Kirkland takes next step in climate action | Commentary

During the Kirkland 2035 process, “sustainability” and “green” were among the most prevalent words heard from both residents and businesses throughout the community conversations about our city’s future. With this in mind, the Kirkland City Council continues to find ways to do our part to protect the climate.

In May, the council took another giant step on the path toward sustainability when we voted unanimously to participate in Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct Program for the next 10 years. Green Direct is an energy project that will enable all city facilities including Kirkland City Hall, the Kirkland Justice Center, both parks and public works maintenance centers, the community centers and the fire stations to be powered with 100 percent clean, green power. With this commitment from Kirkland and others, the power will be generated from a brand-new wind facility in Southwest Washington, which is expected to come on-line in 2019.

The city’s power costs are locked in under the Green Direct contract. Projections show that the city will save about $85,000 under conservative assumptions about the market price of electricity. This is a win for Kirkland taxpayers, reduces our greenhouse gas emissions and represents significant progress toward our climate goals while reducing pollution related to energy production.

Participation in the Green Direct program is the latest action where Kirkland has joined efforts to protect the climate. Through the Solarize Kirkland program, many Kirkland homeowners have put solar panels on their homes. The city now encourages new homes to be solar-ready when they are built.

In 2005, the city council endorsed the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, discussing how local government could move forward for reducing global warming pollution independent of federal policy. In 2007, Kirkland adopted greenhouse gas reduction targets to reduce 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. In 2009, the council adopted a climate protection action plan.

In 2012, Kirkland was a founding member of the King County Climate Change Collaborative (K4C), a partnership between cities and King County to work together and share ideas and best practices on climate efforts.

Much of the solution to global climate challenge is local. An analysis done as part of Kirkland’s climate protection action plan shows the biggest drivers of greenhouse gas pollution are power generation, transportation fuels and energy use of our buildings. Kirkland is supporting green power efforts through our city’s own actions and encouraging Kirkland residents and businesses to purchase green power.

Transportation policies encourage transit, walking and biking, as well as supporting the evolution to electric vehicles. Smart growth policies reduce the need to drive by putting jobs and services closer to home.

Building codes, Kirkland’s green building program and incentives make our buildings more efficient — and one new home in Kirkland even meets a net-zero energy standard. Net-zero energy means that the home produces as much energy (using solar panels) over the course of a year as the homeowners use. More net-zero homes are being built as you read this, which is creating synergy and empowering citizens and developers alike to produce even more energy efficient homes.

As part of work outlined in our comprehensive plan, we hope to create a Kirkland Sustainability Master Plan beginning next year. Kirkland’s sustainability and livability has happened because of the vision, passion and ideas that have come from you. We look forward to your ideas on the next things we can do to fulfil our Kirkland 2035 vision statement that “Kirkland strives to be a model, sustainable city… for our enjoyment and future generations.”

Kirkland Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold represents Kirkland on the King County Cities Climate Collaborative. Councilmembers Dave Asher and Jon Pascal serve on the council’s Parks and Public Works Committee.