The King County Library System is continually working to improve patron experiences, and is committed to being a positive force in our communities. This includes tackling the global challenge of climate change.
KCLS has enrolled in two of Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) renewable energy programs, creating a partnership that allows us to power libraries with electricity generated with 100% renewable energy and match natural gas usage with carbon offsets. It is an exciting opportunity for the Library System, enabling it to help address climate change by supporting alternative energy sources.
As part of the Green Power program, the electricity KCLS uses and purchases is matched with so-called renewable energy certificates (RECs), which certify that renewable energy is added to the grid on behalf of the purchaser. The majority of the renewable energy comes from wind, which is naturally replenishing and will not run out, and creates less pollution than fossil fuels. The other alternative energy source, biogas, is a natural by-product commonly released at dairy farms and landfills.
The Carbon Balance program neutralizes the Library System’s natural gas-related carbon footprint. Now KCLS matches natural gas usage with “carbon offsets,” each of which represents one metric ton of carbon reduction. These carbon offsets come from Pacific Northwest forests, which actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.
The PSE partnership is reducing KCLS’ carbon footprint, helping to remove from the environment an estimated 19.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year.
“The partnership with PSE has been essential in our efforts to further improve our buildings’ energy efficiency,” said Fernando Melendez, KCLS construction project manager. “Moving forward, as we work to meet state and federal energy efficiency requirements, PSE will play a vital role in guiding our efforts.”
Participating in the PSE programs are 45 KCLS libraries and two administrative buildings (the Service Center in Issaquah and the Materials Handling and Distribution Center in Preston). Four other KCLS libraries (Boulevard Park, Burien, Greenbridge and White Center) are not part of the program; they are powered by Seattle City Light, as is the Patricia H. Clark Children and Family Justice Center, which hosts a separate KCLS library service.
The partnership plays an important role in KCLS’ Capital Investment Program (CIP), which aims to move the Library System closer to compliance with Washington State’s Climate Commitment Act and the Strategic Climate Action Plan. Various projects focus on reducing the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of KCLS’ largest facilities, and meeting King County’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50% by 2025 (compared to 2007 levels).
The Green Power program adds to green efforts already underway at KCLS, which has long committed to environmental stewardship. KCLS’ Capital Bond Building Program, made possible by a voter-approved bond measure in 2004 and completed in 2019, included eco-friendly building designs, green roofs, rain gardens and other features ranging from carpeting to plumbing. Although it was too costly to LEED-certify all projects, two libraries–Duvall and Burien-received silver LEED certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Several years ago, KCLS enhanced this commitment through its Green Initiative, encompassing actions that range from how we maintain our facilities to paperless invoicing.
Greg Smith, Director of KCLS Facilities Management Services, said the Library System will continue to be proactive in response to a changing energy and regulatory landscape. KCLS is pursuing early adopter incentives, for example, and is researching electric vehicles, although KCLS’ mobile outreach vehicles are not yet available in electric formats.
More eco-friendly changes are underway, including switching to more energy-efficient LED lighting in May at the Service Center, one of KCLS’ largest buildings. Future projects include mechanical-system retrofits and converting natural gas equipment with electricity when feasible, in accordance with code requirements.
“KCLS is very interested in doing its part to help reduce its carbon footprint, as we know how important it is to the environment,” Smith said. “It is the responsible thing to do.”