Salt Lake City

Background Information

Salt Lake City is the most populated city in Utah, with over 190,000 people. The city rests in the Salt Lake Valley (elevation of 4,226 feet), with the Wasatch Mountains to the east and Oquirrh Mountains to the west.

Salt Lake City’s major industries include educational services, healthcare and social assistance, and retail trade, while the highest-paying industries are mining and oil and gas extraction; utilities; and professional, scientific, and tech services. Over 20% of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, reaching past the national average of 14.7%. The largest racial and ethnic groups living in poverty are white (51%) and Latinx (29.9%).

Salt Lake City faces a number of climate-related challenges, from reductions in snowpack for potable water to extreme heat and drought. The city’s response includes collaborating with other cities on climate adaptation policy development through the Western Adaptation Alliance and the recent passage of a joint resolution to support renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions. The city has also partnered with its investor-owned utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to execute a plan that provides for a near-term transition to clean, renewable energy for the entire community.

Team Summary

The Salt Lake City team is focused on improving strategic collaboration across the city to develop a targeted energy efficiency strategy for underserved and low-income residents, and to increase participation in energy incentive programs. The team is led by the city’s sustainability division, and includes the city’s housing and community empowerment offices, the nonprofit Utah Clean Energy, and the University of Utah. For the past three years, the Institute for Sustainable Communities and the Salt Lake City Corporation have worked together on the Solar Market Pathways program to create a 10-year Solar Deployment Plan for Utah, integrate solar energy into emergency management planning, and refine guidelines for commercial property assessed clean energy.

Promising Practices

  • Salt Lake City recently published Climate Positive 2040, a plan that outlines strategies and strategic partnerships to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2032 and an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
  • The Salt Lake City Sustainability Department and Utah Clean Energy have partnered on a variety of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electric vehicle projects over the last 15 years. Key collaborations include U.S. Department of Energy-funded initiatives through Solar America Cities and the SunShot Initiative, as well as energy efficiency programs (Project Skyline and Elevate Buildings) with the Institute for Market Transformation.
  • Salt Lake City and Rocky Mountain Power partnered to develop a Clean Electricity Implementation Plan in support of the city’s climate plan. Focus areas include energy efficiency, renewable energy, electric vehicles, and smart grid development.
  • In December 2017, the Salt Lake City Council adopted a comprehensive housing plan aimed to increase vibrancy in the Salt Lake housing market, provide security for vulnerable residents, and create equity in housing choice citywide.

Key Challenges

  • Community engagement – Salt Lake City’s aggressive carbon reduction goals will be impossible to reach without the participation of underserved communities, which historically have low rates of participation in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. These underserved communities are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and stand to benefit the most in addressing it. Developing resilience in these communities—especially by empowering community members to be a part of the solution—will not only help families address the impacts of climate change, but will also help improve immediate quality of life by helping households spend less on their utility bills and improving local air quality over time.
  • Housing – Salt Lake City is in the beginning stages of a systemic housing crisis. Home prices and rental rates are increasing at a faster pace than wage increases, affecting greater numbers of low- and middle-income residents. Engaging the community and overcoming barriers to accessing energy efficiency incentives and programs is one way in which living expenses in Salt Lake City can be stabilized or even reduced.

For citations, see here.