Redmond, WA gets its clean energy house in order

Redmond, WA elected officials are walking the clean energy talk.

In 2014, the City Council adopted a sustainability-themed comprehensive plan, subsequently passed a Climate Action Implementation Plan, and formally signed the King County Cities-Climate Collaboration (K4C) joint city-county climate commitments.

Wasting no time, that winter the City Council adopted a biennial budget that allocated $820,000 to reduce the City's operational energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Across the U.S., city officials and staff frequently struggle to fund climate plans. What’s different in Redmond?  

“Persistence pays off,” says Cathy Beam, principal planner and an architect of the staff-led budget request. “This represents an accumulation of activities over time.”

Since 2008, Beam has reported the city’s annual energy costs and associated carbon emissions based on utility and transportation fuel bills to the City Council.  

The results were clear. Redmond was not meeting the performance measures of no overall increase in carbon emissions and energy consumption in 2013, and a one-percent reduction of carbon and energy use in 2014, which the Council had set in its 2013/2014 operating budget.  Moreover, the City was spending over $2 million annually for operational use of electricity, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel. 

As a result, Beam says, councilmembers were motivated to fund the City’s climate plan commitments. Near-term projects include:

  • A revolving energy fund (REF) of $300,000 to support energy efficiency and clean energy investments in municipal operations. Qualified applicants can borrow money from the REF and repay the loan back over time, without tapping into the city’s capital budget.
  • Lighting retrofits at Hartman Park ($170,000) and Edge Skate Park ($10,000), and retrofits of city streetlights ($150,000).
  • A smart building project ($75,000), in conjunction with Redmond-based Microsoft, similar to pilots that Seattle and King County have launched in recent years.
  • Further energy consulting ($50,000) to help the City identify the top-priority facilities for improvement.

The City anticipates finishing two projects before the end of the year:

  • Four Level-2 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations that the City will install on property it owns or controls ($40,000).

Redmond leaders plan to get the city’s energy house in order before considering programs and policies that involve bolder community action, so the funding will come primarily from the City’s capital improvement program, and all projects will focus on city operations.

The City does have a green building incentive program that encourages green roofs, low-impact development, and EV charging infrastructure, and the Climate Action Implementation Plan outlines other potential community-wide actions, but this funding is all city operations-focused.

Redmond officials want to lead by example, and as the City’s recent resolution passing the climate plan states, this work is about “accountability, integrity, and commitment to service,” a frame that has clearly helped Redmond staff to make the case for significant capital investment in efficiency and clean energy.

Elizabeth Willmott's picture

former New Energy Cities Program Manager

, Climate Solutions

Elizabeth served Climate Solutions as program manager for the New Energy Cities program, working with cities to help them meet their carbon reduction goals through innovative programs and policies. She most recently authored The Urban Clean Energy Revolution, a detailed compendium of urban climate solutions worldwide (also published in segments as the Low-Carbon Cities blog series), and Breaking Down Barriers to Deep Energy Efficiency in King County, a briefing paper on how to overcome obstacles to deep home energy efficiency. She also co-authored Powering the New Energy Future from the Ground Up, a July 2012 report on small and medium-sized cities around the U.S. that are demonstrating leadership in local clean energy innovation.

Elizabeth knows and loves local government. As lead author of the World Bank’s 2011 climate change adaptation guide for cities in developing countries, co-author of King County’s 2007 adaptation guidebook with ICLEI and the University of Washington, climate change aide to former King County Executive Ron Sims, and project manager of the first King County Climate Plan in 2007, Elizabeth brings a deep and wide background in community climate planning to the New Energy Cities team.

The program’s focus on "carbon math" also bears Elizabeth’s signature. She first found religion in Excel spreadsheets as the Recovery Act performance and accountability lead for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, overseeing the results of $13.6 billion in grants to cities and communities around the U.S.  Today her data-driven approach is most obvious in New Energy Cities’ energy maps and carbon wedge graphics.

Outside of work Elizabeth leaves ample time for gardening, biking, and movie-watching with her husband Andy. She holds a double degree in biology and Chinese language from Williams College and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard Kennedy School.