Going for the Green: How Utah Can Thrive in the New Climate Economy

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The “New Climate Economy” is an effort to tie economic strength to actions intended to reduce the impacts of climate change. Such efforts are taking place around the world. In the U.S., innovations and other measures from corporations, along with new policies and investments from the federal government, provide states with a range of opportunities to capitalize on the transition to an economy that prioritizes climate-focused strategies.

This report, Going for the Green: How Utah Can Thrive in the New Climate Economy, focuses on those opportunities. The report analyzes job-creating opportunities by economic sector, explores opportunities from the federal government and corporations, and looks at ways Utah is seeking to bolster economic activity in rural parts of the state. Finally, the report notes what more Utah can do. The report seeks to build on past Utah efforts in this arena to help guide future efforts.

The purpose of this report is not to determine which public and private efforts most effectively address climate change. Rather, the report recognizes that various efforts are currently underway, and that they represent both economic opportunities and challenges for Utah. As climate-focused policies, regulations and investment continue to expand, Utah has an opening to expand its economic prospects accordingly.

The executive summary is available here. The full report is available here.

KEY FINDINGS OF THIS REPORT

  • Utah’s per capita carbon dioxide emissions are 19th highest in the nation.
  • Reaching the goal of cutting Utah’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by three quarters over 30 years would require major shifts in how Utah addresses electric power generation, transportation, industry, commerce and home energy usage.
  • Utah could leverage federal funds toward large clean energy projects, such as the pump-storage project in the Navajo Nation, the green hydrogen project in Millard County and carbon capture at Utah’s coal-fueled power plants.
  • Coal mining and coal-fueled electricity generation jobs represent about 5% of the direct employment in Utah’s seven more coal-dependent counties. The State of Utah may need to support these counties in any transition from coal-fueled electricity generation. Utah could consider ramping up rural broadband, telework opportunities, tourism infrastructure, monetary support and targeted educational opportunities.
  • Were there a cost on carbon, utility-scale solar would likely be the cheapest electricity in every county in Utah. Wind projects would also be more competitive across a wider geography.
  • Utah’s predominantly renewable-energy development through 2040 could create an estimated 39,000 construction jobs and 900 operations jobs, along with investment and tax revenue for local communities.
  • Utah is already an innovator in renewable natural gas, geothermal energy, battery storage, and carbon capture and storage, which suggests that Utah is well-positioned to lead with those and other climate-focused strategies.
  • Looking forward, there are multiple steps Utah can take toward becoming a leader in the new climate-focused economy, such as:
    • Creating a state commission and/or office dedicated to addressing climate challenges and climate-focused economic development, including the needs of rural areas and electricity transmission for Utah’s renewable energy power sources.
    • Developing a technological solutions laboratory.
    • Creating a fund to support entrepreneurs seeking to create marketable clean energy innovations.
    • Encouraging clean transportation options.
    • Exploring more stringent building efficiency codes.
    • At the federal level, determining whether it makes sense for Utah to support approaches such as an agricultural producer carbon sequestration credits program and a carbon pricing mechanism.

 

Comments:

7 Responses to “Going for the Green: How Utah Can Thrive in the New Climate Economy”

  1. William Strickler

    Excess electricity produced by solar energy during the daytime can be converted to hydrogen and stored in pressurized tanks at solar farms. That hydrogen can be converted to electricity when needed through fuel cells. This solution is probably cheaper and more environmentally friendly than pumped storage power plants. When EV’s are not being driven, they can also function as a place to store excess electrical energy. EV’s could have auto parking capability where the car becomes self driving and automatically docks with the recharging station when not being driven at houses and businesses. When there is a shortage of electricity, docked vehicles that are fully charged can be discharged to 90% or 80% providing backup power to the grid. EV’s can be used for backup power to a house during blackouts. Chevy Bolt has a 60 kWh battery, enough to power a house for a couple of days during a winter storm power outage. Elon Musk of Tesla has promised to drop the price per kWh of battery power down to $100 I think by 2030. Current wholesale price is currently closer to $200/kWh of storage capacity, but still retails for around $1000/kWh due to needed profits to run a company.

    Reply
  2. William Strickler

    Need to install at least 20 solar panels for each electric vehicle that is sold. EV’s are not green if they are charged from electricity generated from burning coal! Panels need to be installed in solar farms that have clear skies during temperature inversions so power can be generated in winter to reduce pollution in the valleys where inversions trap dirty air causing expensive health issues.

    Reply
    • Ryan Jacobs

      While the makeup of the electricity grid varies from region to region, charging EVs is becoming less carbon intensive every year. Not to mention the impact of less localized particulate matter.

      Reply
  3. June taylor

    I would like to see the Utah Foundation take a deep look at the impacts of the Inland Port currently being constructed in the NW quadrant of the Salt Lake Valley. The current authority in charge of the Inland Port is refusing to consider augmenting current air quality measurements in the immediate area around the Inland Port – let alone the overall impact on the entire Salt Lake Valley. Their behavior comes across as irresponsible and unaccepting of public input (from reasonable sources – not the destructive demonstrators) and I’m wondering why.

    Reply
    • Shawn Teigen

      Thanks for your comments. The Utah Foundation is looking into a report that looks at the “greening” measures possible at the Inland Port. We hope to research this and answer your questions!

      Reply

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