City and businesses work toward energy efficiency to save money

Hybrid vehicles, LED lights and lighting controls at City Hall are among ideas Federal Way is exploring.

Federal Way was allocated $777,700 through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, which is part of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grant program — issued by the Department of Energy — is designed to reduce fossil fuel emissions in a way that is environmentally friendly and sustainable, as well as reduce total energy use and improve energy efficiency in the building or transportation sectors.

"It's a great opportunity for the city to reduce operation costs and have less of an impact on the environment," ICMA Fellow Scott Pingel said.

Initial staff ideas for the grant's use vary. City Hall could undergo upgrades, including LED lights and a motion-activated light-control system, Pingel said. Replacing worn city vehicles with hybrids is another option. Improvements to the IT department could also help save energy, by making equipment more streamlined and efficient, Pingel said. Traffic light signal timing and a HVAC retro-fit at City Hall are other ideas, he said.

The city could also use the funds to help residents weatherize their homes. Replacing windows, doors and roofs on homes owned by low-income residents could be part of this process, if the council chooses, Pingel said. The goal would be for residents to keep heat in during the cold months and keep heat out during the warmer months, he said. This would decrease residents' energy costs. City council member Dini Duclos showed a heightened interest in the idea at the June 2 city council meeting.

The funds could also be applied toward the city's green team and green ribbon commission. Both were in the works in 2007, when the council and city manager set aside $80,000 during its mid-biennium budget cycle for a Green City Strategic Plan. The council then chose to explore energy-efficient measures internally that would not cost anything to address.

The green ribbon commission is comprised of representatives of city staff. They meet and discuss measures that can be taken at City Hall to reduce energy and save money. Shutting off lights and computers at the end of the day and limiting paper consumption are some actions that have been taken since the team formed.

"We've just tried to wrap our arms around what the city already does that's green or sustainable and what more we can do," Pingel said.

Depending on the city council's direction, there are opportunities to partner with Puget Sound Energy to help leverage the grant funds. The company offers a 50 to 100 percent rebate on projects that increase energy efficiency, according to Puget Sound Energy's Web site. The average rebate is 50 percent, Pingel said.

Because the state's population is growing so rapidly, it benefits PSE to offer rebates to encourage commercial and municipal entities to save energy, spokeswoman Rebekah Anderson said. Decreasing consumption relieves PSE of having to build more power plants, she said.

If Federal Way is interested, an engineer will work with the city to identify areas where energy could be spared, she said. The rebate percentage is based on how much energy can be saved, Anderson said.

"The more energy it saves, the higher percentage PSE picks up of the cost," she said.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant application is due June 25. After receiving the funds, the city has 120 days to lay out a plan for implementing them. The city may choose to pursue several projects in its efforts to use the funds, Pingel said. The money must be spent within 36 months.

Learn more

Learn more about PSE energy-saving rebates and custom grants for businesses at:

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