Now, a group of local businesses and individuals hopes to make Moab and Grand County the first ever U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Community.
The EPA began its Green Power Partnership program in 2001 to encourage corporations, government agencies, and other large power consumers to choose “green power” sources for their electricity. The voluntary program is aimed at “boosting the market for power alternatives that reduce the environmental and health risks of conventional electricity generation,” an EPA news release explains.
Green Power partners are often large corporations such as Johnson and Johnson, government agencies, municipalities and businesses. The City of Moab, which joined the program in 2002, was awarded a 2003 Green Power Leadership Award by the agency.
“The City of Moab was recognized by the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy in 2003 with a Green Power Leadership Award for its earlier work on promoting green power in this area,” said Matt Clouse, Director of the U.S. EPA’s Green Power Partnership. “EPA plans to highlight Moab’s ongoing efforts in order to inspire other communities to use more renewable energy.”
In presenting the award, the EPA praised the Moab community for demonstrating an unprecedented commitment to supporting renewable energy.
“On April 22, 2003, the Moab Blue Sky Community Challenge began with a goal of signing up 5 percent of the area’s residents and businesses by October 2003, a goal reached in a little more than one month. Today, more than 8.6 percent of Moab area electric customers are purchasing Blue Sky wind energy: an additional 1,450 megawatt hours. Nearly 1.5 percent of the community’s total energy usage now comes from renewable wind power,” the Green Power Partnership website notes. “Rallying the community together behind clean renewable energy, the community’s combined purchase has had very significant environmental and educational benefits. In fact, two other prominent Utah communities have expressed interest in creating similar Clean Energy Challenges for their communities, and the Moab community created an outreach model that can be replicated across the country.”
To keep that commitment growing, the new Moab group, with the backing of the mayors of Moab and Castle Valley, this year worked with the EPA to create a new Green Power Partnership designation for communities, and this popular tourist community now stands poised to become the first community in the nation to receive the endorsement. Castle Valley Mayor Bruce Keeler, and Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison signed the Green Power Community pledge.
“Being first in the nation to achieve this designation is a huge coup for a little community like ours in terms of the positive publicity that can come out of this,” said Andy Nettell, spokesman for the group. “Any consumer who’s conscious of the energy problems of the country will recognize businesses that are forward thinking in this regard. It makes sense to use renewable energy resources. It’s a no-brainer.”
As owner of Arches Book Company, Nettell was among the first group of businesses to sign up for the Utah Power Blue Sky Challenge in 2003. Now, working with Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison and other business owners and area residents, Nettell hopes to persuade every electricity customer in Grand County to sign up for the program. Group members are making personal visits to business owners, neighbors and friends, and PacifiCorp, Utah Power’s parent company, recently sent out a countywide mailing urging electricity customers to enroll in the Blue Sky program, which allows PacifiCorp customers to pay a surcharge – currently about $1.95 per 100 kilowatt hour block– to buy wind-generated electricity for homes and businesses.
As part of the Blue Sky Challenge, several area businesses and organizations including The Synergy Company, Moab Area Chamber of Commerce, Moab Folk Music Festival, KZMU Public Radio and the Moab Times-Independent, have committed to purchasing wind power for 100 percent of their electricity needs.
To earn EPA Green Power Community designation, 3-percent – about 3,000 megawatt hours (3 million kilowatt hours) – of the 100,000 megawatt hours of electricity used annually in Grand County must be renewable energy.
So far the promotional effort is paying off, Nettell says.
“Just yesterday I randomly asked three people who had received the mailing and they all said ‘I’ve sent mine in,’” Nettell said. “Getting 100 percent reaction like that is wonderful.”
Utah Power does not make a profit from signing up customers for wind power, but the Scottish-owned company is committed to increasing the percentage of renewable energy in its mix of resources used to generate electricity.
Currently, almost 52 percent of all electricity generated within the U.S. comes from coal. Only about 2 percent is created using renewable energy sources such as wind, low-impact hydropower, geothermal energy sources, biomass, and biogas methane.
But about 94 percent of Utah’s electricity is coal-generated, according to the federal Energy Information Administration’s 2002 state electricity profile.
“The primary benefit of buying green power is environmental protection. For many organizations, the electricity they purchase is a significant source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Voluntary green power consumers are making a real difference environmentally by supporting the development of new power plants that generate electricity with significantly less air pollution and no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.” said the EPA’s Clouse.
“By choosing green power, the Moab community members can support the development of new, clean, renewable power plants.”
The U.S. EPA Green Power Partnership, using average avoided carbon emissions nationally, estimates that the target of 3 percent green power usage for the Moab Area Community is the equivalent of taking over 350 cars off the road or planting roughly 550 acres of trees.
“If the Moab Area Community meets its target of 3 percent green power usage, it will be responsible for avoiding over 4 million pounds of carbon dioxide, based on national average emissions,” said Clouse.
That effort will bring significant attention to Moab, said Sara Wright, director of Utah Clean Energy, a group that promotes renewable energy.
“I have been extremely impressed [with Moab’s efforts]. To have a small community reach this participation level is amazing. And the amount of volunteer hours that it’s taken to make this happen shows the commitment level of this community,” she said. “The big thing is it brings notoriety to the community. You’re protecting our blue skies and the natural beauty you have here. That really means something to the type of individuals who come here for outdoor recreation.”
Moab’s mayor said he is proud of the work community members have done to promote renewable energy. And he urged everyone who can to sign up for PacifiCorp’s Blue Sky program.
“It says a lot about the character and the integrity of this community that we have been so successful,” he said. It does make a difference.”
Mayor Sakrison said being first in the nation to achieve the Green Power Community designation is a huge feather in Moab’s cap.
“You can only be first once. No one can ever take that away from us. And no other community can ever stake that claim,” he said.
But in terms of the community’s commitment to renewable energy, the point is much simpler.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Sakrison.
© Lisa J. Church, 2004