This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utahns like green energy right up to the point that they have to pay for it.
A new Envision Utah online survey found thousands of Utahns prefer renewable energy sources.
The overwhelming majority of those who logged in to take the survey (87 percent) said they were willing to dedicate more of the state's land and resources to developing energy sources including wind and solar power.
The surveys "reinforce something that groups like HEAL have been saying for a while that Utahns want more renewable energy than they're getting," said Matt Pacenza, executive director of HEAL Utah. "Even in a state like Utah, we just over and over again see that people in Utah want to buy more renewable energy."
But support flagged at bit when cost entered into the picture: About two-thirds (65 percent) said they would be willing to pay more for their power if it would bring more renewable sources online.
Still, those surveyed most preferred proposals that used fossil fuels to keep costs low.
Rocky Mountain Power spokeswoman Margaret Oler said the company's long-term plans are in line with what Utahns said they wanted in the Envision Utah survey.
"Rocky Mountain Power is still among the lowest-price electric providers in the U.S.," she wrote in an email. "We continue to listen to our customers as we provide electricity at a fair price, using a measured approach to reduce emissions, add more renewable energy, increase energy efficiency and provide our customers with more energy options."
The company gets about 61 percent of its electricity from coal. It plans to shutter several coal power plants, and convert others to natural gas, according to its 2015 Integrated Resources Plan.
Utahns who took the Envision Utah survey were given various scenarios that described what the state would be like in 2050. They then were asked to vote for the scenarios they found most appealing.
According to the Envision Utah report, those surveyed were given three options for Utah's energy future: one that emphasized fossil fuels, especially natural gas; another that featured a balanced energy portfolio that included nuclear power; and a third that emphasized wind and solar power, but at a much greater cost.
When given all three scenarios, most 53 percent picked the first scenario, where 50 percent of Utah's power would come from natural gas, 14 percent from coal and 27 percent from wind and solar. The scenario projected a 42 percent reduction of carbon emissions which are thought to be the culprit behind global climate change a 29 percent drop in criteria pollutants like PM 2.5, and a 3 percent increase in household energy costs.
The least popular scenario, which envisioned 50 percent of Utah's power coming from wind and solar sources and 41 percent from natural gas, would have decreased carbon emissions by 54 percent and criteria pollutants by 76 percent, but boosted household energy costs by 58 percent. Only 17 percent of respondents picked that scenario.
Pacenza said he could understand why few would vote for such conditions. The average Utah family would struggle to pay those bills, he said. But Pacenza disputed whether the cost projections were accurate.
"I have no idea where Envision Utah got that number," he said. "I have never heard anyone suggest that moving to clean energy would cost that much more."
Pacenza pointed out that some of Utah's energy between 7 percent and 15 percent already comes from renewable energy sources. He said he thought the state could lift that percentage to 30 percent or even 50 percent in the next few decades without substantial rate increases.
About a third of respondents voted for the scenario that had 29 percent of Utah's energy coming from nuclear power plants, 31 percent from natural gas and 31 percent from wind and solar, promising substantial reductions in emissions at an increased cost of 12 percent.
At the same time, follow-up questions found that a majority of respondents (54 percent) opposed storing nuclear waste in Utah and were not willing to risk the accidents associated with nuclear- power production.
And 91 percent of respondents said they wanted to see Utah building new homes and businesses that are more energy-efficient to improve air quality.