With a new year upon us and a tumultuous national midterm election behind us, we can turn our attention to an urgent bipartisan issue: creating a sustained and fair national energy transition that addresses the risks of climate change, improves national security and stabilizes energy costs for Utah families. Utah is in a prime position to harness the rapid changes in global energy markets and new federal resources for the benefit of all Utah communities and businesses.

Let’s get to work!

Utahns, particularly our elected leaders, should embrace an opportunity mindset about climate solutions and our energy transition. We live in a proud energy state with tremendous knowledge and abundant clean energy resources. We understand the uncertainty about this transition, especially among our energy communities which have powered Utah for over a century. But our state can and should be leading, not following, in creating a 21st century energy economy. With smart policy and planning, we can maintain the reliable and affordable power we have come to expect while remaining an energy powerhouse in the West. 

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Here’s how Utah policymakers and business leaders can shape the energy transition for the good of our state.

Work across party lines to speed up clean energy projects

Major declines in the cost of renewables coupled with rising global demand for clean energy have made it clear that the world is sailing towards a clean energy future. Utah can’t afford to miss the boat.

However, there remain obstacles that Utah leaders can help overcome, thereby setting the stage to unlock more of our own clean energy resources. The reality is that we need to build clean energy projects faster. We also need to ensure impacted communities have a voice in the process. The “Utah Way” is known for finding pragmatic, compassionate responses to just these types of complicated problems. Conservatives and progressives must work together to find compromises for smart siting and permitting, creating sustainable supply chains, and giving rural and frontline communities a fair say in how and where we build new energy infrastructure.

Embrace new federal resources

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act offer unprecedented investments in emissions-reducing technologies. Utah leaders can make sure our tax dollars are put to work for the state.

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We’re already seeing early results: the Department of Energy has issued a loan for a major clean hydrogen project in Delta Utah, two Utah school districts (Tintic and Uintah) have been awarded grants from the EPA for new electric school buses, funding for a network of highway electric vehicle chargers is on its way, and there are millions of dollars available for retrofitting our homes and buildings to improve energy efficiency. 

But we’ve only scratched the surface of the opportunities ahead. State and local leaders play a central role in leveraging these resources for our businesses and communities.

Make the energy transition work for all communities

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The global energy transition is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for wealth creation and skilled labor development. But we need to be mindful that impacted communities have a seat at the table in this new energy economy.

That begins by helping our rural and tribal energy communities take advantage of new federal tax credits that are designed to attract new clean energy and manufacturing facilities. With their knowledge and infrastructure, this shouldn’t be a tough sell. A fair transition also means helping low-income communities get the full benefit of energy savings opportunities, from energy efficiency to rooftop solar to zero-emissions buses. Energy efficiency measures, for example, offer financial and health benefits to low-income communities. And clean energy jobs must offer a living wage to cultivate the talented workforce we need to build the new energy economy.

There will certainly be growing pains in our energy transition. But the world is forging ahead to a new energy era that will protect our climate, clean our air and create a better life for us all. Utah’s secret sauce of hard work and ingenuity means we can lead our nation in the clean energy transition. Our future is at stake. Let’s forge a legacy all Utahns can be proud of.

Josh Craft is the government and corporate relations manager at Utah Clean Energy. Logan Mitchell is the climate scientist and energy analyst at Utah Clean Energy.

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