Utah Enjoys Cornucopia of Energy Resources

lavarr policy insightsWith low oil and natural gas prices, and coal under attack as a dirty energy source, the Utah energy industry could be seen as being in a bit of a lull.

However, if you look at the Utah energy world more broadly, a great deal is happening in Utah. Solar is going gangbusters, wind is viable in some parts of the state, efficiency and conservation are being widely adopted (the cheapest energy is energy not used), and one Utah public power agency is moving forward with the world’s first small modular nuclear reactor project.

This energy diversity forms the backdrop of the 5th Annual Governor’s Energy Development Summit that started Tuesday afternoon in the Salt Palace and continues through Wednesday.

Certainly, the days of rip-roaring oil development are over, at least for now. Those days might come back, if the world oil market stabilizes at higher prices. Natural gas is an increasingly important energy source, and Utah has plenty of natural gas. It will be difficult to ramp up major development of Utah’s enormous deposits of oil sands and oil shale, but their day may come. 

Kicking off the Energy Summit, Gov. Gary Herbert noted that energy is the foundation of a good quality of life. Utah is fortunate to have low energy costs, both to keep the cost of living low for citizens, and to attract industry and jobs.

Utah pursues an “all of the above” strategy when it comes to energy development, embracing fossil fuels, wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, etc, while also encouraging efficiency and conservation.

Herbert said the twin goals of enjoying affordable energy and clean energy might seem contradictory,

but he has faith in the marketplace. Energy technology is advancing rapidly, and the marketplace will solve our energy challenges without a lot of government interference.  

Governing Magazine recently noted that despite predictions that today’s cheap natural gas and low oil prices would break the rapid growth of the renewable energy business, in 2015, for the second year in a row, the U.S. installed more renewable energy production than that powered by fossil fuels.

Nuclear energy is carbon-free and pollution-free. The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, with 44 member communities, mostly in Utah, is considering building a small modular nuclear reactor project, probably at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, to provide baseload energy when coal plants are retired.

The power agency is also encouraging its members to embrace solar energy along with more efficiency and conservation.

This is an exciting time for energy development in Utah. Oil, gas and coal remain very important in Utah, providing lots of jobs and significant tax revenue. But beyond the old stalwarts, remarkable progress is being made with new energy sources. 

Gov. Herbert is correct that we should let the market do its magic. It will sort out what consumers want and what is affordable. Picking winners and losers will only delay the inevitable.

Quote of the Day: “We are not the Clinton Administration.”

-Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel, reassuring Gov. Herbert that Pres. Obama won’t declare a national monument without consultation with the state. (Deseret News)