The bill, SB202, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, would offer soft targets for public-power and corporate utilities to make renewable energy 20 percent of their electricity mix by 2025 if the companies find it cost-effective to do so.
The loophole could let the utilities off the hook because the bill has no stick, only carrots, including a provision that would allow the companies to pass on to consumers any cost increases because of technology or renewable-energy upgrades.
The Senate Transportation and Public Utilities and Technology committee unanimously advanced Bramble's bill.
SB202 is an adaptation of a Rocky Mountain Power proposal that surfaced this past year during meetings of the Governor's Blue-Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change.
On Oct. 16, Rocky Mountain Power sent to the state Department of Environmental Quality a five-page memo outlining what became the bones of Bramble's bill. Just days before the utility sent the memo, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. released a scientific study that found gross carbon-dioxide emissions in Utah are rising at a faster rate than the rest of the nation. Dianne Nielson, Huntsman's energy policy adviser, told the committee the governor supported the bill.
Nielson's statement disappointed some conservation advocates who put months of work into the Blue-Ribbon panel's renewable-energy initiative subcommittee, which rejected Rocky Mountain Power's proposal at least twice.
In December, Rocky Mountain Power and its parent company, PacifiCorp, abandoned plans to build three new coal-fired power plants because of market uncertainty. Bramble's bill could possibly allow the utilities to fulfill their targets with nuclear and "clean" coal-fired energy, which aren't renewable like solar, wind or geothermal resources.
SB202 Under bill, which aims to cut carbon emissions, nuclear and coal-fired electricity would be considered for renewable-energy credits along with solar, wind and geothermal resources.