Utah, our home, is a pioneering state that has always been able to see around the corner, seize opportunities, and put people first. Forward-thinking investment and world-changing infrastructure set the stage for what was unprecedented American economic prosperity in the 20th century. Now knee-deep into the 21st century, it’s time we act with the same bold and ambitious vision as our predecessors by investing in the future.
We are in the midst of an important discussion about the definition of “infrastructure.” Both President Biden and Congressional Republicans have put forth plans and seem to have a compromise to upgrade our roads, bridges, and airports. While we surely need to do these, investments in concrete and steel won’t be enough to secure prosperity for our children and our grandchildren. Being responsible stewards of our state and our nation’s future calls on us to make significant investments in rural communities, broadband, clean energy, and air quality. We can ensure that the entire state thrives in a low carbon future, while also improving health and quality of life here in Utah and positioning Utah to be an energy powerhouse in the 21st century.
We have both seen that smart, future-oriented investments can pay off. Utah leaders prioritized and paved the way to make Utah a tech leader, with Silicon Slopes and companies like Lucid bringing jobs, new talent, and new opportunities to our state. Right now, we are in the midst of an unprecedented global energy transition, with a wave of low-emissions technologies, from solar energy to electric vehicles, overtaking traditional energy resources. By embracing clean energy and innovation, Utah can grow the energy industries of the future and the economic and climate benefits that will come with them, right here in our state. A strategy that includes national investments in clean energy and energy innovation can help us unlock this potential.
Clean energy takes many forms. First, let’s take a look at our state’s abundant renewable energy potential. Utah is blessed with untapped solar, geothermal, and wind potential. Smart investments in transmission and energy storage would not only improve the reliability of our electricity system, but also unlock Utah’s potential to develop our renewable resources in all corners of the state. We can deliver more renewable energy to Utahns and continue our proud tradition as an energy-exporting state.
Utah has positioned itself to be a national leader in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. In fact, Utah State University is host to a national EV charging research center, called ASPIRE, and the Utah legislature has authorized our electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to deploy EV charging equipment across our state. New national investments in EV charging infrastructure will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles across the state and the significant air quality benefits that zero-emissions vehicles deliver.
We can’t forget energy efficiency. Utah faces critical housing affordability issues in urban and rural communities. We will save families money on their energy bills and reduce air pollution by supporting energy retrofits and zero-emissions heating and cooling technologies in our homes and buildings. Utah created an effective and popular home residential energy upgrade program during the Great Recession of 2008. Let’s do that again!
We find ourselves at a unique moment of opportunity to drive big changes through smart 21st century infrastructure investments that will set up Utah and our nation to succeed in the future. By embracing these opportunities as part of any national infrastructure legislation, Utah’s congressional delegation will help our state and our nation adapt and thrive in the future. We are already twenty years into the 21st century. Now is the time to ask, what do we want our legacy to be and are we willing to make the necessary investments?
Sarah Wright is the Executive Director of Utah Clean Energy. Karl Sun is the co-founder and CEO of Lucid.