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.
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.
Luckily, more and more Utahns are investing in electric vehicles (EV). Based on the number of unique charging sessions at Salt Lake City Corporation’s 36 Level 2 public EV stations (not including those at the Airport), there has been an exciting uptick in EV use in Salt Lake City.
In 2019, there were 21,371 unique charging sessions (meaning a car charged for longer than 5 minutes) at Salt Lake City public stations, compared to 12,870 in 2018.
Salt Lake City is following the national trend of growing EV use. According to the Edison Electric Institute, there are close to 1.5 million EVs being driven in the U.S. as of December 2019. Utah has seen its share grow to approximately 2% of total vehicles now comprised of electric, plug-in electric, or hybrid vehicles, and we want to continue pushing that number higher.
Support Fellow EV Drivers: Don’t Hog the Charging Stations
Salt Lake City is pleased to see that charging sessions have increased significantly since the stations were initially installed. Up until now, Salt Lake City has not had to enforce the charging time limit. However, because more people are using the stations, drivers need to be mindful of their fellow EV users and respect the time limit.
In 2017, 1,500 sessions exceeded the time limit. That number has grown to 4,600 in 2019. While these only represent a small portion of the total charging sessions (80% of sessions were within the limit), it is still an inconvenience for other drivers who may need to fuel up.
Due to the growing demand for charging stations, the time limits will be actively enforced beginning March 9. Please be courteous to your fellow EV drivers and be mindful of the time limit. Drivers who exceed the posted time limit may be ticketed $75.
Vehicle charging usage may be monitored via the ChargePoint cloud system to determine if a vehicle has overstayed the posted parking time limit.
The public may also report potential EV stall overstays to the Compliance main line at 801-535-6628.
Although electric cars still rely on electricity which is not (yet) wholly derived from renewable resources, they are still cleaner than gas-powered cars. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average gasoline-only car produces 381 grams of CO2e per mile, while the plug-in hybrid produces only 191 grams and a battery EV produces only 123.
Salt Lake City is growing rapidly. Keeping up with the city’s growth in a sustainable way might feel daunting. Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency is one of the best ways to reduce pollution and curb carbon emissions as our community grows.
But those improvements can sometimes be expensive. That’s why Salt Lake City and the State of Utah recently partnered on offering a new type of financing program called C-PACE, which stands for Commercial Property Accessed Clean Energy.
And a little over one year later, we are thrilled that the largest C-PACE project in the United States – EVER – just broke ground in Salt Lake City! The Hyatt Regency will be located on the corner of 200 South and West Temple.
C-PACE is unique because of its low interest rates and because it allows for the collection of payment through property tax assessments that stay with the property. That means that the cost and benefits from– for example– solar panels or building efficiency upgrades stay with the property, rather than being a financial burden borne solely by the developer or the original property owner.
The 26-story Hyatt Regency Hotel across the street from the Salt Palace will have 60,000 square feet of convention space and 700 rooms. The C-PACE financing allowed developers to proceed with aggressive sustainability measures including heating and cooling systems. According to CleanFund, the hotel is projected to “exceed the energy code compliance level by over 20 percent.”
The release further stated: “The $54.7 million in Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy contribution provided by CleanFund will fund nearly every sustainable upgrade in the new hotel, demonstrating the effectiveness of the state’s new C-PACE legislation towards achieving Salt Lake City’s environmental goals. It also sets a record for the single largest amount ever financed by C-PACE nationally.”
With Salt Lake City’s booming convention industry, the Hyatt Regeny Hotel is an investment in Salt Lake City’s economy as well as sustainability. Improved energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy will reduce air pollution and achieve a lower carbon footprint for developments.
C-PACE financing helps standardize those practices.
Building Resilient Cities
Air quality and curbing carbon emissions are two large concerns for Salt Lake City. C-PACE financing for buildings like the Hyatt Regency Hotel helps ensure Salt Lake City’s economic viability as well as its environmental resiliency.
With the C-PACE program in place, Salt Lake City will be able to continue to help lead the country in building cleaner, more sustainable buildings. We look forward to more investments in 2020!
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.
SLCgreen is excited to welcome Christopher Thomas to our team as the new Senior Energy & Climate Program Manager!
Christopher brings with him a unique blend of experience in clean energy policy, regulatory engagement, advocacy, non-profit leadership, energy efficiency, data science, and more.
He previously worked with the Sierra Club, HEAL Utah, the energy efficiency firm ETC Group, Salt Lake County, and more. He holds a B.A. in English and Biology from Grinnell College and a Master’s Degree in Information Systems from the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business.
His is an important role for the Sustainability Department and the City as a whole, as the lead staffer (see our farewell post to his predecessor Tyler Poulson) on many of Salt Lake City’s climate initiatives. Learn more by visiting the Climate Positive SLC plan.
Christopher has already hit the ground running and we’re thrilled to put his expertise to work!
His main responsibilities include:
Bringing new clean energy projects online to meet Salt Lake City’s municipal power needs
Collaborating with our electric utility Rocky Mountain Power, other 100% clean energy communities, state leaders, businesses, and regulatory authorities to move forward Salt Lake City’s community-wide clean energy goals
Partnering with city departments and divisions to reduce municipal energy use and pollution through cleaner fleets, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects
Creating programs and partnerships to reduce the City’s fossil fuel footprint
In July, we said goodbye to long-time program manager Bridget Stuchly who launched and ran our local food programs for 11 years. In August, we welcomed new team member Supreet Gill. Then, last week, we moved offices from the first floor to the fourth floor in the City County Building.
Today we eat the last donut with our co-worker Tyler Poulson, who’s been with SLCgreen since 2013. He and his wife are moving out of state.
We’re a tight team at SLCgreen and while we hate to see our co-workers go (even though we know it’s for new and exciting chapters), it does give us an opportunity to reflect on all they’ve done and how our community has been shaped by their service.