County endorses renewable power push

Curtis Wells

A resolution to power Grand County with 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 passed unanimously at Tuesday’s Grand County Council meeting despite concerns over the potential cost to customers.

To be clear, the resolution council members passed simply gives Grand County a “seat at the table” as a participant in the State Legislature’s passage of House Bill 411, known as the Community Renewable Energy Act, according to Zacharia Levine, the county’s director of Community and Economic Development.

The council agreed to the resolution with the caveat that an opt-out clause is included. Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan agreed to draft the change into the resolution.

Levine said there are a number of “off ramps” the county could take to get out of the statewide program, which will be studied in-depth in 2020, should costs or other concerns surface.

Levine said the act “enables communities served by Rocky Mountain Power that desire renewable energy to obtain net-100 percent renewable energy by 2030.”

The council had to pass the resolution by Dec. 31 in order to participate, a deadline Council Member Jaylyn Hawks objected to, saying the law was passed months ago and now “here we are at the 11th hour.”

Levine said other counties are committed to HB 411 and he assured council members there was “no risk at this stage.”

Hawks said there will undoubtedly be costs down the road, a comment Council Member Curtis Wells endorsed.

While Wells said the idea is a good one, he said that lower income residents would “take a big hit” down the road. “There’s a steep cost to this,” he said. “And you can bet your bottom dollar Rocky Mountain Power will take care of itself in these negotiations.”

Chair Evan Clapper was a wholehearted supporter of the plan, saying the council has a duty to “take care of residents.”

He essentially read the recitals in the resolution, which notes the county “endeavors to use renewable and alternative energy.” He also noted the council is responsible for ensuring clean air and water and that current energy sources have a “significant impact” on the health of citizens.

“The fact the State Legislature is driving this shows us where the state is at,” he said.

Clapper said he would like to see the county be a leader in the pursuit of renewable energy. “I’d like to see that as a legacy,” he said.

Council Member Rory Paxman said a majority of the Airport Board, to which he serves as a liaison, is interested in bringing solar energy to the site north of Moab.

Member Mary McGann, who made the successful motion to pass the resolution, said at this point all they’ve done is make it possible to participate.