Utah’s Success Story: the Path to Clean Energy

By Jennifer Roberts

This week we had a conversation with two leaders from Utah Clean Energy, who have been instrumental in guiding the progress of conservative Utah toward wind and solar energy.  Fossil fuel producing states around the country are struggling with ways to frame the need for a clean energy transformation in the face of a changing climate. In a Let’s Talk Climate interview, Sarah Wright and Josh Craft laid out the steps they took to change the tone and the conversation in Utah.

Five years ago in Utah, you could not say the words “climate change” without provoking ridicule and denial.  But there were a couple of climate impacts in particular that helped make the case to the skeptics, and they were impacts everyone could see and understand.

One impact was the noticeable trend that snow pack was forming later and melting earlier each year.  This got the owners and employees of the numerous Utah ski resorts to pay attention. The other impact was the worsening air quality. With the backdrop of the snow-capped Wasatch Mountain range, the polluted air mass stood out like a sore thumb.  People could feel the smog in their lungs and see it with their eyes, and it seemed to hang around longer as the years have passed.

Utah Clean Energy began to build a coalition of leaders who understood what was happening in Utah, and who began to coalesce around bi-partisan solutions that all could support.  Leaders from business, healthcare, faith, and civic sectors of the community were part of this circle.  The end result of several years of engaging the community, listening to energy and climate experts, and talking about economic and health impacts, was that the state slowly came around to embracing a transition to clean energy.

This past year, as noted in our previous blog, the Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact was signed. The inspiring story that Sarah and Josh tell provides a path forward for other communities as well. Listen to the whole story recorded on our ecoAmerica channel here, and you will take away some great lessons. How do you bring about transformational change? Sarah Wright’s advice: “You need to be fearless, and you need to believe that you can succeed.”




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