A year-long effort to create solutions for Black-, Indigenous-, and People of Color- (BIPOC) owned businesses on the Westside of Salt Lake City to pursue rooftop solar and battery storage has received a significant boost thanks to a commitment from American Express.
American Express recently announced a $5 million global commitment to help cities build resiliency and fight climate change ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference which took place in Egypt last week. The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) has been awarded $1.2 million to work with three cities, including Salt Lake City, to install solar energy systems in our community.
American Express will provide $325,000 in philanthropic support to complement other incentives and financial strategies to help install solar with optional battery systems for small businesses on the Westside. These systems can lower energy costs for residents and businesses, can be more resilient than standard electric sources during extreme weather, support local clean energy jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m thrilled with American Express’ generosity, which will build off the hard work our City team and partners have done to advance solar on our Westside,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “We have the tools to reduce climate emissions, strengthen community resiliency, and save our businesses and residents money through clean energy, and this collaboration is a perfect demonstration of that.”
A trailblazing partnership of local governments will soon pool resources to fund carbon dioxide removal (CDR) projects in the Four Corners region. The 4 Corners Carbon Coalition (4CCC), established by Boulder County, Colorado and the City of Flagstaff, Arizona, today welcomed Salt Lake City, Utah and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Earlier this year, Boulder County and Flagstaff invested seed funding to launch this coalition with the goal of spurring regional CDR innovation to fight climate change. The coalition will provide catalytic funding to accelerate CDR project deployment and business development.
CDR describes diverse processes, on land and at sea, that take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and durably lock it away in geological, biological and synthetic formations for decades, centuries, or even millennia. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), cutting emissions from fossil fuels is necessary, but it’s no longer sufficient to stem the worst effects of climate change.
“We’re so excited to round out the ‘Four Corners’ vision with two cities that recognize the importance of local leadership,” said Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy. “This collaboration gives local communities the opportunity to put our fingerprints on this emerging and necessary space of carbon dioxide removal (CDR); to hold ourselves and our partners to the highest standards; to show what community-based CDR might look like and the potential benefits of supporting vetted projects in our backyards.”
The EPA provides support and research to protect and improve public and environmental health, as well as enforces and regulates environmental protections. Region 8 is made up of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montano, North Dakota and South Dakota, and 28 Tribal Nations.
KC Becker, the current Region 8 administrator, has 18 years of experience as a public servant for both federal and state organizations. Prior to being appointed as the Region 8 administrator, KC served in the Colorado State Legislature for 4 terms, spending two years as House Majority Leader and two years as the Speaker of the House – at the time, one of only seven female speakers in the United States.
The purpose of the meeting was to bring together local sustainability movers and shakers to hear about their/our concerns surrounding environmental issues in Utah and how the EPA can help!
Earlier in the day, she met with Mayor Erin Mendenhall, learned about Salt Lake City’s unique environmental projects and issues, and shared EPA’s priorities. Administrator Becker also spent some of her time in Utah meeting with the State Department of Environmental Quality.
The EPA is currently focusing on supporting initiatives it has funding for through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill- specifically looking at the redevelopment of brownfields, infrastructure improvements and upgrades, lead pipes, and cleaning up Superfund sites.
Administrator Becker spoke about the EPA’s mission to center environmental justice in all aspects of its work; building stronger relationships with environmental justice groups, community groups, and other non-governmental organizations; and ensuring that all decisions are science-based and focusing on public health outcomes.
Representatives from local groups highlighted their desire for EPA’s support or advice on issues related to air quality, the recent Inland Port developments, the health of the Great Salt Lake, water quality and access, uranium waste in southern Utah, and funding opportunities for the many goals and initiatives of the groups attending.
Overall, the meeting was invigorating and inspiring. Administrator Becker left us with much to do and the support (within her ability) of our regional EPA leaders.
Salt Lake City and 22 other Utah communities are making exciting progress towards a transition to net-100% clean electricity by 2030. This means that our electric grid will be shifting to clean energy, helping us reduce our community carbon emissions and build community resiliency. On top of that, Salt Lake City is also working towards achieving 90% clean electricity for municipal operations.
In 2019, Salt Lake City passed a joint resolution to shift to net-100% clean electricity for the entire community. To achieve this ambitious goal, Salt Lake City is working with the Community Renewable Energy Program, a program made possible by the Community Renewable Energy Act (House Bill 411). This Act allows local governments to procure net-100% renewable electricity on behalf of residents and businesses.
Working with the state’s largest investor-owned utility, Rocky Mountain Power, 23 Utah Communities became eligible to participate in this innovative program . Powering the community with net-100% renewable electricity is an essential step towards a robust clean energy future for Salt Lake City. Now, the 23 Utah 100 Communities are building a Governance Agreement to guide the communities in our steps forward.
Ask Us Anything!
Mayor Mendenhall and SLCgreen are eager to answer your questions about this ground breaking program. On Wednesday, May 26, we’ll be answering your questions about the Utah 100 coalition, Salt Lake City’s 100% clean electricity goals, and our exciting progress in shifting municipal operations to 90% clean electricity.
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.
In the months following our collective action to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, the air quality improved around the globe. According to University of Utah research, particulate matter pollution in Salt Lake City was reduced 59% as of May 6.
Although Salt Lake City is maintaining an “orange” status for our COVID-19 response, there has been an uptick in cases across Utah. In a city in which public health is harmed by poor air quality, any virus that affects the respiratory system is cause for concern. However, with the knowledge that stay at home orders temporarily reduced our local air pollution, we can learn more about possible ways of improving air quality in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at the ways air quality and COVID-19 interact – and some ways you can help protect the air and each other.
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.
Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 Elevate Buildings Awards, highlighting organizations that have taken action to enhance the energy performance of their buildings. Improved efficiency reduces local air pollution, as well as overall greenhouse gas emissions, making it an important component of the capital city’s work to achieve its Climate Positive goals.
“Area sources, including buildings, are having a significant and growing impact on our airshed,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “But they also have a critical role to play in being part of the solution. The organizations we are highlighting this year through the Elevate Buildings Awards are all examples of community leadership in ‘walking the walk’ to improve air quality year round.”
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 30 percent of the average commercial building’s energy consumption is wasted through inefficient building operation. That makes energy efficiency the “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to improving air quality and reducing Salt Lake City’s community carbon footprint—a goal made all the more important by the recent release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showing the urgency of reducing emissions from all sources. Read more
Sign up for our April 19 webinar “Moving the Needle Innovative Climate Solutions in Salt Lake City” at: http://bit.ly/2qoCSi3
By Randy Rodgers
Publisher & Executive Editor, Sustainable City Network
Things are heating up in Salt Lake City, Utah. And not in a good way.
The city is located in a region of the U.S. that climate scientists say is warming at more than twice the national average. It would be bad enough if the only victim of that problem was the area’s $1.3 billion ski resort industry, but local leaders know the stakes are higher than that, as water reserves decline and air quality reaches dangerous levels.
As daunting as these threats appear, Salt Lake City’s municipal government has partnered with its local electric utility to make an historic commitment that could become a model for all communities facing the dire effects of climate change in the years to come. The city and Rocky Mountain Power have signed an agreement and drafted a plan to acquire all the community’s electricity from renewable sources by 2032, reducing emissions, saving water and improving air quality in the process.
Salt Lake City gets most of its water from snowmelt in the surrounding mountains, and the city’s water reserves are significantly below historical norms. Higher temperatures are also accelerating the production of ground-level ozone, an invisible, odorless gas that can cause permanent damage to the lungs. Last year the city’s air exceeded the federal ozone standard on more than 20 days.
City officials are bracing for more of the same.
“The climate models show us that we’ll probably get about the same amount of overall precipitation, but it’s going to be coming as rain rather than snow,” said Vicki Bennett, the city’s sustainability department director. That means more of the water runs off in the spring, making less of it available later in the year. She said rising temperatures tend to increase water demand, which only exacerbates the problem.
Last year the Salt Lake County Health Department released a Climate Adaptation Plan for Public Health, which warned of many other health concerns related to the rising temperatures and altered precipitation patterns caused by climate change.