04/13/15 : David Caughran

Seattle and Surrounding Region Leads the Way in Energy Efficiency

The Pacific Northwest has long been a leader in energy efficiency, with state and local governments, utilities and businesses alike implementing programs and incentivizing investment in energy efficient technologies in order to meet the region’s growing demand for electricity.

As part of our Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030 initiative, we are hosting a State and Local Dialogue in Seattle, Washington, bringing together leaders from state and local governments, utilities, businesses, academia and nonprofit organizations to discuss smart power systems and ways to enhance energy productivity in the region and across the nation. We like to highlight efforts of our host cities when traveling for the initiative, and given that the agenda highlights power grid and smart power systems, we’ll focus on Seattle’s work in those areas.

Buildings

Seattle’s local government has established several policies to improve energy management and use, which are coordinated by the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. This office also controls a resource conservation fund for energy efficiency projects, including building audits and maintenance improvements. Policies and codes designed to improve buildings efficiency are among the strongest in the country, and include requirements of LEED Gold certification for city-funded buildings and benchmarking of public, multi-family and commercial buildings of specific sizes. Seattle is also a partner with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Challenge and has committed to reduce energy use in municipal buildings 20 percent by 2020. Additionally, the Office of Sustainability and Environment offers a Community Power Works program, which was once funded by DOE, to help consumers make energy efficient upgrades to their homes.

Transportation

Aside from their strong buildings policies, Seattle has also committed to using its own purchasing power to choose energy efficient products. Municipal vehicles must be alternative-fuel vehicles or hybrid-electric vehicles with at least a 25 percent higher fuel economy rating than a comparable vehicle. In 2013, all 41,000 residential street lights in Seattle were replaced with LEDs that are activated with photo sensors. Currently, the city is undergoing the replacement of 31,000 arterial lighting fixtures with LEDs, to be completed by 2018.

To encourage greater energy efficiency in their transportation system, Seattle has incorporated an Urban Village Strategy into its Comprehensive Plan, which guides zoning by encouraging development in neighborhoods most capable of supporting growth and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Neighborhood planning also considers walkability and accessibility to public transportation. The city has implemented policies to achieve a goal of reducing passenger vehicle miles traveled by 14 percent by 2020, and by 20 percent by 2030, from a 2008 baseline. Similarly, Seattle has a Commute Trip Reduction plan and provides Transportation Demand Management programs for employers in the city.

Utilities

Washington's private and public utilities have a long history of offering customer energy efficiency and conservation programs supported by regional organizations including the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), the Large Public Power Council (LPPC), the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC), and the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA).

Puget Sound Energy, a utility serving the Pacific Northwest region, offers many different types of programs and incentives to encourage energy efficiency, including rebates for homeowners using energy efficient appliances, engineering consulting for commercial and industrial projects, and grants for retrofits and upgrades to buildings. In 2013 alone, Puget Sound Energy’s energy efficiency programs saved enough electricity to power over 25,000 homes and natural gas to heat more than 6,000 homes.

Alliance Associate Member Snohomish County Public Utility District also provides a strong energy conservation program that covers weatherization and heating, efficient lighting and appliances, audits, heat pumps and more, for both commercial and residential applications. Another Alliance Associate Member, Seattle City Light, is the primary utility providing electricity to the Seattle area and an endorser of Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030 that offers substantial incentives and programs to encourage residential and commercial consumers to use energy more efficiently. In 2013, Seattle City Light reported net electricity savings of 138,160 MwH, 1.46 percent of its retail sales, as a result of their energy efficiency programs.

We look forward to learning more about the progress that Seattle, Washington, and the Pacific Northwest have made towards realizing a more energy productive future today during the roundtable dialogue discussion and tomorrow during the State and Local Dialogue.