West Coast leaders will develop policy models to bolster cost-saving energy efficiency programs
OLYMPIA – Washington state has been awarded a federal grant to lead the Pacific Coast Collaborative’s efforts to develop strategies for encouraging energy efficient building and retrofit projects. The Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), formed in June 2008, laid the foundation for cooperation on clean energy, regional transportation and joint efforts to promote a sustainable regional economy.
This U.S. Department of Energy grant-funded project supports work on the PCC’s Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy signed last October by Gov. Jay Inslee and the leaders of British Columbia, California and Oregon.
Inslee said this project will allow the PCC to develop innovative strategies that will ultimately reduce carbon pollution and provide enormous savings to taxpayers, homeowners and businesses.
“We know energy efficiency gives us enormous bang for the buck when it comes to creating jobs, reducing pollution and lowering energy costs,” Inslee said. “This is an exciting opportunity for Washington and our Pacific Coast partners to develop new strategies for states and local governments to incentivize and promote more energy efficient building and development.”
The PCC Action Plan seeks to increase implementation of building energy benchmarking and disclosure policies. Energy benchmarking tracks the utility bills of a building over time and compares that building to other similar structures, providing greater understanding of energy consumption and costs. When the real value of more energy efficient buildings is clear and readily available to property owners, tenants and operators for use in sale and lease decisions, it builds the market for energy efficient buildings.
By promoting disclosure and easy access to real energy performance data, states can better drive business and public policy decisions. Actionable data is essential to states and local jurisdictions as they make decisions about investments in energy efficiency, and benchmarking energy use in the built environment is the first step.
Very successful benchmarking programs have been enacted in Seattle and San Francisco, according to Washington State Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. The programs collected benchmarking results from thousands of buildings, aggregated the results to preserve privacy, and shared it with the public in easy-to-use reports using the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager system developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Energy is a huge operating cost and building efficiency upgrades in new and existing construction are the largest, most cost-effective opportunity to increase power in our electric system. If energy efficiency were a power plant, it would be the second-largest source of electricity in the Northwest after hydropower.
“The Northwest Power Planning Council estimates that 34 years of investments in energy efficiency and conservation now save Washington homes and business $1.75 billion per year in electricity costs,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “Our work enabled by this federal grant will help the Pacific Coast partners create a transparent, multi-state marketplace and further our region’s leadership in efficiency and conservation.”
The Pacific Coast Action Plan project seeks to pass state-wide legislation, or a series of local ordinances, mandating specified buildings benchmark their utility data in the ENERGY STAR® system. Washington Energy Office partners include California Energy Commission, Oregon Department of Energy, British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines, the Institute for Market Transformation, Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, Smart Buildings Center, and Ross Strategic.
The $450,200 grant from the United States Department of Energy to Washington State is part of a national effort to advance residential, commercial and industrial markets for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The grant will be shared with Oregon and California.
Inslee will talk about this and other clean energy initiatives during a keynote speech next Wednesday at the Washington Future Energy Conference at the Seatac Hilton.