Puget Sound Energy Launches ‘Urban Smart Bellevue’ Energy Efficiency Program

Originally published at KPLU.org

Bellamy Pailthorp,  KPLU.org

Emma Johnson, The City of Bellevue’s resource conservation manager, stands in front of one of the public white boards the city is using to promote awareness for the Urban Smart program.

People who work at businesses in downtown Bellevue may soon be asked to take the stairs more often and to remember to power down their computers at night.

The city has launched a new energy efficiency program called Urban Smart Bellevue that aims to make it a leader in energy efficiency – largely through simple changes in workplace behavior.

Puget Sound Energy says 30 percent of the energy that’s used in buildings today is wasted. Urban Smart Bellevue is an attempt to chip away at that, through the collective efforts of the business community. The utility provides free technical support and individualized energy savings action plans.

At City Hall, which is one of the program’s first seven members; managers, facilities staff and PSE experts formed a green team and did what they call an “energy efficiency treasure hunt”  — a walk-through to find hidden savings.  Resource Conservation Manager Emma Johnson says their copy machines showed up as one culprit, because they were set to suck way more power than necessary.

“And there’s settings that we can change to adjust that from a 4-hour, high-power sleep state to a half-an-hour, low-power sleep state,” Johnson said “and so that will save almost 30,000 kilowatt hours a year, because we have hundreds of these machines in the building.”

They’re also urging employees to take the stairs instead of elevators when they can and reminding them to switch off the lights and their computers at night.

To make all of this more fun, Puget Sound Energy is creating an app that will show participants how much they’re saving and how they compare to their neighbors, so they can compete for rewards and public recognition. Other already participating businesses include Microsoft, Apptio, Urban Rennaissance Group, Hines and Virginia Mason.

The goal is to enroll 200 businesses in Bellevue’s downtown core and reduce their energy use by five percent, for savings worth more than a million dollars over the next two years.  If successful, PSE will expand the program to other cities around the region.