State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Seattle, WA

78.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
7.5 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2013, details the city’s energy-related strategies for its internal government operations, including expanding the city’s electric vehicle fleet, developing a resource conservation plan for municipal buildings, and requiring an energy efficiency standard for all new buildings. The Office of Sustainability and Environment is largely responsible for coordinating city departmental efforts toward the government operations goal.

Last updated: February 2017

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

In 2011, City Council Resolution 31312 formally adopted a goal to reduce municipal energy use 20% by 2020 from a 2008 baseline. Seattle is also a member of DOE's Better Building Challenge. 


To meet this goal, Seattle would need to reduce energy use by 1.7% per year.


Seattle is not on track for its local government energy savings goal.


Seattle releases inventories publicly and annually updates its municipal operations’ Climate Action Work Plan and on the Performance Seattle Dashboard. The city tracks municipal GHG emissions through Municipal Operations Inventories using the Local Government Operations Protocol.

Last updated: May 2017

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

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. Additionally, this city is currently reviewing their fleet procurement policies to develop a new Green Fleet Standard. Seattle’s field vehicles have GPS/AVL technology used by crew chiefs and crews to organize work assignments by location in the most efficient manner.

Note: For local fleet initiatives, policies listed must make a specific, mandatory requirement for increasing fleet efficiency. Local alternative-fuel vehicle procurement requirements that give a voluntary option to count efficient vehicles are thus not included.

Public Lighting

We could not confirm if Seattle has adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. However, Seattle City Light has converted all of Seattle's residential streetlights from high-pressure sodium lights to LEDs. The replacement of all 41,000 residential streetlights was completed in 2013. The conversion of the city's 31,000 arterial lighting fixtures to LED was initiated in 2013 and 17,207 units have been completed as of mid-2016; this work will continue through 2018. Streetlights are activated by photo sensors.

New Buildings and Equipment

Seattle's sustainable building policy was adopted in 2000 and was significantly expanded in scope in October 2011. This policy calls for new city-funded projects and major renovations with more than 5,000 square feet of occupied space to achieve LEED Gold certification. In addition, these projects must be 15% more energy efficient and 30% more water efficient than code, achieve a 90% waste diversion rate, and provide bicycle facilities. Minor renovation and tenant-led improvement projects that impact 5,000 square feet or more and involve changes to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems must also meet LEED Gold standards. Projects that are under 5,000 square feet or not eligible for LEED rating must complete the Seattle's Capital Green Toolkit . The city’s green purchasing policy mandates at least EPA product standards, including ENERGY STAR.

Last updated: January 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

Council Bill 116731, enacted in 2010, requires the benchmarking of public buildings of more than 10,000 square feet. Of the 10 million square feet of city buildings, 8.1 million square feet have been benchmarked to date. This accounts for more than 80% of the city’s total building area. 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, outlines strategies for achieving the goal. Municipal energy efficiency retrofits were completed on 19 buildings in 2011 through 2013 through an energy services contract. In 2013 through 2014, operations improvements were made on 19 facilities. 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.

Public Employees

Seattle has a telecommuting policy in place.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 9 out of 12 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) leads the city’s implementation of its community-wide energy efficiency initiatives. Among the community programs, OSE manages are the Community Power Works program, which is a one-stop-shop for increasing building energy efficiency in the residential and commercial sectors.

Last updated: April 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Seattle formally adopted the Seattle Climate Action Plan in 2013. The plan calls for Seattle to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and targets an 82% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by the year 2050 (relative to a 2008 baseline). The plan further delineates that these emissions reductions should come from a 45% reduction in commercial energy use and a 63% reduction in residential energy use over that same time.

The city provides regular updates on progress towards its climate goals in greenhouse gas emissions inventories. The city is not currently on track for its community-wide 2050 greenhouse gas emissions goal.

Last updated: April 2017

Efficient Distributed Energy Systems - District Energy and Combined Heat and PowerList All

The city has not been successful in establishing large scale district energy systems in coordination with Corix Utilities, but is still supportive of other local district energy providers. A recent success can be seen in the new Amazon headquarters. The three Amazon headquarters buildings (three buildings totaling 4 million square feet) are heated by district energy piping with heat drawn from the nearby Westin Exchange data center.

Last updated: April 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

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.

The city’s 2016 Stormwater Code Ordinance includes requirements that private lands incorporate low impact development techniques into site design. The city allows for cottage residential zoning that encourages the protection of land alongside dense residential development patterns. The city also provides development bonuses for permanent protection of open space as part of a transfer of development rights policy. The city has adopted a private tree protection ordinance.

Last updated: April 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 24 out of 28 points
Buildings Summary List All

Seattle has several building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including a “stretch” energy code, green building incentives, and required energy rating and disclosure. The Planning and Development Department manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Seattle.

Last Updated: January 2017

Stringency of Energy CodesList 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.


Seattle has adopted the 2015 Seattle Energy Code, which is based on the Washington State Energy Code with amendments. The 2015 Seattle Energy Code is 20% more stringent than ASHRAE 90.1-2013. The code became effective January 1, 2017.


Seattle has adopted the Washington State Energy Code, effective January 1, 2017. The city is an active participant in energy code advocacy at the state level. 

Last Updated: March 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Seattle has internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance. Seattle requires building owners to hire specialists for progress inspections of the energy-code related project. As upfront support, project applicants may meet with the energy and mechanical review staff about meeting energy codes before the permit application process. Seattle also requires training for building code officials specific to energy code plan review and inspection. 

Last Updated: January 2017 

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Green Building Requirements

Private commercial and residential buildings are not subject to mandatory green building requirements.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Seattle's Building Tune-Up policy phases in a periodic retrofit requirement for nonresidential buildings 50,000 square feet or larger, beginning in 2018. Seattle does not yet require residential buildings to take energy efficiency actions such as energy audits or retro-commissioning.

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings

Seattle offers expedited permitting to green building projects through its Priority Green program. The city has 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.

Last Updated: March 2017

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All


CB 116731 requires commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet to benchmark and disclose energy usage data upon request to prospective buyers, tenants, lenders, or existing tenants. Any building under 20,000 square feet may voluntarily benchmark and disclose. The policy was adopted in January 2010, and was implemented throughout 2011. Compliance requirements went into effect in April 2012. There is an online help room and a helpline for training and guidance. The policy is enforced by the director through a fine, or at the director’s discretion. The building owner must disclose upon request to prospective buyers, tenants, lenders or existing tenants.


CB 116731 requires multifamily buildings over 20,000 square feet to benchmark and disclose energy usage data upon request to prospective buyers, tenants, lenders, or existing tenants. Any building under 20,000 square feet may voluntarily benchmark and disclose. The policy was adopted in January 2010, and was implemented throughout 2011. Compliance requirements went into effect in April 2012. There is an online help room and a helpline for training and guidance. The policy is enforced by the director through a fine, or at the director’s discretion.

The NorthWest MLS, the multiple listing service serving Seattle includes fields for ENERGY STAR, LEED, and Built Green homes.

Last Updated: January 2017

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 17 out of 20 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 rate-payer funded efficiency programs.

Last Updated: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, according to Seattle City Light, they achieved 146,017 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 1.60% of retail sales. To achieve these savings, Seattle City Light spent $45,313,380 on electric efficiency programs in 2015, which equates to 6.15% of annual revenue. In 2015, PSE reported savings of 3.24 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 0.41% of its retail sales. To achieve these savings, PSE spent $13,094,000 on natural gas efficiency programs, which are normalized to $16.36 per residential customer. Spending on electricity and natural gas represented in this section covers 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: January 2017

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.

In 2015, according to Seattle City Light, it achieved 5,907 MWh in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $3,539,243 on its low-income efficiency portfolio. Information on customers served 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 2015, according to PSE, it achieved 0.01 MMtherms and 2,000 MWh in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $174,000 and $3.5 million respectively on its natural gas and electric low-income programs. The PSE gas program served 121 low-income households with each household receiving an average of $1,438 and saving an average of 83 therms. The electric program served 1,088 households, with each household receiving an average $3,127 and saving an average of 1,882 kW.

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.

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.

Last Updated: July 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their energy data, Seattle City Light makes use the Green Button data sharing platform. PSE provides their customers with access to their energy use data through a service similar to Green Button. In order to assist large building managers with accessing aggregated energy data for building benchmarking, Seattle City Light and PSE provide automatic data entry into Portfolio Manager. Seattle City Light provides the Seattle MeterWatch software, which complies with the Green Button standards/protocol. Seattle City Light and PSE share community-wide energy usage information with the City of Seattle for community-planning and evaluation. 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: January 2017

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

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. In order to meet the goal, the amount of water used per person will need to decrease to offset growth. For 2015, the Saving Water Partnership met the goal, using 96.9 mgd.

Energy 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.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The Green Stormwater Infrastructure Executive Order established a city-wide goal of 700 million gallons of stormwater to be managed annually with green infrastructure by 2025. These projects focus on stormwater management and green infrastructure development. The executive order also calls for stricter siting criteria and development codes. The city has dedicated staff for its green infrastructure initiative.

Last Updated: January 2017

Score: 21 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

Location Efficiency List All

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.

Seattle requires one parking space be built per residential dwelling, but no parking is required in areas 1/4 mile to transit stations. Seattle offers exemptions from parking requirements, and streamlined environmental review to promote location efficiency.

Last updated: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

Seattle has not yet developed targets to promote a modal shift in transportation.

Car and Bicycle Sharing

There are three car sharing programs currently available to the residents and visitors of Seattle, Car2go, ReachNow, and zipcar. The bikeshare service, Pronto is available to the residents and visitors of Seattle, with a total of 50 operable stations. 

Complete Streets

Seattle adopted its complete streets policy in 2009 through the tax ordinance Bridging the Gap. The legislation requires consideration for pedestrian, bicycle, transit, freight, and green infrastructure in the design and construction of new facilities for all new projects.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The key transit agencies that serve Seattle (King County DOT, City of Seattle Seattle Center Monorail Transit, Washington State Ferries, Central Puget Sound RTA, King County Ferry District) have received $947,663,528 in average annual funding from 2011-2015. This funding level is $253.82 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting it in the second highest category ($250-399) available in transit funding.  

The Transit Connectivity Index measures transit service levels. It is based on the number of bus routes and train stations within walking distance for households scaled by frequency of service. Seattle’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 25, putting it in the third highest category (15-29) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: January 2017

Efficient VehiclesList All

At this time, Seattle does not offer incentives for citizens to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles. Seattle’s electrical code mandates EV charging infrastructure to be provided in newly-constructed vehicle parking facilities. The city has 125 EV charging stations available for public use.

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

Seattle has a Freight Mobility Program and is developing 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. 

Smart freight

Seattle does not employ an internet-based application or service to coordinate freight transport.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

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. Seattle's Climate Action Plan calls for an 82% reduction in transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

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

Last updated: January 2017