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King County reaches renewable energy goal

King County on Monday announced it has reached its goal of getting half of the energy it needs for operations from renewable energy sources, said King County Executive Dow Constantine today in his 2013 State of the County address.

"King County has surpassed its ambitious goal of filling more than half of our energy needs with renewable energy," said Constantine in a press release. "We've done so through innovations like capturing methane gas at our Cedar Hills landfill and wastewater plants. Moreover, we're cutting our energy needs – saving our planet, and saving the public more than $2 million a year."

The County's goal of using or producing 50 percent renewable energy is one of the benchmarks outlined in the County's 2010 Energy Plan, which built on past County efforts to improve energy efficiency and advances the use and production of renewable and greenhouse gas-neutral energy. The renewable energy goal encompasses all the energy used in King County's 1,450 buses and trolleys, wastewater treatment facilities and government buildings and vehicles.

Just four years ago renewable energy accounted for only 14.6 percent of the County's energy consumption.

Capturing methane gas from decomposing garbage in the landfill, scrubbing and sending it into a pipeline to be used by residents and businesses as natural gas is doing the most to help King County reach its renewable energy goal.

King County is also:

• Capturing digester gas from the wastewater treatment process at its South Plant, then scrubbing and sending it to local pipelines for use as natural gas.

• Using digester gas to power its boilers at the South and West Point treatment plants, and raw sewage pumps at West Point.

• Purchasing green electricity for some of its Facilities Management and Roads Services division sites.

King County sees additional renewable energy on the horizon as its West Point Treatment Plant puts an upgraded co-generation (simultaneous production of power and heat from the same source) system into place this year.

Along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Constantine said the County's 2010 Energy Plan is also prompting significant savings and leveraging resources.

The County advanced its goal to cut energy use in County buildings by 10 percent with investments in energy-efficient equipment and energy audits, generating $2 million in annual savings at places like the Bellevue Transit Base and the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way.

The County is making strides in many areas of its Energy Plan. In 2012 alone the County has:

• Captured more than $1 million per year of savings by converting the Courthouse and King County Correctional Facility from steam to natural gas.

• Established a Community Solar Program that offers community partners the chance to lease County sites at low cost, install solar projects and receive financial incentives from State of Washington.

• Begun soliciting partners to develop a system to harness the unused thermal energy in wastewater pipelines to bring power, heat and cooling to commercial buildings.

• Joined local dairy farmers in Enumclaw to develop a digester project that will transform cow manure into green energy and other valuable resources.

• Issued bonds for more than $6 million of low-interest Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBS) to finance county energy conservation projects.

• Deployed 20 all-electric vehicles into its Rideshare Vanpool and Vanshare programs, and assigned 5 all-electric vehicles to King County offices and the Motorpool Dispatch service.

• Installed 32 electric vehicle charging stations in 2012, increasing its total number of County-installed charging stations to 45.

• Developed a Green Community Initiative designed to help community groups, nonprofit organizations and businesses find easier access to low-interest financing for projects that conserve energy, water, and promote environmental sustainability.

• Launched an employee education program to educate and offer resources to help improve energy efficiency throughout the County.

• Supported energy conservation and noise reduction in adjacent residential communities via the Airport's Home Insulation Program. The County has retrofitted 313 homes that are saving 6.331 billion BTUs annually and homeowners an average of more than $250 in energy costs every year.

The County leveraged more than $6 million in federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funds to support a wide range of energy efficiency efforts, including retrofits to county buildings and community facilities, a "Green Schools" program, regional efforts to establish electric vehicle charging stations, and job training. EECBG grants provided essential seed money to support innovative partnerships with schools, community groups, housing authorities, and local governments that otherwise would not have been possible in the current economic climate.

Among the goals addressed in King County's 2010 Energy Plan are minimizing the environmental and carbon footprint of King County operations through:

• More sustainable design, construction and operation of County facilities;

• Measuring and managing energy use;

• Investing in alternative fuels and technologies;

• Converting waste to energy; and

• Empowering employees to find ways to reduce energy use and save money.

Other goals include supporting a growing and diverse economy, expanding transportation choices, and partnering with regional organizations, jurisdictions and the private sector to promote innovation.

To learn more about the King County Energy Plan, visit http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/climate/king-county/2010-energy-plan.aspx.

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