Editor’s Note: The following blog post was published in the Green Team blog on March 22, 2012.
Since opening our LEED® Gold certified data center in South Jordan, Utah in 2010, we have continued to work toward establishing Utah as a center of excellence for our sustainability practices. We have already committed to build another LEED® Gold facility in Draper, Utah, and our local 400-member employee Green Team in Salt Lake City—one of the company’s largest—has actively worked to green our operations and advocate for innovative state climate and energy policy since 2007. Today, we are excited to share our latest—and most powerful—progress to date.
Until yesterday, Utah law has not allowed non-utility energy consumers to buy and transmit power directly from renewable energy developers. For a state that gets 94 percent of its electricity from coal, this was a major disincentive for companies, like eBay, looking to grow their business while also reducing their environmental footprint. With the support of Data Center Pulse, an association of data center professionals representing more than 1,000 businesses in 66 countries (including Adobe, Google, Oracle and Twitter), we began efforts to change the law.
We started by collaborating with Republican State Senator Mark Madsen to form a working group that consisted of energy end users (like us and other DCP members), Rocky Mountain Power (the state’s largest electric utility), and a local renewable energy generator. Together, we immediately got to work crafting policy that would make renewable energy available to Utah electricity consumers—with the key provision of not raising electricity rates or taxes for local Utah residents. That legislation we developed is now Senate Bill 12, which was unanimously approved by the Utah State Senate and House of Representatives and, yesterday, was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert. Governor Herbert has made sustainable energy and economic development his priorities and his signature on Senate Bill 12 is a crucial step to realizing those commitments. The bill goes into effect this summer.
We see the legislation as a significant achievement for both eBay and the state of Utah. For us, it means that we are able to do cleaner, greener business in Utah—a commitment we have made across our business and across all the geographies in which we operate. For Utah, the bill’s passage creates a unique economic development opportunity and opens the state to new players who are leading the transition to a clean energy economy. Utah has enormous renewable energy potential that includes geothermal, wind and solar power, and we hope that these new legislative provisions will help to transform the state into a new hub for innovative technologies, partnerships and investment. In short, this access to renewables now means new technologies, more innovation and long-term economic growth for Utah.
It is this kind of collaborative action with impacts beyond just eBay’s business that we find most exciting. Today’s bill makes it possible for us to purchase large-scale, offsite renewable energy in Utah—something that is certainly important to our business. But, even more importantly, the legislation is enabling other companies—and the state of Utah itself—to have positive, lasting economic and environmental effects as well. To us, that is a winning combination.