State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Seattle, WA

73.00Scored out of 100Updated 10/2020
Local Government Score:
6.5 out of 10 points
Local Government Climate and Energy Goals List All

The 2018 Seattle Climate Action document outlines climate and energy actions the city is pursuing in municipal operations. 

Climate Mitigation Goal

As stated in the 2018 Seattle Climate Action document, the city established a goal to reduce carbon emissions from municipal buildings by 40% by 2025. ACEEE was unable to project if the city will achieve its near-term GHG emissions reduction goal for municipal buildings because insufficient GHG emissions data were available for our analysis. 

Energy Reduction Goal

The City Council formally adopted Resolution 31491 in 2013. The Resolution established an energy reduction goal of 20% below 2008 levels by 2020 in municipal operations. The Climate Action Plan builds upon this goal and established a municipal energy use reduction goal of 40% by 2025.

Renewable Energy Goal

Seattle aims to continue to use renewable electricity to power 100% of city facilities.

Last updated: March 2020

Procurement and Construction List All

Fleet Policies and Composition

The City of Seattle’s Green Fleet Action Plan requires 50% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution from a 2013 baseline across the municipal fleet by 2025. This action plan prioritizes electric vehicles where possible in addition to biofuels, advanced technology pilots, fleet right-sizing, driver behavior, and anti-idling efforts. Seattle updated the plan in 2019. Additionally, the city is currently reviewing their fleet procurement policies to develop a new Green Fleet Standard. Seattle’s fleet is composed of 5% efficient vehicles, including battery electric vehicles. 

Public Lighting

We did not find information regarding the adoption of a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. The City of Seattle was one of the first cities in the nation to embark on a massive city-wide streetlight conversion project that that was part of the DOE LED street lighting consortium project. In 2014 residential conversions were completed and the utility has expanded conversion in other parts of the city including the downtown center. Controls are managed at site and not from a central control center. Fixtures have the ability to extinguish when sufficient daylight is available with photocell sensor. Seattle has converted 79% of streetlights to LED.

Onsite renewable systems

We were unable to find information regarding onsite renewable energy systems in Seattle.

Inclusive procurement

The city has a socially responsible policy for procuring, purchasing, and contracting for all projects, including energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Last updated: March 2020

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking

Seattle benchmarks approximately 90% of municipal buildings over 5,000 square feet. Data is disclosed publicly.

Comprehensive Retrofit Strategy

Since 2011, through a Mayor's announcement, Seattle has had a goal to achieve 20% energy savings in municipal buildings by 2020 from a 2008 baseline. A citywide Resource Conservation Management Plan (RCMP), adopted by City Council Resolution 31491 in December 2013. The 2013 Resource Conservation Management Plan includes continued capital and operations improvement strategies, along with ongoing building analyses to identify future opportunities. As part of that plan, $3 million is dedicated to capital energy efficiency projects in 14 facilities in 2015-2016, with additional funding for operations improvements and measurement and verification. Mayor’s Climate Strategy includes a commitment from the Mayor for the City to double its budget allocation from 2021 to 2025 and set a new target to achieve an overall 40 percent energy and carbon emissions reduction in municipal buildings by 2025. As of December 2018, 27% of buildings 25,000 square feet or larger have undergone a comprehensive efficiency retrofit, and 13% of buildings 25,000 sf or larger have undergone tune-ups.

Public Workforce Commuting

Seattle has a telecommuting policy in place.

Last updated: July 2020

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 9.5 out of 15 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The City of Seattle formally adopted the Seattle Climate Action Plan in 2013.

Last updated: March 2020

Community-Wide Climate Mitigation and Energy GoalsList All

Climate Mitigation Goal

Seattle’s Climate Action Plan established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 58% below 2008 levels by 2030 and to achieve zero net core emissions by 2050. The Plan also establishes sector-specific emissions reduction goals of 82% from passenger vehicles and 39% from building energy by 2030. Based on ACEEE’s analysis of past years emissions data, ACEEE projects the city will not achieve its near-term community-wide GHG emissions reduction goal.

The Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment conducts community-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventories at three- to four-year intervals.

Energy Reduction Goal

The city’s Climate Action Plan sets a goal to reduce commercial and residential building energy use by 10% and 20% respectively by 2030.

Renewable Energy Goal

As hydroelectricity powers almost all of Seattle, the city does not have a renewable energy goal; however, the Seattle Climate Action Plan states the intention to maintain Seattle City Light’s status as a carbon-neutral utility.

Energy Data Reporting

The city’s greenhouse gas inventories include residential and commercial energy use data.  

This section applies only to community-wide energy data reporting. For information on data reporting due to building energy benchmarking and disclosure policies, click on the Buildings tab.

Last updated: September 2020

Equity-Driven Approaches to Clean Energy Planning, Implementation, and EvaluationList All

Equity-Driven Community Engagement

The city collaborated with marginalized residents living in the South Park region of Seattle to create the Duwamish Valley Action Plan. The city employed several approaches to increase participation from these residents.

Equity-Driven Decision-Making

The city’s Environmental Justice Committee (EJC) allows residents most-affected by environmental inequities to influence implementation of the city’s Equity and Environment Agenda. The EJC consists of a twelve-member board with ties to Seattle communities. The EJC oversees the Environmental Justice Fund, which is a grant opportunity for communities to pursue opportunities and projects that enhance environmental justice and social equity. The Fund has a $250,000 budget, with the maximum grant award capped at $40,000.

Accountability to Equity

Seattle’s Equity and Environment Agenda seeks to advance racial equity in environmental planning. The Agenda outlines broad goals the city must pursue to ensure a just and equitable approach to environmental planning.

The city also released the Environmental Equity Assessment Pilot tool. The tool makes environmental equity data transparent and available to the public.

The City of Seattle requires all City departments develop race and social justice goals and assess program development and implementation with a race and social justice toolkit through the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative.

Last updated: March 2020

Clean Distributed Energy SystemsList All

Seattle City Light installed a solar-plus-storage microgrid at the Miller Community Center. The utility plans to use the project as a test case to understand the resilience benefits of the system.

Seattle City Light has developed 5 Community Solar projects with cumulative generating capacity of 170 kW. 

Last updated: March 2020

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

UHI Mitigation Goal

Seattle’s 2013 Urban Forest Stewardship Plan includes a goal to increase the city’s urban tree canopy from 23% land cover to 30% by 2037.

UHI Policies and Programs

Seattle incorporated the Green Factor into its city code. The Green Factor is a score-based landscaping standard that requires new developments to integrate green infrastructure practices such as green roofs, rain gardens, and swales into the development.

The city has adopted a private tree protection ordinance.

The city grants floor area bonuses for developments that preserve and/or provide open space amenities as part of a transfer of development rights policy.

Last updated: March 2020

Buildings Policies
Score: 22.5 out of 30 points
Buildings Summary List All

The City of Seattle complies with the statewide residential code, but the state allows Seattle to adopt more stringent commercial code. The city has adopted its own benchmarking ordinance, and data is available to the public. Seattle offers a range of incentives and financing options for energy efficiency and low-income energy projects. The city adopted a tune-up policy and adheres to state building performance standards. 

Last Updated: September 2020

Building Energy Code AdoptionList All


The State of Washington requires all local jurisdictions to comply with the state mandated residential building energy codes but permits local jurisdictions to have more stringent commercial codes. The 2015 Washington State Energy Code is a state-developed code that is mandatory statewide. As of July 1, 2016, the 2015 versions of the residential and commercial codes include standards more stringent than the 2015 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1-2013. To learn more about the building energy codes required in the State of Washington, please visit the State Policy Database.


Commercial properties comply with the Seattle Energy Code. At this time, New Buildings Insititute is unable to produce a zEPI score for Seattle because there are no available analyses comparing the city’s code to model energy codes.


Residential properties comply with the Washington State Energy Code. At this time, New Buildings Insititute is unable to produce a zEPI score for Seattle because there are no available analyses comparing the city’s code to model energy codes. Seattle actively advocated for the passage of HB 2931, which would have created a tiered residential energy code. The city conducted legislative outreach and partnered with environmental organizations, industry groups, and other cities as part of its efforts. 

Solar- and EV-ready

The city requires commercial and multifamily buildings to install renewable energy or be solar-ready. As part of this policy, if solar is not feasible, the building must achieve energy efficiency savings more stringent than the current code. 

The City of Seattle adopted an ordinance in Spring of 2019 that requires all new construction to include EV readiness. The number of EV enabled parking spots are dependent on total number of parking spots built. Off-street parking rules also apply.  Additonally, the City proactively lobbied for WA state House Bill 1257 which requires EV readiness in new construction for all on-site parking. The bill passed the legislature: 

Last Updated: September 2020

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Seattle staffs five full time employees solely dedicated to energy code compliance. Seattle requires plan reviews, air barrier testing, mandatory commissioning, and site inspection to meet compliance standards. The city provides upfront support on lighting aspects of the energy code through the Lighting Design Lab.

Last Updated: September 2020

Policies Targeting Existing BuildingsList All

Building performance standards

The City of Seattle lobbied actively for WA state bill HB1257, which mandates that existing commercial buildings 50k sq feet or greater meet certain energy use thresholds. The City is also analysing a city-specific requirement that could be based on a carbon metric. This strategy is outlined in the Mayor's Climate Action Plan.

Retrocommissioning requirements

The Seattle Tune-Up Policy (Seattle Municipal Code 22.930) requires the owners of nonresidential buildings over 50,000 square feet to perform building tune-ups to optimize energy and water system performance once every five years.

Commercial and multifamily benchmarking

Seattle formally adopted Municipal Code 22.920 that required commercial and multifamily buildings greater than 20,000 square feet to benchmark energy usage. The public may access building data on an open data map. The benchmarking policy covers 83% of commercial and multifamily buildings. The policy has achieved a compliance rate of 100%. 

Energy audit requirements

In addition to tune-ups, the Seattle Tune-Up Policy (Seattle Municipal Code 22.930) requires the owners of nonresidential buildings over 50,000 square feet to perform energy assessments to optimize energy and water system performance once every five years.


Seattle offers expedited permitting to green building projects through its Priority Green program. The city runs an incentive zoning program that requires developers to provide public benefits to achieve greater height/density on their building site. Through Seattle's Director's Rule, land use departures (e.g. floor area increases) are allowed for both residential and commercial construction that achieve green standards.

The city provides a rebate for residential households to switch from oil to electric heat pumps. Seattle City Light, the city’s municipal utility, also provides rebates for cost-effective, above-code construction and for existing building efficiency improvements.

Seattle has also partnered with two nonprofits to provide energy efficiency financing and utility repayment plans.

Seattle City Light offers income-eligible customers the opportunity lower electricity bills by 60%.

Seattle City Light awarded three affordable housing projects with solar energy grants as part of the utility’s Green Up program.

Last Updated: September 2020

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Workforce DevelopmentList All

Seattle's Building Tune-Up policy helps grow the energy efficiency workforce. 

Last Update: September 2020

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 11.5 out of 15 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Seattle City Light, a municipally-operated utility, is the primary provider of electricity for the City of Seattle. Puget Sound Energy (PSE), an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary provider of natural gas for Seattle. The State of Washington requires spending and savings targets for its IOUs and municipally-run utilities through an EERS. To learn more about the state requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Washington page of the State Database.

The Drinking Water Line of Business within Seattle Public Utilities, a municipal utility, provides retail drinking water services for Seattle and several adjacent cities as well as providing wholesale drinking water to water purveyors across King County. Seattle Public Utilities also manages the city’s stormwater and wastewater conveyance systems. Seattle’s wastewater, via Seattle Public Utilities' combined and sanitary only sewer lines, is conveyed to Regional transmission lines and treatment plants by the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, a municipal utility. In Seattle, each entity runs its own ratepayer-funded efficiency programs.

Last Updated: March 2020

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs and SavingsList All

In 2018, according to Seattle City Light, they achieved 110,893 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 1.22% of retail sales. In 2018, Seattle City Light spent $37,238,000 on energy efficiency programs, which represents 4.29% of its retail revenue.

In 2018, PSE reported savings of 3.77 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 0.44% of its retail sales. In 2018, PSE spent $15,790,198 on energy efficiency, which equates to $20.45 per residential customer. These figures cover the entire Washington service territory, not just Seattle.

Seattle City Light offers electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers. PSE similarly offers natural gas efficiency programs to residential and business customers.

Last Updated: March 2020

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

Seattle City Light provides funding to the Low-Income Weatherization program administered by the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing and the Powerful Neighborhoods Program. The Low-Income Weatherization program provides energy efficiency measures including air-sealing, appliance upgrades, ductless heat pumps, water heaters, and lighting to single-family and multifamily properties. The program also includes health and safety measures such as bath and kitchen fans. The Powerful Neighborhoods Program involves direct-install measures such as efficient lighting, water efficiency measures, and power strips to customers on the Utility Discount Program. The Office of Housing receives additional funding from the State Department of Commerce and the Bonneville Power Administration. The Office of Housing coordinates activities with local governments and agencies inside and outside the city of Seattle, such as the King County Housing Authority, Seattle Housing Authority, and low-income housing providers.

Seattle City Light funds a low-income weatherization program administered by the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing called HomeWise. HomeWise provides energy efficiency measures including air-sealing, ductless heat pumps, water heaters, refrigerators, and lighting to single-family and multifamily properties. The program also includes health and safety measures such as bath and kitchen fans. SCL also provides efficient lighting, water efficiency measures and power strips to multifamily customers (both low income and market rate) via the Multifamily Direct Install program. SCL also provides funding to the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing, which coordinates activities with local governments and agencies inside and outside the city of Seattle, such as the King County Housing Authority, Seattle Housing Authority, and low-income housing providers.

In 2018, according to Seattle City Light, it achieved 996 MWh in energy savings from its low-income programs, while serving 1,751 low-income customers. SCL’s total spending value for its 2018 low-income programs was not available.

While PSE offers the Weatherization Assistance Program to qualified low-income residential customers, this program is not available to customers within the City of Seattle boundaries. This is because PSE, as of 2015, no longer has a contract with City of Seattle to administer the low-income gas programs. For households who qualify for this program in the PSE service territory outside of the City of Seattle, the program provides free weatherization assistance including free insulation, air sealing, lighting fixtures, and refrigerator replacements in order to help reduce energy consumption in electric and gas low-income households. The program targets households with high energy users, elderly, disabled, children, and tribal members. Households that are eligible for federal bill assistance or weatherization programs automatically qualify for PSE’s program. The program is implemented in collaboration with county and municipal low-income weatherization agencies, the Washington State Department of Commerce, and participating weatherization contractors and suppliers.

In 2018, according to PSE spent $831,130 on its low-income program and served 1,180 low-income customers. The savings value for their 2018 low-income programs was not available.

Multifamily Programs

Seattle City Light’s multifamily comprehensive program consist of four segments. The Multifamily New Construction segment works with multifamily developers of five or more unit buildings to incorporate energy-efficient technologies and equipment into building design. Seattle City Light provides financial incentives to offset the costs of energy-efficient technologies and equipment. Measures include in-unit lighting, dryers, heat pumps, and advanced power strips. The Multifamily Retrofit segment offers rebates for upgrades to in-unit and common area lighting in multifamily properties. The Multifamily Weatherization segment offers rebates for replacing windows and insulation in electrically-heated multifamily propitiates. The Powerful Neighborhood's Direct Install segment offers free efficient LED bulbs, shower heads, and faucet aerators to owners or managers of residential buildings with five or more units.

In 2018, according to SCL, it achieved 14,505 MWh in energy savings from its multifamily programs, while serving 13,766 multifamily customers. SCL’s total spending value for its 2018 multifamily program was not available.

PSE offers the Multifamily Retrofit Incentives Program. This comprehensive program provides a free energy assessment along with a combination of free direct install replacement measures and electric/gas incentives. Multifamily structures and campuses typically have the opportunity to participate, with upgrades in individual units, common areas, and for the building envelope. PSE spent $605,537 on its multifamily program in 2018. We were unable to verify program savings and customers served in 2018.

In addition, Seattle City Light funds the City of Seattle’s Office Office of Housing's HomeWise Weatherization Program. The program targets rental property owners with a majority of tenants meeting income qualifications. Program measures include attic and wall insulation, combustion appliance safety, ventilation and indoor air quality measures, air and duct sealing, pipe wrap, in-unit or central heating nad hot water systems, and additional measures as determined. 

Last Updated: May 2020

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

Seattle provides automated benchmarking services through Portfolio Manager. PSE signed on with the City of Seattle to partner on the Department of Energy's Better Buildings Initiative, Energy Data Accelerator, to facilitate better access to energy usage data.

Last Updated: March 2020

Renewable Energy Efforts of Energy UtilitiesList All

Renewable Energy Incentives

In 2018, Seattle City Light did not provide renewable energy incentives for the construction of new distributed solar or wind systems.

City-Led Efforts to Decarbonize the Electric Grid

In 2018, Seattle City Light produced 94% of its total generation from renewable sources.

Last Updated: March 2020

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

City-wide water efficiency and goals

To help customers reduce water use, the Saving Water Partnership (SWP)—which is made up of Seattle and its 18 water utility partners—offers water-saving rebates, community and youth education, cost-sharing with customers who retrofit old water-using equipment with new equipment that is more efficient than required by national and state codes, as well as educational campaigns for efficient water use in the landscape. Seattle City Light collaborates with Seattle Public Utilities on joint energy and water efficiency programs, often focusing on water heating.

Seattle has set a goal in its Water System Plan to reduce total average annual retail water use. The SWP has set a six-year regional conservation goal: reduce per capita use from current levels so that the SWP’s total average annual retail water use is less than 105 million gallons of water daily (mgd) from 2013 through 2018 despite forecasted population growth. The Saving Water Partnership has since met the goal, using 96.9 mgd. As a result, SWP set a new goal for 2019-2028: keep the total average annual retail water use of SWP members under 110 mgd through 2028, despite forecasted population growth, by reducing per capita water use.

Water plant efficiency and self-generation

The Wastewater Treatment utility, operated by King County, has an energy conservation goal of 2% per year from a 2007 baseline. Additionally, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) has a program that is updating and modernizing its water and drainage and wastewater pump stations. Existing equipment is being updated with more energy efficient pumps. The newer facilities are also being designed to reduce the frequency of onsite maintenance therefore driving fuel energy savings also.

Several of the water treatment plants generate energy on site from digester gas, and the West Point treatment plant has a combined heat and power system over its anaerobic digester which additionally produces 23,000 MWh annually.

Last Updated: March 2020

Score: 23 out of 30 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the city of Seattle is The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. Sound Transit manages the public transportation system of Seattle including bus, train, and light rail service. Washington State Ferries and King County Ferries provide Seattle with ferry service. The Puget Sound Regional Council is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Seattle, and many surrounding cities and towns. The King County Department of Transportation is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

Sustainable Transportation Plan

Seattle’s Transportation Strategic Plan outlines the specific strategies, projects, and programs that implement broader citywide goals and policies for transportation in the city. Some of the strategies include designing transportation infrastructure in urban villages to support land use goals for compact neighborhoods, encourage planning and designing of city transportation facilities, and establishing multi-modal hubs providing transfer points between transit modes in urban centers and urban villages.

Additionally, the Drive Clean Seattle initiative aims to electrify the transportation sector at large with City Light’s carbon neutral electricity as a key climate strategy.

VMT/GHG Targets and Stringency

Seattle's Climate Action Plan calls for an 82% reduction in transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 from a 2008 baseline. This is equivalent to a 3.7% annual reduction.

Progress Achieved Toward VMT/GHG Targets

Seattle is not currently tracking progress towards its GHG goal.

Last Updated: March 2019

Location Efficiency List All

Location Efficient Zoning Codes

The City of Seattle has adopted an Urban Village Strategy as part of the Comprehensive Plan, which identifies and guides growth to those areas of the city that are most able to support growth and reduce GHGs due to existing and planned investments in transportation, parks, business districts, and other amenities. The urban village designations are used to support zoning and investment decisions. Additionally, the Seattle Mixed (SM) zone (chapter 23.48 of the Seattle Municipal Code) allows a mix of residential, commercial, and office uses in former industrial areas. In general, SM is most appropriate in Urban Centers and Urban Villages where density is being concentrated and a high level of transit exists or is planned. Similarly, the pedestrian zone (P Zone) designation is intended to preserve or encourage intensely retail and pedestrian-oriented shopping districts where non-auto modes of transportation to and within the district are strongly favored.

Residential Parking Policies

Seattle requires one parking space be built per residential dwelling, but no parking is required in areas 1/4 mile to transit stations. Parking minimums were recently reduced for transit-oriented development.

Location Efficiency Incentives and Disclosure

Seattle offers exemptions from parking requirements and streamlined environmental review to promote location efficiency.

Last Updated: March 2019

Mode Shift List All

Mode Shift Targets

Seattle has a target to reduce single occupancy vehicles trips by 25% by 2025 from a 2012 baseline.

Progress Achieved Toward Mode Shift Targets

Seattle does not track progress towards their mode shift target.

Complete Streets

Seattle’s complete streets policy scored an 56.8 out of 100 according to the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Car Sharing

Seattle has supportive parking policies for car share vehicles that allow them to park in paid parking areas without paying separately, adhering to time limitations, and in restricted parking zones.

Bike Sharing

The city has 0 docked bike share bikes per 100,000 people.

Last Updated: May 2019

Transit List All

Transportation Funding

Seattle spends an average of $157.29 per capita on transit.

Access to Transit Services

The city has an All Transit Performance score of 8.1 out of 10.

Last Updated: March 2019

Efficient VehiclesList All

Vehicle Purchase Incentives

At this time, Seattle does not offer incentives for citizens to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles.

Vehicle Infrastructure Incentives

Seattle does not currently offer incentives for the installing of EV charging infrastructure.

EV Charging Locations

Seattle has 24. publicly available EV charging locations per 100,000 people.

Renewable Charging Incentives

Seattle does not have any incentives for renewable EV charging infrastructure installation. However, the city’s electric grid mix is comprised of more than 85% renewables so any existing charging stations are already drawing on comparatively clean energy sources.

Last Updated: May 2019

Freight System EfficiencyList All

Seattle has a Freight Master Plan to improve freight mobility and safety in the city, in conjunction with department efforts to improve mobility across a range of transportation modal opportunities for moving people and goods.

Last Updated: March 2019

Clean, Efficient Transportation for Low-Income CommunitiesList All

Affordable New TOD Housing Policy

Seattle provides a Multifamily Tax Exemption for affordable housing built within urban centers.

Connecting Existing Affordable Housing Stock to Efficient Transportation Options

Seattle provides income-eligible people living, in Seattle with a pre-loaded ORCA LIFT reduced fare card.

Low-Income Access to High Quality Transit

33.8% of low-income households (those that earn less than $50k annually) are located near high-quality, all-day transit in Seattle    

Last Updated: April 2019