The Beehive State Slowly Turns From Coal

State Economy

The population of the “Beehive State,Utah is approximately 3.18 million people[1]. Utah is the 32nd most populated state in the United States.

In 2020, Utah’s economy was ranked 28th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the aerospace, defense, biosciences, information technology, mining, agriculture, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

In 2008, Utah enacted a Renewables Portfolio Goal for utilities to sell 30% of the electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025[4].

In August 2021, Utah’s utilities[5] used coal (63.0%), natural gas (24.6 %), and renewable energy (12.3 %) to generate electricity. Solar, hydropower, wind, and geothermal are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Utah.

In August 2021, the average cost of residential electricity in Utah was 11.01 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.99 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Utah include:

  • 1,000 MW Energy Storage Project – Utah energy company, Magnum Development LLC is continuing work on the Advanced Clean Energy Storage project located in central Utah. The project will combine compressed air storage in salt caverns with hydrogen storage, large flow batteries and solid-oxide fuel cells. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2025.
  • 120 MW Solar Project – In July 2021, American utility PacifiCorp has announced plans to start construction of the Appaloosa solar project in 2023. The project is located on a site approximately 250 southwest of Salt Lake City. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2023.
  • 80 MW Solar Project – In October 2021, New York renewable energy company, D.E. Shaw Renewable Investment commenced work on the Elektron Solar project at a site approximately 20 miles southwest of the state capital, Salt Lake City. The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 2022.

Conclusions

Commercial coal mining began in Utah in 1875[6] at a site approximately 60 miles southwest of the state capital, Salt Lake City. In 2020, 13.2 million tons of bituminous coal was produced from six underground and one surface mine in Utah[7].

In 2005, 94.0% of Utah’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[8]. In August 2021, 63.0 % of Utah’s electricity was generated from coal. Why the decrease?

  1. Economics The cost to generate power from wind, solar, and hydropower is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate electricity from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.
  2. EnvironmentCoal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains toxic components including arsenic, mercury, and lead. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have contaminated the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[9].
  3. Climate Change Coal generates 40% to 48% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

Utah’s utilities have been accustomed to abundant, cheap coal to fuel electric power plants. However, the cost of coal has continued to climb, while the cost to generate electricity from wind or solar has plummeted.

Utah has significant renewable energy resources including solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass. Utilities in the Beehive State have begun to turn from coal to clean, green inexpensive renewable energy.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

[1] Utah Population 2021, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Utah  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, August 13, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Utah State Profile and Energy Estimates, www.eia.gov

[6] Coal Mining, Utah Division of Archives and Records Service

[7] U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2020, October 2021

[8] U.S. Energy Information Agency, Utah Electric Power Consumption Estimates 1960 – 2018

[9] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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