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Power Play: Turning clean energy legislation into an economic windfall in the Beehive State

When eBay, the world's largest online marketplace, built its first ever data center in South Jordan, Utah, it wanted to use clean energy to power much of the facility -- to both reduce its environmental impact and stabilize energy costs for company down the road. But by law, Utah didn't allow large energy consumers to buy and transmit power directly from renewable energy developers, leaving eBay with the choice of sourcing their energy needs from coal (which powers 94% of the state), or not doing business in Utah.

Download: Power Play: Turning clean energy legislation into an economic windfall in the Beehive State

An interview with Dean Nelson, senior director of Global Data Center Strategy and Operations at eBay and Utah state Senator Mark Madsen

Ebay Utah Topaz Data CenterWhen eBay, the world's largest online marketplace, built its first ever data center in South Jordan, Utah, it wanted to use clean energy to power much of the facility -- to both reduce its environmental impact and stabilize energy costs for company down the road. But by law, Utah didn't allow large energy consumers to buy and transmit power directly from renewable energy developers, leaving eBay with the choice of sourcing their energy needs from coal (which powers 94% of the state), or not doing business in the state.

But eBay didn't do either of those things. Instead, the company began working with legislators, energy providers and other energy-hungry companies to create a new law that would make renewable energy available to Utah energy consumers. The attempt, Senate Bill 12, will do just that -- enabling large energy consumers such as eBay, Twitter and Oracle to enter into long-term purchase agreements with alternative energy providers, as long as no costs are passed on to other rate-payers.

The bill passed unanimously in the Utah Senate and House and will go into effect this summer. The legislation is being touted as a win-win for Utah's economy and the environment. eBay, which employs more than 1500 people in Utah alone, is already planning to build a second data center and adding nearly 2,200 jobs in the state. And other companies are taking a second look at Utah

To get a better picture of this clean energy collaboration in the Beehive State, the Ceres Podcast spoke with Dean Nelson, senior director of Global Data Center Strategy and Operations at eBay and Senator Mark Madsen, a Republican State Senator from Tooele County, Utah and lead sponsor of Senate Bill 12.

eBay is a member of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), which is a project of Ceres. For more information, visit www.ceres.org/bicep.

[Music: Bonobo, "Animals" from Black Sands (Ninja Tune, 2010); Four Tet, "She Just Likes to Fight" from There is Love in You (Domino, 2010)]