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Utah Clean Energy and Salt Lake City have announced details of a 10-year plan to reduce costs and simplify and expand rooftop solar in the city and state. Titled “A Bright Future: 10-Year Solar Deployment Plan,” the program offers a suite of readily available, implementable solutions to position Utah as a leader in the nation’s solar market, the group said at a press conference recently at the Utah State Capital. The plan was developed as part of the Wasatch Solar Project and is one of only 15 initiatives in the country to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Market Pathways Initiative.

Utah’s rooftop solar market has nearly doubled every year for the past 10 years and the estimated annual economic benefit to Utah’s economy rose to $300 million in 2016, according to the group. It quoted the Department of Energy’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report as stating solar electric generation represents more than 5,894 jobs in Utah.

“Utah’s affordable, abundant energy sources support our diverse economy and high quality of life,” said Ben Hart, managing director at the Governor's Office of Economic Development. “Solar is one of Utah’s fastest-growing energy generation resources, and I applaud the solar industry for its success in our state.”

In forming the plan, Utah Clean Energy sought input from representatives of solar companies, utilities, local and state government, financiers and community and business organizations. The team then developed solutions that will help the solar industry grow in a manner that is fair for both consumers and utilities.

Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department director Vicki Bennett said, “Solar power is a local, inexhaustible, clean energy resource that will draw new investments to Utah and continue to create new jobs and grow our economy. Salt Lake City is committed to expanding rooftop solar. Considering all of the economic and health benefits of solar, we urge our leaders and policy makers to look seriously at how we can implement this plan.”

Recent data from the Utah Department of Energy showed that the solar industry in Utah employs more people than all other electrical power generation segments combined. Solar power has quickly become a critical component of the national power landscape as well: Solar accounted for 65 percent of new energy resources in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2016, and there are now 374,000 Americans employed in the solar industry, said Utah Clean Energy.

“Because more and more people are adopting clean energy solutions such as rooftop solar, we must now pave the way to capitalize on our amazing solar resource,” said Sarah Wright, Utah Clean Energy executive director.

Primary recommendations from the 10-Year Solar Deployment Plan include:

• Ensure all Utahns who want solar have affordable access.

• Cut the red tape for solar permitting.

• Interconnection must keep pace with new technology. Interconnection requirements outline rules for connecting solar to the grid safely.

• Evolve the utility business model. Utilities must plan for the inevitable widespread adoption of customer-deployed resources such as solar to assure reliable and affordable electricity for all customers and fair returns for utilities.

• Provide opportunities for Utahns to integrate battery storage into the energy mix.

“With Utah’s solar future at a crossroads, the 10-Year Solar Deployment Plan provides a clear path to overcome challenges and guide the development of a sustainable and robust solar market across Utah,” said Wright. “We look forward to working with utilities and community organizations to find solutions that will leverage investments in rooftop solar and capitalize on Utah’s abundant sunshine and innovation. We see a bright future indeed for solar energy in Utah.”

Utah Clean Energy is a public interest organization working to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency in a way that is beneficial not only for Utah’s environment and health, but for the economy and long-term energy security, the organization said.