Tribune Editorial: Utah gets energy efficient

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Crews work to install a total of four electric car charging stations at Liberty park in Salt Lake on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. The city is upgrading its six current electric car charging stations and adding more, giving electric car owners a total of 28 city-owned charge ports within city boundaries.

If you build it, [they] will come.”

— Field of Dreams

Utahns love to save money, and we are quickly learning that being energy efficient means saving money. With coal disappearing, alternative energies like solar, wind and electric cars could help diversify rural economies and increase job growth.

A new report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Utah as the fourth most improved state for decreasing electricity and natural gas consumption over the last year. In fact, Utahns have reduced their usage over the past 10 years.

Reducing energy consumption is often a better way to improve the overall energy environment than investing in new technology. But Utahns are doing both.

Utahns buy more electric cars per capita than residents of California, and are sixth in the nation. We bought 1,129 electric cars in 2016. The increase may have been due to a state tax incentive that expired at the end of 2016. The increase in sales should convince the Legislature to renew the state tax incentive, because it is obviously working.

As more people buy electric cars, governments and private companies have more reason to service them. One of the barriers to buying an electric car is the limitation on how far you can drive before you run out of gas. No one wants to be stuck in Fillmore when they weren’t planning on it.

Gov. Gary Herbert and six other western governors have agreed to build up a network of strategically spaced charging stations throughout Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. The charging stations will also help smaller communities join the electric car movement.

It takes between 20 and 30 minutes, and costs between $12 and $20, to recharge an electric car. Electric cars have a 150- to 200-mile range.

Maverik has started selling electricity in Fillmore and Washington City, cities at the mid- and end-point of a trip from Salt Lake to St. George. The state is also working on a “Mighty Five Electric Vehicle Corridor Initiative” to bring electric charging stations to Utah’s five national parks.

With much of new technology, growth can often get caught in a circular Catch-22 – a consumer won’t buy an electric car because there are few places to charge it. But companies have no need to install electric charging stations because there are so few electric cars.

In this case Utah is proving, if you build it, they will come. The Legislature should do all it can to encourage building Utah’s energy efficiency.