Governor: Utah energy policy to transform lives

UTAH - Gov. Jon Huntsman says the biggest achievement his office made during the 2009 legislative session was in the area of renewable energy.

Huntsman has made reducing carbon emissions a priority and says the passage of two bills intended to make it easier for renewable energy companies to do business here marks a transformative moment in the lives of Utahns.

He said addressing renewable energy, not normalizing the state's liquor laws, would ultimately be the most significant change made this session.

Led by Huntsman, lawmakers approved the most sweeping changes to the state's liquor laws in 40 years by eliminating a requirement that patrons fill out an application and pay a fee before entering a bar.

Huntsman wanted the liquor laws changed to make the state more hospitable to tourists who don't understand why they have to jump through so many hoops to get a drink.

"I would call it, in the world of pop culture, in instant media gratification, probably the most significant because it's fun and easy to write about," Huntsman said.

"As we sit here 20 years from now, I think more people are going to say (renewable energy policy) was transformative in the lives of Utahns."

State lawmakers approved the creation of renewable energy development zones, where businesses could receive tax credits if they make significant investments in renewable energy that create new jobs. Legislative fiscal analysts anticipate the state will eventually issue about $9.6 million in tax credits each year.

Lawmakers also approved the creation of a renewable energy authority that will have the power to issue bonds to connect alternative sources of energy to the state's power grid.

"The fact that we have created an authority that will have governance and bonding capability for energy corridors for renewable energy types and, when you consider the incentives that now have been provided beyond that to attract renewable energy to the state, I would guess... there probably isn't another state in America with better practices now in terms of attracting, building and promulgating renewable energy," Huntsman said.

"We've got a very aggressive renewable energy standard, 20 percent by 2025. This is how you get it done. And you gotta have the land, you gotta have the incentives, you gotta have the distribution capability and you've got to have the vision. And I think all of that kind of came together this legislative session and we've got something to show for it."

Huntsman has touted the state's ability to be a generator of solar and wind power in the past, but the legislation lawmakers approved also includes nuclear power as renewable energy. A former state lawmaker wants to build a nuclear power plant near Green River.

However, Huntsman said, he's still unsure how feasible a nuclear power plant would be in the state in the near future.

"If you want to be realistic and have an intelligent discussion, you have to keep all options on the table. That said, we have to be very realistic about the costs of nuclear," Huntsman said, noting a new nuclear power plant would cost about $2 billion.

"You have to be very realistic about spent fuel, and we fought long and hard here keeping it out of our state for good reason, and I think you have to be very aware of the resources like water that are taken and, finally, you've got real international proliferation issues."


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