Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Seattle, Washington

One of the most progressive states in the United States in legislation of renewable energy has long been the state of Washington. Its capacity for renewable energy is right behind California, especially in the fields of biomass and commercial wind energy production. A lot of the success in this state and opportunities created due to the increase in clean technologies is due in large part from its capital city of Seattle.

1) Green Building Sustainable Communities Program. The Department of Planning and Development in Seattle came up with the Green Building Sustainable Communities program to provide much needed support to the sustainable outcome of city project plans. It has been a desire to make green building standards regular practice. This project has been promoted to elevate awareness about making buildings green and the numerous benefits associated, such as tax breaks, financial incentives, more loans, and reducing waste as well as preserving national resources and saving on utility bills and maintenance costs.

2) Seattle Renewable Energy Meetup. Local community participation has been very big within Seattle for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The impact of the participation has guaranteed that energy efficient practices do happen, as well as the utilization of renewable energy resources. The Seattle Renewable Energy Meetup Group meets monthly to discuss important cleantech issues, they also hold speakers and fieldtrips for educational purposes. The local community participation has made it a lot easier to pass renewable energy and energy efficient legislation because of the increased support.

3) Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment. One of the biggest highlights of clean technologies in Seattle could be its acceleration of environmentally sustainable practices. The Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment assists in the creation of environmentally sustainable neighborhood. The office works intimately with other businesses, community based organizations, city departments, learning institutions and nonprofit organizations in the effort to develop and implement numerous important sustainability initiatives, such as in climate protection and forest restoration and management. They have an Environmental Management System which supplies environmental policies connected with various organizational goals, check how changes advance the environment, evaluate activities and environmental impacts, as well as the creation of new sustainable projects that are based on present data trends.

4) Green Up Program. Created by Seattle City Light, Green Up is a voluntary green power program designed for residential customers and businesses interested in purchasing green power for a portion of their monthly electricity. It shows the increasing support in the utilization of renewable energy and all its projects. Individuals receive a portion of their electricity from renewable sources and then get renewable energy credits because they pay on their bill the cost of production and integration. Anyone, even if they do not switch their electricity supplier, can take part in this program.

5) Future Energy Conference. The Future Energy Conference is a yearly meeting whereby numerous topics are covered, including energy policy for jobs and projects, renewable fuels and electricity, and energy efficiency in industry and buildings. According to the official website, “The Future Energy Conference is the place to learn, interact with peers, and do business. Join for two days full of educational sessions, keynote presentations, and an exhibit floor.” It provides an opportunity to learn how to design, finance, and build projects for renewable energy, education on the state of industry, emerging technologies, and policy developments. Anyone can attend, including project developers, government agency representatives, utility managers, researchers, engineers, technology and equipment providers, and economic development professionals.

6) Seattle Steam Switches to Biomass. In 2009, Seattle Steam, a company mainly known for using “old school technology” in now turning to biofuel, mainly wood, to reduce carbon emissions by creating a new boiler that will allow it to derive over half the total fuel source from biomass. This switch will guarantee a reduction in carbon emissions by Seattle Steam by 55,000 tons. Seattle Steam has also applied for funding from the stimulus package for a combined heat and power plant – a move which would increase the percentage of renewable energy over 80 percent.

7) Energy Rebates and Tax Credits in Seattle. In Seattle, there are a number of tax credits and rebate programs available to make the switch to renewable energy and energy efficiency a lot easier to obtain. Some of these programs include residential energy efficiency rebate programs, renewable energy sales and use tax exemption, residential energy conservation subsidy exclusion, energy efficient mortgages, and a USDA high energy cost grant program.

8 ) Building Rating and Disclosure Ordinance. In 2010, the Mayor of Seattle, Mike McGinn signed into effect the Building Energy Rating and Disclosure Ordinance. It provided that nonresidential commercial building owners and multi-family building owners (with four or more unity) have to not only benchmark, but also rate and disclose their total energy efficiency using the standards set up by the Energy Star system. These owners must provide this information to prospective and current tenants, as well as potential lenders and potential buyers. According to the economic analysis of this ordinance, around 8,000 buildings will be affected but more than 47 kilowatt hours would be saved per year.

9) Federal Energy Funding. In mid 2010, $20 million in federal funds dedicated to building weatherization efforts in southern Seattle was provided to the city. It is part of the “Retro Ram Up” money provided by the United States Department of Energy. This money will go to support the Weatherize Every Building initiative that will create two thousand green jobs as well as “drive significant demand for conservation in our region, creating new jobs, and spurring growth in our energy efficiency industry that will last for years to come,” director of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, Stan Price, said.

10) Energy Efficient Real Estate Fund. To increase their return on investment, GSB Ventures, a real estate fund based in Seattle, is looking toward energy efficiency. In 2009, they began their $50 million Efficient Real Estate Fund. The business model is to “identify and purchase distressed homes with values significantly below the area’s median value, determine their Energy Performance Sources (EPS), implement energy efficiency measures, perform a second EPS evaluation and return the house to the market as a rental or for sale.” This is the first energy efficiency real estate fund and within the next year, the company is looking to apply for federal debt funding to benefit from the available energy efficiency rebates and tax credits.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. . He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10” series. He can be reached at

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