The Utah Way to Achieving 100 Percent Clean Energy

How a politically conservative state set aggressive goals for clean energy

It's impossible to view the Salt Lake City skyline without noting six castle-like spires, at the top of which stands the golden statue of Angel Moroni blowing his horn. The famous towers of the Latter-day Saints temple rise in the city's midst, framed by the snowcapped Wasatch Range. To the west stand the three concrete stacks of the Gadsby power plant. Owned and operated by the state's dominant electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power, the plant once burned coal but switched to gas in the 1990s. Though most photographers crop images of the city to omit them, Gadsby's triple stacks are visible from almost any vantage point in the Salt Lake Valley—a seeming monument to the state's historic reliance on coal.

They also mark the place where Utah's carbon legacy may have come to an end.

In March 2016, Park City passed a resolution committing the city to transitioning 100 percent of its energy to renewable sources by 2032. Then in July 2016, Salt Lake City announced its own commitment. Moab, the redrock mecca, did the same at the beginning of 2017, followed later that year by Summit County. Soon after, Salt Lake suburbs such as Cottonwood Heights also joined in.

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