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Gov. Gary Herbert unveils 10 goals in Utah ‘Energy Action Plan’

SHARE Gov. Gary Herbert unveils 10 goals in Utah ‘Energy Action Plan’

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled his "Energy Action Plan" at the Utah Energy Summit Tuesday, setting in motion a blueprint on energy-related issues for the next two years.

The plan encompasses a target of increasing energy production in Utah by 25 percent by the end of 2020.

"We will be able to produce 25 percent more energy," Herbert said. "The question will be what will be the fuel of choice."

Herbert's blueprint features 10 goals that include emphasizing infrastructure development for conventional, unconventional and alternative sources of energy.

Building on his 10-year strategic energy plan in 2011, Herbert established objectives that include the realization of a solar battery system in southern Utah by 2019 as part of an effort targeting rural business development.

"We needed to have something here to get us through 2020 that is a little more specific, particularly for rural Utah," Herbert said.

The summit is a chance to showcase innovations in the energy sector, emerging trends and technology advances that are transforming the energy development landscape.

One of the keynote speakers was NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik. The summit also featured a variety of electric vehicles and other attractions.

At the summit, Herbert noted the abundance of natural gas, oil and coal in Utah, significant gains in renewable energy development, as well as the state's geothermal resources.

Utah, in fact, is one of two sites in the country vying for U.S. Department of Energy funding and the opportunity to develop an underground laboratory researching ways to tap man-made geothermal reservoirs.

The potential Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy site at Milford has been monitored for seismic activity since 1981 and has been the subject of intense drill and geothermal investigation and activity for 45 years.

An announcement on the selection of the final candidate — either the University of Utah and the Energy & Geoscience Institute or Sandia Laboratories — is expected later this year.

Herbert said Utah's site is extremely competitive.

"I am optimistic. I think we are in a very good position. Our track record is good, and our resources are many," he said, adding "it does help rural Utah and further that goal of economic development."

Other goals in the plan call for improving the state's performance in the arena of energy efficiency. Since 2015, the state has improved its score from 26th in the country to 17th based on rankings from the Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency.

The nexus between energy and air quality is also a cornerstone of the plan as the state continues to combat its air pollution problems.

With the coming introduction of cleaner Tier 3 fuels for Utah's gas market and tightening of regulations on sources of pollutants that come from paint strippers and other solvents, the state is trying to tackle its air pollution problem on many fronts.

Herbert said there is much work left to do, but Wasatch Front emissions have dropped 35 percent in the last decade.

At the summit, Gary Hoogeveen, senior vice president of Rocky Mountain Power, said I-15 throughout the entire state of Utah will be fully "electrified" with charging stations some time this summer, and other major corridors in the state will follow the next year.

Utah is one of seven states that are signatories to a memorandum of understanding to develop a regional electric vehicle corridor in the West.

Utah's energy economy contributes $20.9 billion a year and supports 60,000 jobs, according to the Governor's Office of Energy Development.

The state ranks third in the country for geothermal production, 11th in oil and natural gas production and is No. 6 in the country for installed solar capacity. It ranks No. 2 per capita in solar capacity.