Seattle Targets 20% Energy Reduction

Feb. 19, 2014
Energy efficiency is king in the Emerald City.

The Emerald City could get greener, setting its sights on a comprehensive plan to improve the energy efficiency of its building stock by 20%. This will result in utility cost savings of roughly $2.75 million per year once the goal has been achieved.

Seattle owns more than 650 buildings with approximately 10 million square feet. Accounting for 12% of the city’s energy consumption, these existing facilities are prime targets for conservation. Only 30% of properties were built before 1980, the year the Washington State Energy Code was adopted, and only 50% were constructed after the city’s 2000 Sustainable Buildings Policy was codified.

Success Stories So Far

Capital departments have been working for a number of years to improve operations and efficiency. For example, the efforts of the Seattle Center, Parks, and Finance and Administrative Facilities have already saved $1.25 million since 2008.

  • The Seattle Municipal Tower uses about 40% less energy than a typical office building of its size.
  • The Seattle Center recently upgraded its campus cooling system, which is expected to cut electric use by 13%.
  • As of 2012, public libraries used 42% less energy on average than other U.S. libraries.
  • Seattle Public Utilities reduced energy use intensity (EUI) at its Operations Control Center buildings from 140 kBTU/sf in 2011 to 104 kBTU/sf in 2012.

Efforts to reduce energy are already underway (see below), but are not stringent enough to meet the 20% goal. Benchmarking reports show that energy consumption across the city’s building portfolio has declined approximately 1% per year since 2008.

A dedicated focus is needed for deeper efficiency investments, otherwise the trend could flat line. Many of the shorter payback projects, such as lighting, have already been implemented, and additional demands such as data centers or increases in plug loads could also negate savings.

Seattle’s Resource Conservation Management Plan outlines a three-part strategy for achieving the energy target:

  • Measurement and tracking of energy performance to assess savings opportunities, prioritize investments, and demonstrate results.
  • Improved operations and maintenance to capture savings by ensuring facilities are operated to maximize their energy efficiency potential. These efforts include optimizing lighting controls, adjusting temperature set points, and shutting off systems after hours.
  • Capital investment in energy efficiency projects that achieve significant resource savings.

These targets will cover all energy sources in commercial buildings, including electricity, natural gas, steam, district chilled water, and district hot water.

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