The Snohomish County Public Utility District unveiled two new small hydro projects in Snoqualmie Valley Thursday. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

The Snohomish County Public Utility District unveiled two new small hydro projects in Snoqualmie Valley Thursday. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)

Snohomish County makes clean energy pledge

The goal is to run government operations entirely on clean, renewable energy by 2045.

EVERETT — On Wednesday, the Snohomish County Council committed to transitioning to a 100 percent “clean, renewable” energy for government operations by 2045. To do this, the county plans to reduce energy consumption through retrofits, purchase vehicles that don’t run on petroleum fuels, upgrade to LED lighting and install solar panels on county buildings with storage capacity.

The move was proposed by several local environmental groups, including the Snohomish County chapter of The Climate Reality Project, Sierra Club, 350 Everett and the statewide group Environment Washington. Councilmembers unanimously approved the change, which also drew support from County Executive Dave Somers.

“I want to thank the council for taking steps to conserve our national environment and putting the health and the general welfare of the residents first,” said Mike Mallory, a member of The Climate Reality Project, addressing the council Wednesday. “While I believe the transition to renewable energy is inevitable, I think timing is everything.”

The resolution sets out several actions to be taken by the county to reach the goal of running county operations on only renewable energy. This includes developing a clean energy plan and adopting a construction policy that will require all new county facilities be built using LEED gold standards, a rating system for green buildings. The resolution also calls for establishing a fund to pay for conservation retrofits and upgrades.

To tackle the county’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the transportation sector according to the resolution, the county plans to develop a policy to build a fleet of green vehicles.

“I think this shows the county can be a leader, and hopefully citizens will be inspired to take action,” said Nate Nehring, the council member who led the move, after the vote.

On Wednesday, council members also established a goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2030 for county buildings by shifting to hydropower, solar and wind resources entirely.

That aim is feasible, said Aaron Swaney, a spokesman for the Snohomish County Public Utility District, which provides power to the county.

The utility has already done the same for Edmonds, he said. In 2017, the city set a goal of having 100 percent clean energy to power city buildings by 2019.

About 90 percent of the county’s power provided by the PUD is generated by hydropower.

“Most of the non-clean energy comes from market purchases,” Swaney said.

Snohomish County is the fifth government in Washington state to set a goal of 100 percent clean energy, after Edmonds, Whatcom County, Bellingham and Spokane, according to Environment Washington.

A handful of county residents spoke during public comment to encourage a yes vote.

“We’re reached a tipping point. We can’t ignore it anymore,” said Rebekah Alpisa, after the vote.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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