I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has been involved in helping us reach this huge milestone.”
Energy is key to our societies, communities, health, and more. It’s also an important concept when we consider the environment and climate change.
Our youngest community members play a key role in inspiring our climate action. Helping students engage with topics including energy conservation, renewable resources, and climate action helps us all build a more sustainable community.
That is why we were thrilled to team up with Salt Lake City’s YouthCity to explore energy for their fall after school program. This year, YouthCity has spent 4 months exploring energy and sustainability. And last week we heard from 22 student groups and several of our community partners at the 5th annual YouthCity Science Summit.
Each year, YouthCity’s after school courses help kids learn about physical health, financial awareness, the scientific method, and more. In the fall, YouthCity focuses on STEM subjects, and for the last 5 years the session has culminated in a Science Summit event where students share what they have learned with their families and peers.
This year, the Science Summit applied energy concepts to real world problems. The Summit featured projects on green power, climate and extreme weather, aquaponics and photosynthesis, renewable energy powered cars, solar power, light energy, and environmental justice. YouthCity instructors and students worked through questions with hands-on science and were able to relate energy topics to real-world issues including air quality, recycling, and public health and safety.
Participate in a survey that can help determine future rates, and the future of the solar industry in Utah.
We love clean energy! And rooftop solar is no exception.
Also known as “distributed solar”, this is the on-site solar energy that powers businesses and homes with panels installed on rooftops or mounted on the ground. Regardless of the location or size of array, distributed solar is an important step towards a clean energy grid.
These on-site arrays not only save money, they help reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.
Now, home and business owners with rooftop solar have the opportunity to show just how important their solar is. The Utah Public Service Commission is set to evaluate the credit residential solar customers receive for the energy exported to the grid. To help demonstrate the impact of clean solar power to our communities, the organization Vote Solar is conducting a study of rooftop solar in Utah.
If you have rooftop solar, you may have recently received a letter from Rocky Mountain Power about this topic. The letter references signing up to participate in the study. What this entails is allowing your solar array details and usage data to be shared with the non-profit Vote Solar— not with Rocky Mountain Power.
The study will analyzethe benefit that rooftop solar provides to the overall grid. Sign up here.
This has been a contentious topic for several years, and was a key issue in a rates compromise brokered two years ago. (Read more on the SLCgreen blog and in the Salt Lake Tribune).
The data from this survey– and the next phase in the ratemaking– could have significant impacts on the future of the solar industry in Utah. That’s something we all should care about!
The need to continue investing in clean renewable resources is critical and benefits our environment, economy, and public health. The average 5 kilowatt solar installation helps home owners and businesses save 50 percent on their energy bills (resulting in $700 savings per year) and prevents 12,159 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
A fair evaluation is critical to determining future rates for rooftop solar owners. Among other impacts, the rate structure could have ripple effects on the solar industry in Utah and the 6,000 solar jobs it supports. So if you have rooftop solar, we encourage you to consider signing up to join the study.
With a week of air that has been some of the worst in the country, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling frustrated. Salt Lake City’s current air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and requires mandatory action of limited driving and no wood burning. For most of us, Salt Lake City’s notoriously bad air is a nuisance and health concern, limiting our activities and turning our skyline grey. Moreover, pollutants like PM 2.5 are dangerous, especially for older residents, children, pregnant women, and people with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Air quality is a public health concern, as well as an economic one.
It may come as a surprise that although transportation currently contributes nearly half of the emissions causing Salt Lake City’s bad air, buildings are catching up. Indeed, houses and buildings currently contribute roughly 38% of emissions, and industry point sources produce the other 13%. As emissions standards on cars are becoming more strict, managing emissions from houses and buildings is a growing priority.
PM 2.5 is the primary winter concern in Salt Lake City’s airshed. The particulate matter poses serious health risks and gets trapped in the Salt Lake valley during inversion. Most of the PM 2.5 is a direct result of precursor emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks, and chemicals that mix to form PM 2.5 in the atmosphere.
When you look outside, it may feel like there’s no good news. However, per capita pollution in Utah is decreasing. Salt Lake City is taking steps to help clean the air and protect our public health and environment. Find out how you can keep our airshed (and lungs!) clean and healthy.
What is SLC doing?
Reducing combustion and emissions are a key step towards cleaning the air.
Salt Lake City has many air quality initiatives in place that are helping clean the air. Among these include the continued expansion of EV infrastructure, expanding cleaner vehicles in our fleet, and implementing our energy benchmarking ordinance for nearly 1,000 commercial buildings. Additionally, the HIVE pass provides residents with access to UTA’s public transit system at a reduced cost.