Aerial view of Presidents Circle at the University of Utah in the fall.

Breathing in the benefits of energy incentives


UPDATED 10/14/2021

At a press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 13, Rocky Mountain Power’s Vice President of Customer Experience & Innovation William Comeau presented the Wattsmart Business Partner of the Year Award to the University of Utah. Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Reed and Chief Financial Officer Cathy Anderson were on-hand to receive the award. Watch the full press conference below.

Read more about the award below. 


The air we breathe is a shared resource. Increased energy-efficiency across campus results in reduced emissions.

This pursuit is a dynamic situation. It requires ingenuity, dedication, and a wealth of knowledge and industry expertise. A multifaceted team at the U is working hard to take full advantage of an energy-efficiency incentives partnership with Rocky Mountain Power.  This partnership works as University leadership provides the vision and support to make things happen, while key teams and individuals carry out the work with the help of the incentives provided by Rocky Mountain Power.

2020 was the most successful year yet in this partnership. The University will be awarded the “Wattsmart Business Partner of the Year” by Rocky Mountain Power in October, in recognition of this important work.

“We are very proud of the energy efficiency work being done at the U,” said Robin Burr, Chief Facilities Officer at the University of Utah. “The dedicated work of our Facilities staff members, combined with the teamwork across University Sustainability, U Health, and many other departments and colleges, has made this possible. Our partnership with Rocky Mountain Power is helping the U to grow efficiently and responsibly.”

A team of energy and sustainability experts made possible by this incentives partnership is accumulating energy and cost savings. Bill Leach and Robert Armstrong work as Sustainability Project Coordinators on the Main Campus and Hospitals & Clinics areas, respectively. They ensure that University project teams are kept aware of energy-efficient technologies and methods that will allow the U to function in the most energy-responsible manner possible and achieve incentives provided through Rocky Mountain Power’s program. As University leadership provides support and vision for energy-efficiency improvements, Leach and Armstrong make them a reality. The relationships built over time and the expertise shared between Leach, Armstrong, their teams, University project management, and Rocky Mountain Power are making long-lasting and compounding impacts on campus.

Leach and Armstrong ensure that the project teams are kept aware of incentive opportunities as they work to keep projects on-schedule and within budget. They focus on finding opportunities where alternate technologies such as more efficient lights and boilers make sense. This expertise and knowledge pays dividends.

In 2020, the incentives partnership thrived. The University achieved the following results:

  • $1,561,151.57 in incentives received from Rocky Mountain Power
  • Enough energy has been saved to power 1528 homes for a year

These incentives and savings were achieved over the course of 58 total projects completed in 2020. That’s a remarkable span of incentive measures for an organization of the University’s size. These incentives have a compounding effect on the future of energy-efficiency at the U.

“The University of Utah has made some exceptional strides in energy efficiency over the past couple of years,” said Gary Hoogeveen, Rocky Mountain Power president and CEO. “The institution has been a terrific partner, completing over 50 efficiency projects and working collaboratively with Rocky Mountain Power to meet its energy efficiency goals. We applaud this great work.”

Incentives collected from projects get returned to funders and, when state-funded, are used to fund additional improvement projects. A large portion of the University’s incentive dollars go into the University’s Revolving Sustainability Fund, managed by Facilities, where they can be used to leverage projects by covering up-front project costs and reinvesting funds into more improvement projects on an annual basis. This accelerates the U’s charge towards carbon neutrality and pays the University’s bottom line back with the achieved energy cost savings.

Another aspect to the partnership is the engineering support provided by Rocky Mountain Power. Independent third-party engineering firms, like KW Engineering, are contracted with by Rocky Mountain Power to provide engineering support to the University. This support on the front of energy-efficiency comes free of charge to the University and allows for the exploration of possible incentive opportunities without adding to the workload of the U’s internal engineering staff. KW Engineering’s support team makes suggestions and provides guidance as the University project team explores possible courses of action.

“This partnership is one of our most-important secret weapons,” said Chris Benson, Associate Director of Energy and Sustainability at the University of Utah. “It brings more talent to our teams and gives us more bang for each buck of project investment. This helps the University make better choices and make bigger impacts.”

The commitment to energy-efficiency is important to the University of Utah. Ultimately, it will play an important role in reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. Experts throughout the University are making it happen, aided by the partnership with RMP. Teams that play a valuable role include: the Facilities Sustainability & Energy team, Core Engineering, Project Management, Plant Operations, Districts, Hospitals & Clinics, and the Huntsman Cancer Hospital.

When these teams succeed in reaching incentives and energy-efficiency, we all win. The U can continue to grow responsibly, and hard work pays off in the form of reduced emissions and cleaner air.