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Energy Efficiency Bill Heads for Gov. Gregoire’s Desk

Efficiency First plan would lower energy costs, create jobs and enhance energy security for Washington State

 OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The Washington State Legislature last night approved a bill to dramatically improve energy efficiency in buildings throughout the state. Now headed for Gov. Chris Gregoire’s desk, SB 5854 would gradually raise standards for new building construction, while improving energy efficiency in existing public buildings through insulation, better windows and improved heating and cooling systems.

“We will make history when the governor signs Efficiency First,” said NW Energy Coalition policy associate Carrie Dolwick. “Washington will become the first state to legislatively adopt the Architecture 2030 Challenge for making our buildings as energy efficient as possible.”

More than 30 percent of energy used in Washington State goes to power houses, office towers, stores and other indoor spaces, yet buildings are one of the state’s biggest energy wasters.

“There’s a real opportunity here to do two critical things – save money and grow our economy,” said Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor). “Energy efficiency is one of the few bright spots in these tough economic times. This bill will help lower utility bills for consumers across the state while putting people to work using skills they already have.”

Washington’s energy needs will increase as our population grows. New power generation that doesn’t come from homegrown renewable sources such as wind and solar power will likely come from imported natural gas or polluting coal-fired power plants. Efficiency improvements free up power we already produce to meet our growing demand for energy, helping to avoid costly new power plants.

 “Energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest and cleanest way to meet Washington’s growing demand for electricity,” said Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island). “This bill is a down payment on energy independence for Washington and will help preserve our quality of life.”

Efficiency First legislation is a forward-looking investment in Washington’s future. About 75 percent of U.S. buildings will be new or renovated by 2030. Over the next 20 years, Washingtonians will spend billions of dollars on new building infrastructure.

“Most new homes, office towers and commercial buildings will still be with us 50 years or more from now,” said Joel Sisolak, Washington State Director of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. “Common sense compels us to build them using the most energy efficient technologies available at the time of construction. Anything short of that is throwing money and energy down the drain.”

Washington’s conservation community selected Efficiency First as one of its legislative priorities for this session and Senate Democrats made it a caucus priority. The bill will avoid about 30 million tons of global warming pollution between now and 2020. That’s equivalent to taking about 5 million cars of the road for one year.

"While much remains to be done,” said Washington Environmental Council executive director Joan Crooks, “this bill is an essential step in Washington's efforts to tackle global warming.”

In addition to promoting super efficient buildings, Efficiency First provides a means of rating energy use and disclosing energy use scores to commercial building buyers and tenants.

Additional background on energy efficiency:

·   A recent national study by the CoStar Group, “Commercial Real Estate and the Environment,” reveals that LEED- and Energy Star-certified buildings have greater occupancy rates, fetch higher rents and sell for more than do conventional buildings.

·   A kilowatt saved is a kilowatt earned. Energy efficiency typically cost about 3 cents per kWh saved compared with 7-12 cents per kWh for electricity from a new power plant.

·   The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy says improving buildings’ energy efficiency 20 percent by 2030 could create an estimated 800,000 net jobs nationwide.

·   A 10-percent improvement in U.S. buildings’ energy efficiency would save Americans $20 billion a year and would be equal to taking 30 million vehicles off the nation’s roads.