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Cleaning Up Buildings Next Big Climate Push in WA

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Washington state lawmakers passed measures that move it closer to a clean energy future this session. (jpldesigns/Adobe Stock)
Washington state lawmakers passed measures that move it closer to a clean energy future this session. (jpldesigns/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
May 12, 2021

SEATTLE -- After a legislative session packed with measures to address climate change, clean-energy groups say Washington state leaders should address carbon pollution from the building sector next.

Buildings are the fastest-growing source of carbon in the state, accounting for more than a quarter of greenhouse-gas emissions, second only to transportation.

Jesse Piedfort, Washington state chapter director for the Sierra Club, said the state should focus on electrifying buildings with clean energy.

"Every time a building gets built with gas-powered appliances for water or heating or cooling, it digs our climate hole just a little bit deeper," Piedfort contended. "So we need state and local policies that move us away from that practice."

A measure to require all new buildings to be net zero by 2030 and all buildings by 2050 stalled in the Legislature this session, but Piedfort noted some Washington cities have made moves to reduce emissions from buildings.

Utilities such as Puget Sound Energy have pushed projects that capture methane from organic decomposition, known as renewable natural gas (RNG), but a Washington state Department of Commerce report found RNG could only produce enough energy for about 3% to 5% of the state's needs.

Piedfort argued RNG and other fuels don't have the capacity to sustain Washingtonians' energy usage.

"Even if hydrogen or RNG develop as a niche energy source for some uses, the work of shifting our buildings to clean electricity is still critical, and it still really needs to accelerate," Piedfort asserted.

Piedfort added it's technically feasible for buildings to make the switch to clean electric sources.

"Electric appliances for water and cooling and heating already are viable alternatives to gas-powered appliances," Piedfort stressed. "So we really just need to do the work of making sure that customers can use those and have access to those cleaner alternatives that are already there."

Disclosure: Sierra Club-Beyond Coal Campaign contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, and Environmental Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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