Bellingham Climate Action

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morning skyline of Mount Baker with birds flying by


With the help and support of our community, the City of Bellingham is developing and implementing strategies to reduce the impact of government and community activities on our climate. This is necessary in order to create a healthy, vibrant, safe and equitable home for current and future generations, as promised in Bellingham’s Legacies and Strategic Commitments.

In April 2020, City Council approved a process for identifying which measures from Bellingham’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) and recommendations from the Climate Task Force (CTF) Final Report will be prioritized for implementation. After public input and approval from Council, the highest priority measures identified through this process will result in a Climate Implementation Plan that will be reviewed and updated annually.

Achieving our climate goals will only be possible with everyone in our community taking steps towards securing a clean and vibrant future and through that, we will continue to make progress on achieving Bellingham’s climate goals. We encourage community members who are ready to engage in climate action to participate in the following ways:

  • Take the survey to tell us about your biggest obstacles
  • Ask us a question
  • Learn more and take the I’M IN pledge
  • Sign up for climate email updates.


With the help and support of our community, the City of Bellingham is developing and implementing strategies to reduce the impact of government and community activities on our climate. This is necessary in order to create a healthy, vibrant, safe and equitable home for current and future generations, as promised in Bellingham’s Legacies and Strategic Commitments.

In April 2020, City Council approved a process for identifying which measures from Bellingham’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) and recommendations from the Climate Task Force (CTF) Final Report will be prioritized for implementation. After public input and approval from Council, the highest priority measures identified through this process will result in a Climate Implementation Plan that will be reviewed and updated annually.

Achieving our climate goals will only be possible with everyone in our community taking steps towards securing a clean and vibrant future and through that, we will continue to make progress on achieving Bellingham’s climate goals. We encourage community members who are ready to engage in climate action to participate in the following ways:

  • Take the survey to tell us about your biggest obstacles
  • Ask us a question
  • Learn more and take the I’M IN pledge
  • Sign up for climate email updates.

Please submit your questions about Bellingham climate action here and a staff member will respond to you within 5-business days.

Questions?

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    When will policy changes get implemented? I've been following this timeline since late last year and I'm concerned that it's taking too long to go from planning to policy changes. I understand COVID-19 is probably making this dramatically more difficult than expected. To clarify, I'm thinking of policy changes like electrification requirements and building efficiency requirements (not just municipal but community-wide). I'm looking forward to this so we can get serious about the necessary GHG reductions in our city. Thanks!

    Matt M asked 5 months ago

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for reaching out and for your concern. I can understand why the Climate Policy Vetting Process we are in seems slow. The aim of our process has been achieving the greatest reduction in carbon emissions over the shortest amount of time. We want to do as much as we can, as quickly as is feasible. The current climate situation demands that this be our goal, heightened by the unprecedented wildfires that have been ravaging the West Coast, added to all of the other stories and warnings we've been hearing about for the last two decades. We’re hearing from City Council and the public regarding the importance of this issue, and we are attempting to do what we’ve been asked to do by City Council as quickly as we can. Again, our goal is the greatest carbon emissions reduction over the shortest amount of time. We believe that through lighter study of all of our 145 options, detailed analysis of the best of them, and good stakeholder outreach regarding program creation, we will make the biggest dent over the long haul. We have been concerned that quick action might feel good but could hamper long term efforts. Our current strategy is slower-paced than we might like, but we believe it will have the best outcome in the end. 

    At this point, we’ll be asking City Council to amend the Climate Action Plan with many of the items that made it to Filter #2 in our process on October 26th. After that, we’ll be putting together an implementation plan for those items and then moving into program creation. Just a note, any new policies or ordinances need to go back to City Council for approval, even if an item is included in our Climate Action Plan and work plans. 

    Thanks again for your concern. I’m happy to chat further regarding this topic: savidana@cob.org

    Best,

    Seth


    Seth Vidaña
    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Climate and Energy Manager

    Public Works - Natural Resources Division

    360-778-7999 | savidana@cob.org | www.cob.org/climate

    104 W. Magnolia Street, Bellingham, WA 98225

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    1. Why does PSE administer solar panel refunds from the state? This is a conflict of interest. *especially* the once-per-year saved-energy purge -- why do they get to do this? Why can't that saved energy either stay banked for me, or be something I can donate to community members in need? Why does it go back to PSE. Straight-up theft, as it is currently. 2. How can we work toward battery stations that houses / neighborhoods can store excess electricity into -- so houses that cannot put enough solar panels on the roof can buy power from it, rather than PSE. 3. Why doesn't the city make solar panels / south-facing roofs, etc. mandatory on new construction?

    David asked 7 months ago

    Hi David,

    Thanks for reaching out. Would you have five minutes to chat on the phone re your questions? That might be the fastest way to get you some info. You can find my contact info below.


    Best,

    Seth

    Seth Vidaña
     
    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Climate and Energy Manager

    Public Works - Natural Resources Division

    360-778-7999 | savidana@cob.org | www.cob.org/climate

    104 W. Magnolia Street, Bellingham, WA 98225


    Hi David,

    Just following up here: Thanks for your questions. I’ll answer these one-by-one:

     

    1. Why does PSE administer solar panel refunds from the state? This is a conflict of interest. *especially* the once-per-year saved-energy purge -- why do they get to do this? Why can't that saved energy either stay banked for me, or be something I can donate to community members in need? Why does it go back to PSE. Straight-up theft, as it is currently. 


    I posed your question to PSE staff and here is their response:

     “The Net Metering law (RCW 80.60) is what WA state lawmakers have deemed beneficial to support the adoption of solar energy, while also fair to non-solar electric utility customers. The law provides that solar customers "bank" kwhs during bill periods in which they produce more than they use and allows them to draw down that bank during winter months to offset consumption.  This allows customers to have all the advantages of the electric grid and to save the full retail rate of electricity for every kWh of solar power they produce.  The Net Metering law is designed to let customers use solar like conservation for their own energy use regardless of the timing when the solar energy is produced.  However, net metering is not intended to encourage sizing a solar array larger than the customer’s annual energy use.  State law has always included an annual "reset" of banked net meter credit to balance the cost of net metering for all the other ratepayers. In 2019, SB 5223 increased utility net metering limits by 8 times and moved the date of the annual net meter bank reset from April 30 to March 31st to more closely align with annual solar production.  This was widely championed and supported by solar advocates and industry.


    The Washington State Renewable Energy Incentive Program (first enacted in 2005, with changes to the program made by SB 5939 in 2017 and defined in 82.16.110-170) was established as a way to further encourage adoption of solar energy.  This program is taxpayer funded (not PSE or PSE ratepayer money).  State lawmakers chose to make this a production-based incentive program rather than a rebate in order to avoid the pitfalls of paying for poorly built systems.  The utility serves two roles which makes this possible: 1. They have the metering infrastructure necessary for measuring and recording each system’s production and 2. They already have a financial relationship (an electric account) with each participant.   The state money flows to participants by way of the utility voluntarily administering individual payments to their account holders and then taking an equal credit on the state Public Utility Tax.  Since Washington does not have individual income tax, lawmakers did not see an easier path to administer state funds to individuals annually.”



    2. How can we work toward battery stations that houses / neighborhoods can store excess electricity into -- so houses that cannot put enough solar panels on the roof can buy power from it, rather than PSE.


    Battery banks are not currently listed within the Climate Action Plan and are not part of the City work plan for 2021, however, we are always taking in new ideas for the following year’s activities. I’ll write this one down for consideration. I also posed this question to Puget Sound Energy, and this was included in their response: "PSE is currently exploring the role of energy storage and microgrids through a number of demonstrations across our service territory (ex. Tenino Microgrid) that will help us learn about how to integrate solar resources, manage backfeed, and develop local resilience through microgrid functionality."


    3. Why doesn't the city make solar panels / south-facing roofs, etc. mandatory on new construction?


    Requirements for solar panels on new construction is not policy or code in the City of Bellingham. This idea is not currently listed within the Climate Action Plan and is not part of the City work plan for 2021, however, we are always taking in new ideas for the following year’s activities. I’ll write this one down for consideration.

     

    If you have further questions, feel free to reach out via engage Bellingham or though my work email: savidana@cob.org


    Best,
     Seth


    Seth Vidaña
     
    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Climate and Energy Manager

    Public Works - Natural Resources Division

    360-778-7999 | savidana@cob.org | www.cob.org/climate

    104 W. Magnolia Street, Bellingham, WA 98225


     


    Sign up at Engage Bellingham, our online venue for public feedback about key projects.
     

     My incoming and outgoing email messages are subject to public disclosure requirements per RCW 42.56.


     



     

    My incoming and outgoing email messages are subject to public disclosure requirements per RCW 42.56.

    This e-mail may contain confidential and privileged information. If you have received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender and delete the e-mail. Thank you. 

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    This isn't about climate change but about this website's format? How am I supposed to ask question if you turn off the ability to post a question? All I want to do is contact someone who works in the transportation department to talk about an issue my neighbors and I have been seeing in our neighborhood. How am I supposed to even direct this issue to someone when you remove the ability to even post a question? So I'm doing it in this post. Please email me.

    Gilley asked 6 months ago

    Thank you for your feedback about your experience with Engage Bellingham. We are excited about this new tool for connecting with our community and we’re still learning how best to use it. We appreciate you sharing that it wasn’t clear how to reach us for projects and questions not directly addressed on our Engage Bellingham site. We’ll use this feedback as we fine-tune the site in the weeks and months ahead. For your transportation related questions, please direct your questions to the Public Works Department at AskPW@cob.org or 360-778-7800.

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    Why can't you tell citizens of Bellingham about the Tier 2 #3 Electrify Existing Buildings proposal now, so that they can plan and will not purchase the gas systems and appliances with rebates that the gas companies are pushing?

    Starflower asked 6 months ago

     

    Hi Starflower,

    Thanks for your question. I think you are referring to Measure B5: Electrify Existing Buildings, which was a recommendation within the Climate Task Force’s 2019 report. The Climate Task Force was commissioned to investigate whether the carbon emission reduction goals in City’s Climate Protection Plan could be met at an earlier date. All the measures contained within that document are recommendations only and would need to be approved by City Council as policy for us encourage people to not purchase gas appliances. The Electrify Existing Buildings recommendation is currently under consideration through the Climate Policy Approval Process and will need further study before it can be promoted to Filter #2. 

    If you have further questions, feel free to reach out via engage Bellingham or though my work email: <savidana@cob.org>

    Best,
    Seth


    Seth Vidaña
     
    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Climate and Energy Manager

    Public Works - Natural Resources Division

    360-778-7999 | savidana@cob.org | www.cob.org/climate

    104 W. Magnolia Street, Bellingham, WA 98225


     


    Sign up at Engage Bellingham, our online venue for public feedback about key projects.
     

     My incoming and outgoing email messages are subject to public disclosure requirements per RCW 42.56.

     

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    We have natural gas heat in our home which is economical and affords quality warmth. It is much better then heat from a heat pump system. I have not seen any specific data on the benefit to overall goals changing out a home gas heating system will accomplish. Also why was Cascade Natural Gas included in the original development of goals. You included an entity that had conflicting interest or electric and gas?

    Tom asked 7 months ago

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your question here. Would you have 5 minutes to chat via phone? My contact info is below.

    Thanks,

    Seth Vidaña
     
    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Climate and Energy Manager

    Public Works - Natural Resources Division

    360-778-7999 | savidana@cob.org | www.cob.org/climate

    104 W. Magnolia Street, Bellingham, WA 98225



    Tom, 

    Just following up here: Thanks for your question and for your time on the phone. In terms of carbon emissions reductions, switching your home heating source from natural gas fired furnace to an electric heat pump is a reduction in carbon emissions due to the carbon content of the energy powering each of those systems. We estimate that switching from a 95% efficient condensing furnace that burns natural gas to a “mini-split” heat pump with a Heating Seasonal Performance Factor of 14 (a measure of efficiency) that uses electricity will reduce carbon emissions between 25% and 40%. In addition, as Puget Sound Energy adds more renewable energy resources to their energy portfolio that difference will continue to grow.

    If you are referring to the development of the goals within the Climate Action Plan or the Climate Task Force document, Cascade Natural Gas was not included in the development of those goals.

     
    If you have further questions, feel free to reach out via engage Bellingham or though my work email: <savidana@cob.org>

    Best,

    Seth

    Seth Vidaña
     
    Pronouns: He/him/his

    Climate and Energy Manager

    Public Works - Natural Resources Division

    360-778-7999 | savidana@cob.org | www.cob.org/climate

    104 W. Magnolia Street, Bellingham, WA 98225


     


    Sign up at Engage Bellingham, our online venue for public feedback about key projects.
     

     My incoming and outgoing email messages are subject to public disclosure requirements per RCW 42.56.