One year ago, the Ogden City Council approved a resolution to participate in the Community Renewable Energy Act, known informally by its bill number, HB 411, or CREA. In short, participation in HB 411 allows Ogden to pool with other municipalities across Utah and jointly negotiate in procuring clean, renewable energy. It also establishes a goal of running our city on 100% clean energy by 2030. By a 5-2 vote, the council approved Ogden to move forward in the process and gain information about the costs, benefits and details of entering the program. At the City Council meeting ahead of the crucial vote, dozens of engaged city residents from all walks of life offered public comment, strongly urging the City Council to sign on.
Since then, Ogden City has done its research in good faith, but council members have been presented with little but concerns, uncertainty and doubt. (Not to mention a pandemic.) Rocky Mountain Power, the monopoly utility, appears to be especially responsible for feeding concerns and doubts directly to the city’s representatives. RMP favors the status quo, as seen by its recent successful efforts to slash the rates it pays to Utah solar customers for their generated electricity. Why? Simply put, RMP has to protect its massive (and failing) investment in coal infrastructure.
In the face of this manufactured uncertainty, the City Council and the city administration are getting nervous. They are primarily concerned with unknown and potentially high project costs, which they have heard could be $1 million for the next stage of the process. Those costs are mostly for retaining experts to thoroughly study what it will take to implement HB 411 fairly and economically.
But the program costs are not as dire as they might first appear: A more recent estimate of that cost — which is an uppermost limit and a very preliminary estimate — is now $700,000. Ogden would only be responsible for a portion of that, based on a cost-split mechanism that will be shared by the 20-plus communities still participating. Details are still being negotiated, but ultimately Ogden would only be responsible for its proportional share, perhaps 10%-11% of the total figure. Additionally, third-party funding is being explored to cover these costs. This is a clear benefit for the city of Ogden, as an opportunity to study this issue will always come at some cost. Through this process, Ogden has the advantage of pooling resources with some of Utah’s largest cities.
Now more than ever, the City Council needs us. They need to know that we’ve got their back. They need to know that we will, in the immortal words of John F. Kennedy, “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, [or] oppose any foe” to assure the survival and the success of our world’s environment, of which we are a part. They need to know that their jobs will be safe — we will support their reelection — if they do the responsible yet more difficult thing to lead with vision and continue Ogden forward on the path to 100% clean energy.
Last year, a groundswell of popular support at the crucial council meeting encouraged the City Council to opt into HB 411. Now, if we want to stay in this, we may have to do it again, virtually. Please, reach out to your council members. Call, email or visit the virtual City Council meetings. Tell them you support our continued involvement in the HB 411 process. It is unlikely that Ogden will ever again have the opportunity to participate in a program as well-supported, and with as large of an impact, as HB 411. But for every year that passes, the climate situation will become more costly to address and of greater impact to us and our city. For that reason alone, this is not an opportunity that Ogden can afford to pass up.
Trevor Jones is the lead structural engineer for Solgen Power, a regional residential solar company. A resident of Utah for nine years, and Ogden for one and a half, he graduated from BYU with his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. He is a licensed professional engineer in Utah and four other Western states and was a county delegate in the Republican Party during the 2018 elections. He is a member of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.