Seattle Climate Action on Building Standards and Transportation Electrification

Today, Seattle’s Mayor, Jenny Durkan, released an Executive Order, calling for significant climate action to reduce emissions from transportation and buildings. While we continue as a society to grapple with multiple and interlocking crises, tackling the climate crisis must remain paramount to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities. The NW Energy Coalition supports significant progress on energy efficiency in buildings and equitable access to electrified transportation and is excited to see that this Executive Order centers both. 

A key part of the Executive Order directs city departments to work collaboratively to develop a carbon-based building performance standard (BPS) for buildings over 20,000 square feet. This policy would continue the progress that Seattle has made to reduce emissions from buildings, including its benchmarking program, the Seattle Building Tune-ups program, and a long history of Seattle City Light efficiency programming. A Seattle BPS will also build upon the Washington State’s Clean Building Act, which requires larger buildings to develop energy management plans and meet certain energy use targets. 

Over the past years, the NW Energy Coalition has been conducting outreach with a variety of stakeholders, including energy efficiency businesses, facility managers, and building owners. The objective of this outreach was to understand the challenges and opportunities for buildings to undertake deep energy efficiency and decarbonization projects, and what is needed to support this necessary climate action. This kind of engagement helps inform the Coalition’s advocacy and policy recommendations at the state and local level. One result of this deep outreach is the “Blueprint for Seattle: Reducing Emissions from Seattle’s Largest Buildings”, a document which outlines the technical design recommendations for a Seattle BPS, as well as the needed supportive policies to ensure that a Seattle BPS is equitably implemented. 

“A Seattle carbon-focused building performance standard is a cornerstone effort, which will build on the success and work at the state and city level to reduce energy use,” said Amy Wheeless, Senior Policy Associate for the Coalition. “We hope the Blueprint can serve as a launching off point for the City to develop a robust and well crafted standard for existing buildings.” 

For transportation, the Executive Order will address two key pieces that relate to the Coalition’s work on transportation electrification. There will be a $1 million pilot to convert heavy-duty diesel trucks to electric, and a directive to improve transportation electrification permitting, which will support greater access to electric vehicle (EV) charging. 

“We support the City’s efforts to make zero emission vehicle charging more accessible, and we appreciate the prioritization of communities that are overburdened by diesel pollution,” said Annabel Drayton, Policy Associate for the NW Energy Coalition. 

This Executive Order takes strides towards the City’s climate goals and will provide greater opportunities for workforce development and clean energy jobs. We look forward to all of the opportunities to reduce emissions that this order brings to the City and State as a whole.