State and Local Policy Database


State Scorecard Rank



31.5Scored out of 50Updated 12/2022
State Government
Score: 3 out of 4.5
State Government Summary List All

The state offers significant incentives for energy efficiency investments. The state government leads by example by requiring energy-efficient public buildings and fleets, benchmarking energy use, and encouraging the use of energy savings performance contracts. Washington is one of the few states to require commercial building energy use disclosure. Research focused on energy-efficiency is conducted at the Smart Buildings Center and Washington State University's Energy Program.

Financial Incentives List All

The state of Washington offers the following financial incentives to encourage energy efficiency improvements:

  • Energy Retrofits for Public Buildings Grant: These competitive grants provide grant funding for projects that result in energy and operational cost savings at state public higher education institutions, local government facilities, state agencies and kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) public school districts.
  • Clean Energy Fund Research, Development, and Demonstration: These competitive grants provides matching funds to federal and non-state funds for strategic research and development projects focused on new and emerging technologies.
  • Clean Energy Fund Grid Modernization: These competitive grants advance community resilience; clean and renewable energy technologies and transmission and distribution control systems; support integration of renewable energy sources; deployment of distributed energy resources and sustainable microgrids; and support state decarbonization goals pursuant to the clean energy transformation act, including requirements placed upon retail electric utilities.
  • Clean Energy Fund Grants to Nonprofit Lenders: These competitive grants to nonprofit lenders are used to create a revolving loan fund to support the widespread use of proven energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies by households, or for the benefit of households, with high energy burden or environmental health risk now inhibited by lack of access to capital.
  • Clean Energy Fund Electrification of Transportation Systems: These competitive grants prioritize projects that demonstrate meaningful and enduring benefits to communities and populations is proportionately burdened by air pollution, climate change, or lack of transportation investments; beneficially integrate load using behavioral, software, hardware, or other demand-side management technologies, such as demand response, time-of-use rates, or behavioral programming; accelerate the transportation electrification market in Washington using market transformation principles; or develop electric vehicle charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure along highways, freeways, and other heavily trafficked corridors across the state to support long-distance travel.
  • Clean Energy Fund Building Electrification: These competitive grants are given to projects that advance the goals of the 2021 state energy strategy to demonstrate grid-enabled, high-efficiency, all electric buildings. The program may include, but is not limited to: Shifting from fossil fuels to high-efficiency electric heat pumps and other electric equipment, control systems that enable grid integration or demand control, and on-site renewable generation and efficiency measures that significantly reduce building energy loads. Preference must be given to projects based on total greenhouse gas emissions reductions, accelerating the path to zero-energy, or that demonstrate early adoption of grid integration technology.
  • Community Energy Efficiency Program: The Community Energy Efficiency Program (CEEP) is a community based program that identifies and funds pilot projects that will provide community-wide urban residential and commercial energy efficiency retrofits and upgrades. The implemented energy efficiency upgrades projects are estimated to produce about $1.7 million per year in energy cost savings.
  • Clean Buildings Performance Standard Incentive: Performance-based incentive provided to building owners who demonstrate early adoption with the state's energy performance standard for existing large buildings. Incentive is 85 cents per square foot. Eligible buildings need to be 15 EUI over the target set by building type and need to bring the building within full compliance of the standard.

Further financial incentive information can be found in the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE Washington). In addition to these state-funded incentives, Washington has enabled commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing and has one active program. For additional information on PACE, visit PACENation.

Last Reviewed: June 2022

Equity Metrics and Workforce DevelopmentList All

Community and stakeholder engagement

The state's 2021 State Energy Strategy centered around equity, with an equity lens being used to frame the executive summary as well as an introductory chapter devoted to equitable policy design. One of the most critical pieces of this equity chapter was identifying who has been left out in the clean energy transition by "ensuring public participation and inclusion of historically marginalized voices" (pg 24, Equity chapter). However, to date these community engagement strategies are still underdevelopment. In the 2021 Legislative session, Washington state passed a bill that directs agencies to incorporate environmental justice into its strategic plan (SB 5141), including the development of a robust community engagement plan (see bill language, section 13). Supported by this new statewide mandate, the State Energy Strategy will be part of a greater effort across state agencies to ensure that marginalized voices are centered in the grant programs, agency request legislation, and other significant actions taken by the agency.

Goals and metrics for tracking progress

In 2019, legislation was passed that created a prevailing priority across all CEF grant programs: priority must be given to projects that benefit vulnerable populations including Tribes and communities with high environmental or energy burden. Further, a new allocation of funds was established specifically for community solar projects that provide benefit to low-income households, low-income tribal housing programs, affordable housing providers, and nonprofit organizations providing services to low-income communities. Also in 2019, the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) was passed, creating new low-income and equity provisions for energy planning in WA. 19.405.120 RCW (Energy assistance for low-income households) mandates that all electric utilities in WA make programs and funding available for low-income households (a threshold to be decided upon by UTC and Commerce) prioritizing those with high energy burden (> 6%). Additionally, all electric utilities must provide data to Commerce on the amount of money spent on energy assistance programs, how many households and household type every other year. Utilities must also submit a biennial assessment report analyzing the effectiveness of programs (short-term and sustained) to reduce energy burden, outreach strategies including tribal consultation and language access and the funding levels necessary to meet: (A) 60% current energy assistance need, or increase of 15% from 2018, by 2030; and (B) 90% current energy assistance need by 2050. Utilities are mandated to make progress on these goals as part of compliance with CETA.

CETA also included equity provisions as part of the utility planning process. In addition to electricity being reliable, clean, safe and affordable, it must be equitable as well. Provisions as part of the 2030 greenhouse gas neutral standard (19.405.040(8) RCW) include language that states that every customer must benefit from the transition to clean energy including through an equitable distribution of benefits to highly impacted communities (19.405.020(23) RCW) and vulnerable populations (19.405.020(40) RCW). This requirement also extends to two new utility planning documents, the Clean Energy Implementation Plan (19.405.060 RCW) and Clean Energy Action Plan (19.280.030 RCW), where utilities must include these requirements as part of their long-term planning. The rules for how this will be implemented are still in process. There is also a new requirement that integrated resource plans include an analysis informed by a cumulative impacted analysis based on a mapping tool currently being developed by the WA State Department of Health. Commerce and the UTC will develop rules to implement this tool into the utility planning process.

Commerce incorporated specific income, air quality, transportation and energy justice indicators into two of the agency's most recent Clean Energy Fund grants (EV infrastructure and LI Community Solar). The state plans to track these indicators across the census tracts of applicants to monitor changes to the environmental or health factors the indicators measure.

Workforce Development

CETA includes incentives for workforce development in the form of a tax credit for using certain labor standards. The statutes includes a 50 percent tax exemption for projects that make a good-faith effort at “procurement from and contracts with women, minority, or veteran-owned businesses; procurement from and contracts with entities that have a history of complying with federal and state wage and hour laws and regulations; apprenticeship utilization; and preferred entry for workers living in the area where the project is being constructed,” 75 percent tax exemption for projects that meet the above criteria and also “compensate workers at prevailing wage rates determined by local collective bargaining," and a 100 percent tax exemption for projects “developed under a community workforce agreement or project labor agreement,” as certified by the WA Department of Labor and industries.

Last Reviewed: July 2021

Carbon Pricing PoliciesList All

The State of Washington does not yet have carbon pricing policies in place.

Per state legislation HB 2311, Washington does have a statewide emissions reduction goal in place, specifically to reduce emissions 100% by 2050 (baseline year 1990).

Last Reviewed: September 2022

Building Energy Disclosure List All
  • Building type(s) affected: commercial

SB 5854 - 2009-10 requires all nonresidential customers and qualifying public agency buildings to maintain records of energy data with an energy star rating system. Resulting metrics will be disclosed to a prospective buyer, lessee, or lender. Benchmarking will be required to demonstrate compliance with the ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 100-2018.

Last Reviewed: July 2019

Public Building Requirements List All

WA Statute RCW 39.35D.030 (January 2005) requires that all major facility projects of public agencies receiving any funding in a state capital budget – including state government projects, public schools, and Housing Trust-funded low-income housing – must be designed, constructed, and certified to at least the LEED Silver standard and must include building commissioning as a component of the design process. LEED has been adopted by state colleges and universities as well as state agencies. All public schools must meet a LEED equivalent standard approved by State the Superintendent of Public instruction.

Washington Senate Bill 5854, passed in 2009, set benchmarking requirements for public facilities as well, requiring utilities to maintain utility data and transfer the data to facility managers using EPA Portfolio Manager. To date, the state has benchmarked about 99% of state agencies representing over 45 million square feet. Of all state-owned and leased buildings, including universities and community colleges, the state has benchmarked about 74%. Washington State Supports local government benchmarking through a fund to the Smart Building Center. Local governments may take advantage of the technical and data management support available for implementing municipal or mandatory benchmarking and disclosure policies for the general population.

Washington State Executive Order 20-01 requires state agencies to lead by example and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The order also requires some state agencies to meet zero energy or zero energy capable standards for new construction. The EO requires investments in energy efficiency, and includes a zero energy building standard for new construction. To assure agency action, the EO established the State Efficiency and Environmental Performance (SEEP) Office and a Governing Council (Council) of executives from the states most energy intensive agencies. State agencies are also required to meet emissions limits established in RCW 70A.45.050 and to develop long-term strategies to meet these emissions limits.

Washington House Bill 1257, passed in 2019, requires the Washington State Department of Commerce to develop and implement an energy performance standard for existing buildings over 50,000 square feet and to provide incentives to encourage efficiency improvements. In 2022, these standards were extended to Tier 2 buildings over 20,000 SF. Reporting requirements for Tier 2 buildings will become effective in 2027, with an incentive program starting in 2025. The WA standard, based on ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 100-2018, includes energy use intensity targets by building type and methods of conditional compliance that include an energy management plan, operations and maintenance program, energy efficiency audits, and investment in energy efficiency measures designed to meet the targets. Publicly owned buildings are subject to the requirements of the law.

Last Reviewed: June 2022

Fleets List All

Executive Order 21-04 (Zero Emission Vehicles), issued in 2021, requires state executive and small cabinet agencies to procure battery electric vehicles (BEVs) so that 40% of light duty fleets are BEVs by 2025, 75% by 2030, and 100% by 2035. The EO requires that medium and heavy duty fleets are 100% BEVs by 2040. The State Efficiency and Environmental Performance Office (SEEP) is responsible for implementing this EO in Partnership with the Department of Enterprise Services (DES). Other provisions in the EO include vehicle purchase exemption criteria, the development of statewide and agency-specific implementation strategies, and funding to install electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) at state facilities.

Washington state agencies must phase in fuel economy standards to achieve an average fuel economy of 36 miles per gallon for passenger vehicle fleets by 2015 (RCW 43.41.130). State agencies must purchase ultra-low carbon fuel vehicles or, when purchasing new conventional vehicles, achieve an average fuel economy of 40 miles per gallon (mpg) for light-duty passenger vehicles and 27 mpg for light-duty vans and sport utility vehicles. When calculating average fuel economy, emergency response vehicles, passenger vans with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 pounds or greater, off-road vehicles, ultra-low carbon fuel vehicles, and vehicles driven less than 2,000 miles per year are excluded.

The largest fuel use in in State Government is the Washington State Department of Transportation ferry system. Washington State Ferries operates the largest ferry system in the United States. Washington State Ferries (WSF) is undertaking an ambitious initiative to move toward a “greener” ferry fleet with the twin goals of reliability and lighter environmental footprint. In a typical year, WSF burns more than 18 million gallons of diesel fuel, making the system Washington state’s largest diesel consumer. WSF is working on several projects to meet the goals of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Executive Order 20-01, which directs WSF to move toward a zero emissions fleet. The three main capital components of the electrification plan are: building new Olympic class hybrid-electric vessels, converting the existing three Jumbo Mark II vessels to hybrid-electric vessels, and developing terminal charging infrastructure.

The State Administrative and Accounting Manual (SAAM 12.20.30c) established rules regarding minimum annual days of use and mileage requirements for state-owned vehicles. The utilization requirement eliminates all non-essential and cost-inefficient state fleet vehicles. The most fuel inefficient vehicles were removed from the fleet and petroleum use reduced as a right-sizing result.

In addition to these requirements, EO 20-01 states that agency directors shall ensure that each lease or purchase of new vehicles shall prioritize battery electric vehicles (BEV) (or better emerging technology), and that all trips which could be feasibly made by BEVs shall be utilized.

Last Reviewed: June 2022

Energy Savings Performance Contracting List All

Washington has an extensive energy performance contracting program administered by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services. The program is available to State Agencies, Colleges, Universities, Cities and Towns, Counties, School Districts, Hospital Districts, Library Districts, Port Districts and other local governments. Since the program began in 1986, it has completed more than $1.5 billion in public facility efficiency projects in over 430 public agencies, received $86 million in utility rebates and now saves more than $49 million in annual energy costs.

Last Reviewed: July 2020

Research & Development List All

The Smart Buildings Center, formerly known as the Northwest Building Energy Technology Hub (NBETH), is a statewide proof-of-concept center and regional test bed for building energy technology development and commercial acceleration.

The Energy Program at Washington State University (WSU) is a self-supported department that operates similar to a consulting firm. Its mission is to advance environmental and economic well-being by providing energy services, products, education and information based on world-class research.

The Clean Energy Fund Research, Development and Demonstration Match Program: These competitive grants fund public and private electric utilities serving Washington consumers for electrical grid modernization projects. Funds must advance clean, renewable energy technologies and transmission and distribution control systems; support integration of renewable energy sources, deployment of distributed energy resources and sustainable micro grids; or increase utility customer choice in energy sources, efficiency, equipment and utility services. Since 2013, the legislature has authorized $39 million in funds. The legislature has authorized an additional $1.7 million for the 19-21 biennium for competitive award.

Last Reviewed: July 2019

Score: 7.5 out of 12
Buildings Summary List All

The 2018 Washington State Energy Code is a state-developed code that is mandatory statewide. While based on the 2018 IECC, residential provisions have been extensively modified to provide savings greater than the model code. Commercial provisions have been extensively modified to reach state specific energy reduction targets incorporating parts of ASHRAE 90.1, ASHRAE 90.4 as well as unique features. The resulting code provides savings equivalent to the ASHRAE 90.1 -2016. The state code specifically implements a standard that directly addresses carbon emissions reductions by adopting a unique version of ASHRAE 90.1 Appendix G.

Washington has completed a variety of activities to ensure compliance and involves utilities in its efforts.

Last reviewed: August 2020

Residential Codes List All

The 2018 Washington State Energy Code is a state-developed code that is mandatory statewide. Based originally on the 2018 IECC it has been extensively amended to reach state specific energy reduction targets. The 2018 Washington State Energy Code provides greater savings than the 2018 IECC.
In December of 2019 the state building code council adopted the 2018 Washington State Energy Code, which became effective February 1, 2021. The evaluation of code outcomes notes that the state is on track to achieving state specific energy reduction mandates, having incorporated code changes achieving 40% reduction in whole building energy use compared to the 2006 edition of the WA Code. The state energy office has completed a preliminary comparison of the result of the Washington Study to the Energy Savings Analysis: 2018 IECC for Residential Buildings completed by DOE.  While it is difficult to make direct comparisons between these studies, it's estimated that the state code provides greater savings than the 2018 IECC by at least 5% when weighting factors for climate zone, building size and fuel mix are accounted for. The new code will be implemented Nov. 2020. 

The 2018 Washington State Energy Code specifically implements a standard that directly addresses carbon emissions reductions. This provide good incentives that encourage homes using high efficiency heat pumps and water heating.

Washington State is noted as the only state with energy code improvement requirements in statute. RCW 19.27a.160 (2009) “The council shall adopt state energy codes from 2013 through 2031 that incrementally move towards achieving the seventy percent reduction in annual net energy consumption”.

Executive Order 20-01 requires state government agencies in Washington to design and construct state-owned buildings to zero-energy or zero-energy capable standards, and include consideration of embodied carbon. The State Efficiency and Environmental Performance (SEEP) Office at Commerce supports construction of zero-energy buildings and has developed a Zero Energy Toolkit to help guide state projects.  

Last reviewed: June 2022

Commercial Code List All

The 2018 Washington State Energy Code is a state-developed code that is a mandatory minimum code statewide. Local jurisdictions have authority to adopt a reach code for non-residential structures. Based originally on the 2018 IECC it has been extensively modified to reach state specific energy reduction targets incorporating parts of ASHRAE 90.1, ASHRAE 90.4 as well as unique features. The Washington State Energy Code provides savings equivalent to the ASHRAE 90.1 -2016.
In December of 2018 the state building code council adopted the 2018 Washington State Energy Code - Commercial. The evaluation of code outcomes notes that the incorporated code changes achieve 35% percent reduction in whole building energy use compared to the 2006 edition of the WA Code. The state energy office has completed a preliminary comparison of the result of the Washington Study to the Energy Savings Analysis with ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2016 completed by DOE.  

While it is difficult to make direct comparisons between these studies, it's estimated that the state code provides equivalent saving to ASHRAE 90.1 – 2016.  The new code was implemented Nov. 2020.  The 2018 Washington State Energy Code specifically implements a standard that directly addresses carbon emissions reductions by adopting a unique version of ASHRAE 90.1 Appendix G. In addition, Washington State adopted the Total System Performance Ratio method developed by PNNL, and have explicitly incorporated carbon emissions evaluation criteria.   

The state building code council voted to adopt the 2021 code in April 2022. This code will become effective July 2023. The 2021 code changes include an updated carbon content of electricity to align with state policy, requires electric heat pumps for most space and water heating with limited exceptions, requires solar readiness for commercial buildings, in addition to a broad range of efficiency improvements. 

Washington State is noted as the only state with energy code improvement requirements in statute. RCW 19.27a.160 (2009) “The council shall adopt state energy codes from 2013 through 2031 that incrementally move towards achieving the seventy percent reduction in annual net energy consumption”.

Executive Order 20-01 requires state government agencies in Washington to design and construct state-owned buildings to zero-energy or zero-energy capable standards, and include consideration of embodied carbon. The State Efficiency and Environmental Performance (SEEP) Office at Commerce supports construction of zero-energy buildings and has developed a Zero Energy Toolkit to help guide state projects. 

Last reviewed: June 2022

Compliance List All
  • Baseline & Updated Compliance Studies: A residential code compliance study was completed by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) in 2013. This report describes the compliance of residential new construction in Washington State with respect to the revised state energy code: 2009 Washington State Energy Code (WSEC). The study team assessed compliance using two different approaches: 1) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Checklist Method and, 2) Significant Item Method. The Checklist Method analyzed how well the studied homes complied with each of the 61 code identified process and efficiency requirements, while the Significant Item Method analyzed compliance based on measures that were considered to have only the most significant impact on energy use. The completed study of residential energy code compliance in Washington demonstrates compliance rates at 96 percent and 97 percent for the Checklist and Significant Items Methods respectively. In addition, the study team assessed the energy impacts of code compliance by using a building simulation model to compare the relative energy use of "as-built" homes to the energy use of homes built to meet the prescriptive code. A commercial code compliance study was completed in 2008 by NEEA and was based on the code enforced in 2001, which was based on ASHRAE 90.1-1999. At the time, compliance was measured at 94%. NEEA 

    contracted Ecotope, Inc to estimate the energy savings of the 2018 Washington State Energy Code residential provisions (WSEC-R) compared to the 2015 and 2006 WSEC-R codes, as well as the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The 2018 WSEC-R code was developed by Washington State Building Code Council and has been adopted statewide for construction permitted as of February 1, 2021. Findings from the study show that adoption of the 2018 WSEC-R energy code represents a substantial advancement in new building energy efficiency. Results show continued improvement in WSEC code performance, demonstrated by decreased energy usage and increased savings relative to comparison codes. For the 2018 WSEC-R this analysis estimates a 22% savings from WSEC 2015 and a 45% savings from WSEC 2006. 

  • Utility Involvement: The regions utilities provide funding to NEEA, which provides the greatest funding for code development and implementation in the region. In May, 2017, NEEA adopted an additional funding path for Commercial Codes Enhancement, providing an additional $1 million to support early development of methods or measures with a focus on code adoption in the next 3-6 years. This is an innovative approach to the development of the next commercial building efficiency standards. Washington has a mandatory conservation standard that requires the state’s electric utilities to pursue “all cost effective conservation”. This requires utilities to support cost effective new construction beyond code as well as existing building retrofit activities. The Energy Independence Act specifically recognizes that utilities may take credit energy savings attributed to codes, third party programs and utility hook-up standards.
  • Stakeholder Advisory Group: Washington State works collaboratively with other NW state in the development and implementation of energy codes. The Northwest Energy Code Group organized through NEEA brings state energy office, code enforcement trainers, and utility staff together to identify code enforcement issues, share training strategies and to develop new code language. This group has contributed to the national code development and enforcement success. Resources developed by these states are available through the web site. The NW Energy Code Group and participating members have developed many code change proposals that have been adopted by into the model codes, including the IECC, ASHRAE 90.1, 189.1 and ASHRAE 62.2.
  • Training/Outreach: Washington State and NW regional collaborators have provided code training for more than 25 years. Code trainings are taken to the participants as requested by the states building departments, utilities and builder organizations. This includes classroom training on all aspects of the code. It also includes field training with emphasis on completing air leakage testing certification required by the WA code. WSU also provides a detailed web site with numerous training aids, a builders’ field guide and supplemental information to assist in code compliance. Evergreen Technology Consulting (ETC) provides training for the commercial sections of the state energy code.  Evergreen Technology Consulting (ETC) also provides a detailed web site with numerous training aids, compliance forms and supplemental information to assist in code compliance:

Last reviewed: June 2022 

CHP Summary List All

The state has an interconnection standard that applies to CHP and CHP is included as an eligible resource in the state's energy efficiency resource standard. One new CHP system was installed in 2018.

Interconnection StandardsList All

Policy: Washington Administrative Code Chapter 480-108

Description: The state has adopted interconnection standards for distributed generation systems, including CHP, up to 20MW in size. Two separate tiers for interconnection exist; the first tier applies to systems smaller than 300kW. The second tier applies to systems between 300kW and 20MW, and generally follows the interconnection standards promulgated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Last Updated: July 2018

Encouraging CHP as a ResourceList All

CHP in energy efficiency standards: Washington has an energy efficiency resource standard for the state's electric utilities. It calls for electric utilities that serve more than 25,000 customers in the state of Washington to pursue all available conservation that is cost-effective, reliable, and feasible. Specifically, utilities must (1) identify achievable cost-effective conservation potential through 2019, with reviews and updates every two years for the subsequent 10 years and (2) establish and meet biennial targets for conservation.  Highly efficient CHP systems – that is, systems with a useful thermal energy output of no less than 33% of the total energy output – count towards a utility’s conservation target.

Last Updated: July 2018

Deployment IncentivesList All

Net metering: Washington's net-metering law, originally enacted in 1998, applies to systems up to 100 kilowatts (kW) in capacity that generate electricity combined heat and power technologies, including fuel cells. All customer classes are eligible, and all utilities—including municipal utilities and electric cooperatives—must offer net metering. Net metering is available on a first-come, first-served basis until the cumulative generating capacity of net-metered systems equals 0.25% of a utility’s peak demand during 1996. This limit increased to 0.5% on January 1, 2014.

Last Updated: July 2018

Additional Supportive PoliciesList All

In June 2015, the Washington legislature passed comprehensive legislation – H.B. 1095 – that establishes a statewide policy fostering the development of CHP. The state now requires major public sector facilities and district energy systems to analyze their critical loads and obtain a CHP feasibility assessment. The bill also improves air quality permitting for faster/easier processing of permits using a general permit or permit by rule with an output-based emissions approach.

The state also encourages the use of renewable-fueled CHP systems and waste heat to power (WHP), which qualify under its Renewable Energy Standard.

The Washington Economic Development Finance Authority (WEDFA) and the Washington State Department of Commerce are low-cost loans for manufacturers of renewable energy technology equipment that would be applicable to some CHP systems.  

Last Updated: July 2018

Score: 6.5 out of 15
Utilities Summary List All

Washington's private and public utilities have long records of offering customer energy efficiency and conservation programs supported by regional organizations including the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC), and the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA). Washington voters approved the Energy Independence Act in November 2006 that established an energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) by setting new requirements for electricity resources, including greater use of renewable energy and conservation. Utilities are required "[T]o pursue all available conservation that is cost-effective, reliable and feasible." The legislation also requires utilities to use methodologies for analyzing and selecting demand-side resources that are consistent with the methodologies used by NPPC.

The most recent budgets for energy efficiency programs and electricity and natural gas savings can be found in the State Spending and Savings Tables.

Customer Energy Efficiency Programs List All

Customers in Washington are served by a wide variety of utilities—public utility districts, municipal utilities (including one of the nation's largest municipal utilities, Seattle City Light), investor-owned utilities, and rural cooperatives. Energy efficiency programs are provided by each type. Investor-owned utilities carry out energy efficiency programs with oversight by the state's regulatory body, the Utilities and Transportation Commission. Publicly-owned utilities provide programs to their members with oversight by their respective governance bodies. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a regional organization seeking to transform markets for energy efficiency, provides a strong unifying force for the many individual utility programs offered across the state—particularly for products and services most amenable to market transformation approaches, such as consumer products and building design, construction, and operation. BPA also has played and continues to play a strong leadership role in supporting individual utilities' efforts.

Washington is a non-restructured state and has no public benefits funding to support programs. Investor-owned utilities recover the costs of energy efficiency programs through tariff riders. Program costs are reported and adjusted annually in proceedings before the Utilities and Transportation Commission. Most publicly-owned utilities in Washington also provide funding for energy efficiency programs and services.

The most recent budgets for energy efficiency programs and electricity and natural gas savings can be found in the State Spending and Savings Tables.

Last reviewed: July 2019

Energy Efficiency as a Resource List All

Washington, as part of the four-state region served by the Bonneville Power Authority and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, incorporates energy efficiency as a resource for planning and investment decisions. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has approved its Seventh Power Plan on February 10, 2016. The plan calls for the region to acquire 1,400 average megawatts of energy efficiency by 2021; 3,000 average megawatts by 2026; and 4.300 average megawatts by 2035. The Council states: "In more than 90 percent of future conditions, cost-effective efficiency met all electricity load growth through 2030 and in more than half of the futures all load growth for the next 20 years. It's not only the single largest contributor to meeting the region's future electricity needs; it's also the single largest source of new peaking capacity. If developed aggressively, in combination with past efficiency acquisition, the energy efficiency resource could approach the size of the region's hydroelectric system's firm energy output, adding to the Northwest's heritage of clean and affordable power."

The Power Plan is a regional energy blueprint developed by the NWPCC that guides the region's largest electricity supplier, the federal Bonneville Power Administration. Under federal law, the Council revises the 20-year plan every five years. While Bonneville implements the plan, the plan also serves as a reference document for the region's electric utilities in their own planning.

Each investor-owned utility models energy efficiency as a resource along with supply-side resources within its integrated resource plan, in accordance with WAC 480-100-238 and WAC 480-90-238. These rules require that the plan identify "the mix of energy supply resources and conservation that will meet current and future needs at the lowest reasonable cost to the utility and its ratepayers," where lowest reasonable cost means "the lowest cost mix of resources determined through a detailed and consistent analysis of a wide range of commercially available sources. At a minimum, this analysis must consider resource cost, market-volatility risks, demand-side resource uncertainties, resource dispatch ability, resource effect on system operation, the risks imposed on ratepayers, public policies regarding resource preference adopted by Washington state or the federal government and the cost of risks associated with environmental effects including emissions of carbon dioxide."

Last reviewed: July 2019

Energy Efficiency Resource Standards List All

Summary: Utilities set biennial targets to achieve all cost-effective electricity conservation. Electric: Targets average ~0.9% (gross) incremental electricity savings per year. Annual conservation targets are available on the Washington UTC site. Natural gas: HB 1257 (2019) establishes an all cost-effective EERS for natural gas. Initial conservation targets must take effect by 2022.

Washington voters approved ballot initiative 937, the Energy Independence Act, in November 2006, which set new renewable energy resource and conservation requirements for large electric utilities to meet. The law, codified in Chapter 19.285 RCW, had rules adopted for its implementation in 2007 and 2008 (WAC 480-109WAC 194-37). The energy conservation section requires each qualifying utility (those with more than 25,000 customers in Washington) to “pursue all available conservation that is cost-effective, reliable and feasible.” Seventeen utilities, both publicly-owned and investor-owned, currently meet the definition of qualifying utility.

The law requires utilities to use methodologies consistent with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s (NPCC) to determine their achievable ten-year cost-effective conservation potential and update that potential assessment every two years. Utilities also must establish a biennial acquisition target beginning in 2010-2011 and update that target every two years. If a utility does not meet its conservation goals, it must pay an administrative fine for each MWh of shortfall, starting at $50 and adjusting annually for inflation beginning in 2007.

HB 1257 (2019) establishes a natural gas conservation standard requiring each gas company to acquire all conservation measures that are available and cost-effective. Each company must establish an acquisition target every two years, with initial targets taking effect by 2022.

Last reviewed: August 2021

Utility Business Model List All

The proposed full decoupling mechanism in Avista's 2014 general rate case (Dockets UE-140188 and UG-140189) was approved by the Commission in November 2014. As part of decoupling, Avista committed to increasing acquisition of electric conservation savings by 5% above its Energy Independence Act (EIA) biennial conservation targets while the decoupling mechanism is in effect.

Similarly, Puget Sound Energy's full decoupling mechanism went into effect July 2014, accompanied with the commitment to increase the acquisition of electric conservation savings by 5% above its EIA biennial conservation target and increase the funding available for low-income conservation. Additionally, through its decoupling petition, PSE committed to pursuing natural gas market transformation, which led to the NEEA natural gas market transformation pilot.

Pacific Power and Light's decoupling mechanism went into effect September 2016 (Docket UE-152253). As part of decoupling, all electric investor owned utilities in Washington have now been committed to increasing acquisition of electric conservation savings by 5% above the Energy Independence Act (EIA) biennial conservation targets while the decoupling mechanism is in effect. 

Consumer-owned utilities, which serve more than half the state's electric load, are not subject to state regulation of retail rates and may adjust rates as they deem necessary, including to adjust for the effect of energy efficiency programs on retail revenue. No specific decoupling mechanism is required to achieve this outcome.

Electric investor-owned utilities may propose “positive incentives for an investor-owned utility to exceed the [biennial conservation] targets,” as allowed by RCW 19.285.060(4). No incentive mechanism is currently in place or proposed, however. Utilities can also be penalized if they fail to meet energy savings goals (RCW 19.285.060). 

Last reviewed: July 2019

Evaluation, Measurement, & Verification List All
  • Primary cost-effectiveness test(s) used: total resource cost test 

  • Secondary cost-effectiveness test(s) used: utility cost test  

The Regional Technical Forum (RTF), a part of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, maintains a regional-deemed savings database and develops protocols for calculating savings from certain efficiency measures. The electric investor-owned utilities are required to use these savings values, unless they can demonstrate that a company-develop savings value is more appropriate than a regional value. This allows the utilities flexibility to develop service territory-specific values or update values based on new information more frequently than the Regional Technical Forum. The RTF continually updates the database. 

Evaluation of ratepayer-funded electric energy efficiency programs in Washington is required in the state administrative code WAC 480-109-120(4) (v) and relies on regulatory orders. Evaluations are conducted by the independent third-party consultants selected by the utilities. Each electric utility files, develops, and maintains an EM&V Framework as well as an EM&V Plan, which is filed with each Biennial Conservation Plan.  

Washington uses two of the benefit-cost tests identified in the California Standard Practice Manual. These are the Total Resource Cost (TRC) and the Utility Cost Test (UCT). According to the Database of State Efficiency Screening Practices (DSESP), Washington specifies the TRC to be its primary test for decision making. The benefit-cost tests are required for overall portfolio and program-level screening. The rules for benefit-cost tests are stated in the Energy Independence Act of 2006. Information on the TRC is in the 2018 State Working Group TRC Methodology Matrix. Washington’s test accounts for avoided costs of compliance with emissions regulations and participant health benefits. Washington’s TRC may account for costs and benefits associated with safety, water, or other fuels.  

The Commission's Energy Independence Act rule (WAC 480-109) requires an independent third-party evaluation of biennial conservation savings to be included in each utility's biennial conservation report. Independent third-party evaluators are selected by the utilities in consultation with their conservation advisory groups and Commission staff.  

For natural gas, the Commission initiated a rulemaking procedure in July 2012 to address the cost-effectiveness of natural gas conservation portfolios in light of low natural gas prices and avoided costs (Docket UG-121207). The Commission issued a policy statement on natural gas conservation cost-effectiveness as a result of this proceeding. The policy statement identifies the Commission’s preference for the TRC as the primary cost-effectiveness test but allows natural gas utilities to request to use the UCT as the primary test where there are significant non-energy benefits that are known but unquantified, thus biasing the TRC against conservation. 

Further information on cost-effectiveness screening practices for Washington is available in the Database of State Efficiency Screening Practices (DSESP), a resource of the National Efficiency Screening Project (NESP). Further information on health and environmental benefits is available in ACEEE’s Overview of State Approaches to Account for Health and Environmental Benefits of Energy Efficiency

Last reviewed: July 2019

Guidelines for Low-Income Energy Efficiency Programs List All

Requirements for State and Utility Support of Low-Income Energy Efficiency Programs

No specific required spending or savings requirements were identified. SB 5116 Sec 12(4), passed in 2019, requires utilities to submit a plan to reach 60% of the current energy assistance need by 2030, and 90% of the current energy assistance need by 2050. Energy assistance by statutory definition can include conservation.

Cost-Effectiveness Rules for Low-Income Energy Efficiency Programs

Washington specifies the total resource cost (TRC) test to be its primary test for decision making. The benefit-cost tests are required for overall portfolio and program-level screening. Per WAC 480-109-100, low-income weatherization is not included in the portfolio or sector-level cost effectiveness analysis. Companies may implement low-income programs that have a TRC ratio of 0.67 or above. The rules for benefit-cost tests are directed by the Energy Independence Act of 2006, codified in Chapter 194-37 WAC, which specifies that the TRC test include all non-energy impacts that a resource or measure may provide that can be quantified and monetized. Washington also applies an additional 10% benefit, consistent with the Northwest Power Act.

WAC 480-109-100(10)(a) allows utilities to fully fund low-income conservation measures that are determined to be cost-effective consistent with the procedures in the Weatherization Manual, as well as associated repairs, administrative costs, and health and safety improvements. However, in Docket UE-131723, signed March 12, 2015, the commission revised the rule language to allow, rather than require, utilities to pursue low-income conservation that is cost-effective consistent with the procedures of the Weatherization Manual. “In recognition that low-income conservation programs have significant non-energy benefits, we find it appropriate for utilities to maintain robust low-income conservation offerings despite the unique barriers these programs face.”

Coordination of Ratepayer-Funded Low-Income Programs with WAP Services

Washington State is investing $15 million from 2015 to 2017 to provide weatherization in all counties of the state through its Matchmaker program, which matches state dollars with utility and other programs’ investments in weatherization. This biennium $4.3 million is being reserved in Matchmaker for the new Weatherization Plus Health initiative, which combines energy- and cost-saving weatherization improvements in low-income homes with measures that reduce health risks and health costs for vulnerable families. It is targeted to improve the home environments for children and adults with asthma.

In addition, the state applies over $70,000 of DOE WAP funding toward cosponsoring the Energy Project with the Washington State Community Action Partnership (WSCAP). The Energy Project serves the entire Washington weatherization network and has served as a model leveraging project for other states. The Opportunity Council in Bellingham serves as the administrative agent under an agreement with the WSCAP. Over the 23 years of its operation, the Energy Project’s activities have resulted in approximately $188 million of additional funding for low-income households. The Energy Project works to advocate for energy program funding and program designs that help low-income households by providing technical assistance to local agencies, negotiating programs with local utilities in coordination with the affected agencies, educating decision makers, evaluating and reporting progress, and researching new approaches and best practices for providing service.

Last reviewed: July 2019

Self Direct and Opt-Out Programs List All

Washington State allows utilities to develop self-direct options for industrial and commercial customers, but of the investor-owned utilities, only Puget Sound Energy has developed a program. Puget Sound Energy's self-direct program is only available to industrial or commercial customers on electric rate specific rate schedules. The self-direct program operates on a 4-year cycle comprised of two phases: non-competitive and competitive. During the non-competitive phase, customers have exclusive access to their energy efficiency funds, which are the funds collected over the 4-year period. When this phase closes, any unused funds are pooled together and competitively bid on by the members of the self-directed program. Customers receive payment in the form of a check once the project is complete and verified. Participating customers do not receive any rate relief when they complete energy efficiency investments. 100% of projects are pre- and post-verified by the utility. This includes review and revision of savings calculations by the utility to determine incentive levels. The program is included in the third party evaluation cycle like all other utility conservation programs. As of July 2019, 29 of 37 self-direct customers were receiving incentives. These customers represented 84.6% of the qualifying load.

More information on large customer self-direct programs can be found in the ACEEE report, Follow the Leaders: Improving Large Customer Self-Direct Programs.

Last reviewed: July 2019

Data AccessList All

Washington's privacy policies for disclosure of customer energy use information are provided in WAC 480-100-153. In 2015, RCW 19.29A was amended to be consistent with WAC 480-100-153.

Last reviewed: July 2019

Score: 9.5 out of 13
Transportation Summary List All

The state implements a variety of policies to encourage efficient transportation initatives, and has a dedicated revenue stream for transportation projects.

Tailpipe Emission Standards List All

Washington adopted California’s Low-Emission Vehicle Program in 2005, committing to a 30% reduction in average new vehicle greenhouse gas emissions from 2002 levels by 2016.

In March 2020, the state enacted SB 5811, requiring the state’s Department of Ecology to begin a rulemaking for a Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) program.

Last Reviewed: November 2022

Transportation System Efficiency List All

Transportation and Land use Integration: Washington State has long been a leader with respect to smart growth initiatives. In 1990, the state passed the Growth Management Act (GMA) aimed at targeting the uncoordinated and unplanned sprawl that threatens the environment and quality of life in Washington. The GMA establishes state goals, compliance deadlines and advice on the preparation of local comprehensive plans without overriding the authority of local and regional governmental institutions. As of February 2000, 92% of local communities mandated to plan fully for future growth had adopted comprehensive growth plans.

VMT Targets: Washington has also established an ambitious state VMT reduction target (RCW 47.01.440) that aims to reduce VMT per capita by 18% in 2020, 30% in 2025 and 50% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels. 

FAST Freight Plans and Goals: Washington has a state freight plan that identifies a multimodal freight network, but it does not include freight energy or greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Last Reviewed: November 2022

Transit Funding List All

In 2012, Washington adopted House Bill 2660, which created a transit service mitigation program account to provide grants to transit agencies in the state.

Multiple grant and funding opportunities were extended or created in the most recent legislative session. These funds include:

1. A green capital grant program for transit operators (ESSHB 2042)

2. Funding for hybrid-electric state ferries (SHB 1160)

3. A mobility sharing pilot for underserved communities (ESSH 2042)

4. A series of incentives for charging infrastructure and vehicle acquisitions (ESSHB 2042)

This list is not exhaustive and both bills should be reviewed extensively for program funding.

Last Reviewed: November 2022

Incentives for High-Efficiency Vehicles List All

Businesses are eligible to receive tax credits for purchasing new alternative fuel commercial vehicles and installing alternative fueling infrastructure.

Certain passenger, light-duty vehicles, and trucks qualify for a reduction in sales and use tax if they use electricity or hydrogen and are under a certain price cap. Buses, including transit and school, that are zero emission have their sales and use tax waived as well as for the associated charging and refueling infrastructure

Last Reviewed: November 2022

Equitable Access to TransportationList All

Public transit access

  • Washington considers the proximity of transit facilities when distributing state grants and federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to qualifying property owners. The state has a grant program for transit agencies to transition to decarbonized alternatives; the grant program prioritizes and incorporates equity metrics as part of the application evaluation;
  • Washington's sales/use tax incentive for EVs includes used vehicles, which was intended to support adoption by lower- and middle-income households.
  • Washington's Growth Management Act encourages and in some cases requires ToD as part of local governments' land-use, transportation and economic development planning; 
  • Many of the state's transit agency governoring authorities require that land acquired as part of transit development be sold for affordable housing construction as well as other ToD elements; Commerce and other state agency EVSE grants are designed to meaningfully support EVSE deployment and utilization within underserved areas as well as ensure benefits flow to those areas even if direct use is not occurring.  

Equity in transportation electrification

Washington state's HEAL Act (SB 5141) will require grants and certain agency actions to support equitable outcomes; this legislation impacts how agencies like Commerce and WSDOT will develop and implement our EV charging infrastructure grants. 

Furthermore, our recently passed low-carbon fuel standard (HB 1091) and Cap & Invest (Climate Committment Act, SB 5192) require at least 30% and 40% respectively of all program revenues to be invested in overburdened populations, i.e., mandate equitable deployment. Because these programs have programmatic and legislative funding targets towards EV adoption and EVSE deployment, Washington state can expect comprehensive and significant equitable deployment of transportation electrification.

Finally, Commerce's Clean Energy Fund's Electrification of Transportation Systems grant prioritizes equitable deployment of EVSE above all other policy and programmatic outcomes. ETS 1 featured a number of quanitative, qualitative and structural equitable components to ensure just outcomes. ETS 2 enhances and continues these trends. 

Last Reviewed: November 2022

Appliance Standards
Score: 2.5 out of 3
Appliance Standards Summary List All

Policy: RCW § 19.260.010, et seq., Minimum Efficiency Standards

Description: Washington enacted its initial appliance efficiency legislation in 2005, creating minimum efficiency standards for eleven products. All eleven have been preempted by standards introduced in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and one other will be preempted by federal standards that become effective in 2009. 

In May 2009 Governor Chris Gregoire signed HB 1004, adding efficiency standards for five more products that became effective January 1, 2010, of which only one has been preempted by federal standards. The adoption or recommendation of additional standards is the responsibility of the Energy Policy Division within the State Department of Commerce.  

Washington State adopted 16 new appliance and equipment standards in 2019 bringing the total of covered products to 22.  This modernizes Washington’s original appliance efficiency standards first adopted in 2005 and updated in 2009. Washington also adopted a first-in-nation water heater standard. The design requirement for electric water heaters requires that all new units have a standard communications port that will enable low cost deployment of demand response communications equipment using an open source protocol.        

Last Updated: July 2019