Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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Jun 18 2009

Stimulus Funds: The Smartest Way to Use Them

Published by at 11:03 pm under Energy & Technology Committee

LED StreetlightsAs our country continues to explore ways to emerge from economic downturn, the lens through which I view the use of stimulus funds prompts the inquiry: is it sustainable? I do not want Seattle set up for failure in 2 or 3 years because of an unwise reliance on stimulus money. To that end, I am excited about uses of stimulus funds that promote sustainable jobs, cost saving and energy saving measures. Light Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights are a good example of using stimulus money to fund a project which will save the City money and decrease our carbon footprint.

Thanks to the efforts of our Executive Department, our City was allocated $6.1 million in stimulus funds as part of the Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program. The Mayor initially considered using $500,000 for two LED pilot projects on non-residential arterial roads. Based on open, transparent and meaningful discussions regarding the $6.1 million, I continued to advocate for monies to be used for residential LED streetlights. I believed this use of stimulus funds would also fit nicely into our other work to improve city streetlight services, such as repairing lights in groups or phases instead of replacing them only when they fail. The final package describing our use of EECBG funds will now include funding for LED residential streetlights in the amount of $1 million! I believe this is a good investment and I am confident it will be the catalyst to ensuring all of our streets will be illuminated by LED streetlights in the not-too-distant-future. I am grateful that the Mayor has chosen to invest in LEDs more aggressively and our city will be better for this choice.

It was recently announced that the City of Los Angeles will be retrofitting 140,000 streetlights with LED’s. This will reduce electricity used for streetlights by 40 percent, reduce carbon emissions by nearly 40,500 tons and save the City of Los Angeles $10 million per year. Note: If the City of Seattle installed residential LED streetlights, of which there are approximately 40,000 (half of the streetlight system), we could save $2 million in energy costs per year and 18,165.44 MWH.

I am supporting another effort called “Project Greenhouse.” This effort proposes to use federal stimulus dollars to weatherize 10,000 homes and install 1,000 new heat pumps or similar efficient technologies in homes within the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) territory by April 2010. PSRC is our region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and serves the counties of King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap. In addition, Project Greenhouse will place 250 newly trained employees with employers in the weatherization/clean energy cluster and provide “incubation” services in business planning, finance, and operations to over 60 companies by April 1, 2010. This effort will place a special emphasis on accelerating the commercial application for the region’s most promising technologies in energy conservation and energy generation. I am pushing this effort forward with my colleague, Council President Richard Conlin. He and I have submitted a letter to Mayor Nickels in this regard. The text of the letter is below:

June 4, 2009
Hon. Mayor Nickels
Seattle City Hall, 7th Floor
600 Fourth Avenue
P.O. Box 94749
Seattle, WA 98124-4025
Re: Project Greenhouse and the Conference of Mayors

Dear Mayor Nickels:

As part of the regional discussions about energy conservation and the Recovery Act funds, a proposal has been brought forward about which other Councilmembers and I are very enthusiastic. It involves incubation services for clean energy entrepreneurs and emphasizes some ambitious goals on weatherization and job creation that are in sync with the plans you have announced for Seattle’s conservation block grant under the Recovery Act. My colleagues on the council and I want Seattle to be a leader on pursuing a competitive grant under the Recovery Act for this “Project Greenhouse” proposal.

Project Greenhouse has been developed as a regional funding request, seeking to fund two years of focused effort on small business incubation in the clean energy / clean tech sector with a focus on weatherization and energy conservation contractors. It proposes to fund regional delivery of services, based on four incubator programs, including one here in Seattle being developed by the Moontown Foundation in the Rainier Valley. As you are probably aware, Moontown has been working with the city of Seattle on green job preparation for disadvantaged youth and energy conservation programs for Seattle residents.

Overall, Project Greenhouse has a goal of making the Puget Sound region a national model for energy conservation and home weatherization through a public/private partnership of cities, non-profit incubators, our community colleges and private banks. You’ll find more details in the attached outline.

The proponents intend to put this proposal in front of Ron Sims and Gary Locke, as well as our Congressional delegation, and enlist their support in getting an early funding commitment from the Obama Administration. Funding would be drawn from several different federal departments, including HUD, Commerce, and Energy. Because of this unique approach and the ambitious goals (weatherizing 10,000 homes) of Project Greenhouse, I believe it is worthy of being showcased by you at the upcoming Conference of Mayors meeting in Providence, RI. It is my understanding that both Sims and Locke will be at that meeting, as will Mayor Pete Lewis of Auburn, providing an ideal opportunity for you, personally, to introduce the grant request in concert with Mayor Lewis to Sims and Locke.

This is a great opportunity for Seattle to take a leadership position on a regional effort to support the ARRA and make Puget Sound a national model for clean job generation. I hope you and your administration can get behind this 100%.

If you would like more information on this effort, I will make myself available to meet with you or your designate, at your earliest convenience. Last, thank you for all you do to make this a great city.

Photo credit: http://www.vrseattle.com/blog/2009/04/led-street-lighting-pilot-project-in-capitol-hill/

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