WA Senate committee hears testimony on Clean Buildings bill

State emission goals depend on clean buildings

SB 5293 will make homes and buildings more efficient and stimulate jobs

Olympia, WA – Washington can’t meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals unless we reduce emissions from buildings.

That was the message delivered today to the Washington Senate Environment, Energy, & Technology committee by businesses and environmental and clean energy advocates who are calling for the passage of Senate Bill 5293 and its companion House Bill 1257, the Clean Buildings Act.

In making the Clean Buildings Act part of Governor Jay Inslee’s climate change package, the governor’s office points out that buildings – houses, stores, offices, and others – are responsible for more than a quarter of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of those that come from the electricity sector. And they’re those emissions are increasing – up 50% since 1990.

The Clean Buildings Act addresses that challenge by establishing energy efficiency standards for large commercial buildings and provides incentives for building owners to meet the new standards accelerate achievement. . It also empowers local governments to voluntarily adopt more efficient energy codes (stretch codes) that exceed the state’s minimum standards for houses and small residential buildings. And it creates conservation performance standards for natural gas companies and encourages them to replace natural gas from fossil fuels with renewable natural gas from farms and landfills.

“In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, these measures will help homeowners and building owners save money,” observed Amy Wheeless, policy associate at the NW Energy Coalition. “Recent data show that energy efficient construction adds only about 1% to the cost of new houses. And, because of the energy savings and lower bills, that amount is recovered in only about five yearsquickly, which means owners get to enjoy additional savings for decades. Retrofits to existing buildings can also be highly cost effective and they make houses and buildings healthier and more comfortable for folks who live and work in them.”

Wheeless also pointed out that energy efficiency is big business employing more than 60,000 Washingtonians in fields like design, construction, HVAC, manufacturing, lighting, and appliance sales.

Kerry Meade, Executive Director of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, which represents energy service companies that help building owners, local governments, schools, and hospitals increase the efficiency of their buildings, said, “We support SB 5293 because it recognizes the role our commercial buildings play in reducing statewide emissions and provides vital support to building owners as they undertake necessary improvements inside their facilities. We also believe this bill will accelerate innovation in the built environment, and unlock the economic and workforce development potential of a smarter and more efficient building stock.”

Nancy Hirsh, executive director of the NW Energy Coalition said, “We support the Clean Buildings Act because energy efficiency is our cheapest and most available energy resource. By becoming more energy efficient, we can more easily retire polluting fossil fuel power plants and avoid the cost of building new ones.”