Many state and national leaders gathered in Salt Lake City this past week once again, this time to discuss Utah’s future energy plans.

On Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert joined U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, as well as Wyoming’s governor, CEOs of Dominion Energy and Rocky Mountain Power, several of Utah’s federal representatives and the CEO of U.S. Green Building Council.

It was reported that Herbert said while fossil fuels make up the foundation of Utah’s energy use, the use of renewable energy has increased from 1% to 11%.

The increase is surely a good sign, though still that number will have to continue to increase much higher to allow 1 million new Utah residents in the next 25 years to live here with the quality of life we have previously enjoyed.

However, we disagree with Perry’s notion that everything is entirely better for “removing those draconian restrictions on oil and gas and coal.” Nonrenewable resources like coal not only have negative impacts on our environment, but the push for this energy source goes against current market demands and the state’s belief that “Utah will allow market forces to drive prudent use of energy resources.”

At the summit, Gov. Herbert also said energy should not be a partisan issue and the private sector is the best option for pursuing solutions. And yet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “The decline in coal consumption since 2007 is the result of both the retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors, or utilization, of coal plants as increased competition from natural gas and renewable sources have reduced coal’s market share.”

If that is the case of the private sector, it seems at odds with the state’s push to include promotion of coal in its state energy policy.

Nonetheless, we are encouraged by the state’s inclusion of renewable energy resources in the same state energy policy. They produce less pollution and do not harm our quality of life here in Utah. The announcement this week of the world’s first large-scale facility to combine geothermal and hydropower technology was very significant.

It will be built in Beaver County and become the world’s largest renewable energy storage project, dubbed the Utah Advanced Clean Energy Storage Project. When built, the project is expected to generate enough power to meet the needs of 150,000 households.

“For 20 years, we’ve been reducing carbon emissions of the U.S. power grid using natural gas in combination with renewable power to replace retiring coal-fired power generation. In California and other states in the western United States, which will soon have retired all of their coal-fired power generation, we need the next step in decarbonization. Mixing natural gas and storage, and eventually using 100 percent renewable storage, is that next step. The technologies we are deploying will store electricity on time scales from seconds to seasons of the year,” said Paul Browning, president and CEO of MHPS Americas, in an Associated Press report. “For example, when we add gas turbines powered with renewable hydrogen to a hydrogen storage salt-dome, we have a solution that stores and generates electricity with zero carbon emissions.”

There is much yet to be done, but we are hopeful of Utah’s future in being able to incorporate more and more technological advancements in deploying clean energy solutions so we no longer have to depend on nonrenewable fuels that endanger Utah’s quality of life.

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