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Advancing Utah's Energy Future

In our opinion: Utah energy plans should support rural counties

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Deseret News editorial board – Full link here.

Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled his 10-part “Energy Action Plan” at the Utah Energy Summit last week. In doing so, he modeled innovative conservative leadership that will pioneer a new path forward for the state and the country.

Herbert’s plan demonstrates the potential synergy of clean energy production and local economic development — two agendas that for too long have lain motionless by partisan politics.

Herbert’s plan targets rural business development while investing in energy research and infrastructure development for alternative fuels. The proposal aims to maximize the potential of citizens, businesses and families while ensuring the health of communities. Focusing on rural development while investing in energy education, research and alternative fuels is a forward-thinking approach to ensure economic growth for Utahns has a lasting impact — giving the state an essential competitive edge in the growing alternative energy market.

With the global renewable energy market set to increase by over $300 billion between 2014 and 2019, Utah’s cities will be well positioned to tap into this market and attract companies, jobs and research to the state. If this plan is realized, cities like Park City will become models for effective and sustainable city governance, with city operations expected to rely on 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2022.

Additionally, Herbert’s plan will ensure Utah’s students have the education they need to be at the forefront of energy research for years to come — an important long-term investment for the health and vitality of the state.

The Energy & Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah is one of two finalists in a competition for federal funding to research geothermal energy in Milford in Beaver County. Securing the money will position local students to lead out in establishing rural Utah as a front-runner in renewable energy.

Utah is poised to increase its geothermal energy output, a clean and sustainable source that harnesses the earth’s underground heat to power steam-driven generators. If fully realized, geothermal energy production could power a sizable chunk of the region as well as bring development to areas riddled with joblessness and poverty.

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In the short term, Herbert’s report shows that investing in alternative energy is essential for protecting Utah’s finite resources and making energy more affordable. As his plan states, diversifying energy sources eliminates monopolistic markets and helps citizens “maintain a lower cost of living,” allowing “residents and businesses to have more flexibility in their budgets for spending, investing and saving.”

These goals are among the most ambitious in the country. They offer an important counterpoint to those arguing the national government determines the state of the country’s energy goals. The executive branch is not ground zero for energy innovation. Instead, Herbert has shown that pioneering energy leadership is occurring on a local level — revitalizing communities and unlocking the potential of Utahns in the process.