Energy development, conservation, and planning have been priorities of Utah’s state government for more than 35 years. The Energy Conservation and Development Council was created by the Utah State Legislature in 1977 as a result of the impact of the 1973 Arab oil embargo. The Council was charged by statute with an extensive scope of responsibilities, including coordinating state energy policy, recommending policy options to the Governor and Legislature, providing leadership in state energy conservation planning and implementation, and forecasting energy usage and production. An executive secretary was appointed as staff to the Council, and in 1978 the Utah Energy Office was created by Executive Order to provide an operational staff to the Council to enable it to fulfill its statutory duties. In 1983, a second Executive Order established the Energy Office as part of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Natural Resources Era
During the first five years, resource planning efforts undertaken by the Energy Office centered on technical analyses of proposed fossil energy developments. In the conservation area, the Energy Office implemented federally-funded conservation programs initiated by Congress.
By 1983, the emphasis in resource development grew to include renewable energy and new applications of energy efficiency technologies such as co-generation. In 1986, the Energy Office began receiving a large amount of funds resulting from settlements between the federal government and petroleum companies that had violated price controls on petroleum products.
In response to energy supply problems throughout the West, in 2000 and 2001, and the growing realization of the need to coordinate energy policy and programs, the Office of Energy and Resource Planning and the Office of Energy Services were
merged administratively as the Utah Energy Office (UEO) under DNR in early 2001. This reorganization was formally codified with the passage of H.B. 145 during the 2002 Legislative General Session and H.B. 202 during the 2003 Legislative General Session.
On May 15, 2005, the Utah Energy Office functions were divided between several state agencies. The Governor’s Office oversaw energy policy, the Utah Geological Survey operated the State Energy Program (SEP), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) operated the Clean Fuels Vehicle Grant and Loan, PowerForward, and EnergyWise programs, and the Division of Facilities Construction and Management operated the State Buildings Energy Efficiency Program.
Creation of OED
In the spring of 2011, the Utah Office of Energy Development (OED) was created by the legislature (H.B. 475) in response to the Governor’s 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan, and has now been positioned as the primary resource for advancing energy development in Utah.
Led by Dr. Laura Nelson, OED is tasked with implementing the state energy policy (63M-4-301), facilitating the development of the state’s conventional and alternative resources, and promoting energy education and outreach. OED has staff dedicated to the promotion of conventional, unconventional, renewable, and energy efficiency resources, as well as alternative transportation energy infrastructure. Staff focuses primarily on energy policy and economic development, however given the environmental and social nexuses that define energy development, OED staff deals regularly with public lands issues, environmental issues, new technologies, and public relations and education. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, OED has a number of development tools that will be critical to Utah’s energy future.