Derek Miller: How business can help achieve vision for Utah’s energy future

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Clover Creek Solar in Mona on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021.

Utah is growing at an unprecedented rate and with that growth comes increasing energy demands. At the same time the demand for greener energy is increasing, and rightfully so. These two truths do not have to be in conflict, as long as we harmonize environmental protection with economic progress by advancing towards a low-carbon future balancing affordability, reliability and sustainability.

Utah’s current economic strength is the result of careful planning and intentional effort from years past. A strong economy for future generations will require strategic planning for our energy needs today and the ongoing transition for tomorrow. The business community has an important role to play in developing this vision for Utah’s energy future.

This Business Vision for Utah’s Energy Future was crafted over several months with input from business leaders across all industry sectors. The process was deliberately inclusive and substantive because energy needs impact everyone.

Utah possesses many advantages that can help it lead, including a diverse energy portfolio, mineral assets, strong business and community leadership, an innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem, and a culture of getting things done. The business community supports an energy future that places our state as a model of the nation’s energy transition.

The vision outlined in the report released by the Salt Lake Chamber last week highlights the current state of energy production as well as positive things moving us forward in the right direction, including major renewable projects and innovation investment.

We know this vision will require leadership and broad support to strike the right balance moving forward. There are examples near and far where that balance has not been achieved.

For example, households and businesses across Europe are facing difficult choices this winter because natural gas from Russia has become a political tool of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, coupled with shortsighted decisions from European countries to shut down nuclear plants without the reality of a reasonable real-time replacement.

Another example to learn from comes from our neighbors in California who have suffered rolling blackouts because they lacked a balanced approach to their energy transition. It doesn’t do anyone any good to encourage people to buy electric vehicles and then ask them not to plug the vehicles in because the grid isn’t robust enough to handle the load.

It is our duty in Utah to learn from examples, good and bad, as we move to an increasingly sustainable, low-carbon energy future in a responsible, balanced way. If we get this transition done right, the only discernible difference to the average Utahn will be, not be in lack of affordable and reliable energy, but instead clearer skies, cleaner air, and an improved environment.

The need to move to a clean energy future is calling. The desire by consumers and businesses alike to move in this direction is beckoning. The invisible hand of the free market is already guiding the economy in this direction. Now our state can take the next step of moving in this direction too, eagerly, responsibly and boldly.

Derek Miller

Derek Miller is president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.