Category Archives: Grants

Ellensburg’s energy strategy shows one size does not fit all

The following post is by Kathleen O’Brien:

I had the pleasure this past month of presenting the final product of a two-year process with the City of Ellensburg and its residents for approval. The Energy Efficiency & Conservation Strategy (EE&CS) is one of dozens across the country that were funded through DOE Energy Block Grants. In this case, the grant was administered by the State’s Department of Commerce and locally by the city’s Planning Department.

There are basic elements that are required for every EE&CS, such as developing a vision statement and goals through a public process, and reviewing existing conditions to measure progress. But in looking at the various EE&CS produced around the U.S., it’s clear that each community leaves its very own stamp on the process.
Anyone who’s traveled to Ellensburg for its annual rodeo knows the city has an independent streak, so it is no surprise its EE&CS should be a “little different.” The EE&CS draws on the fact that Ellensburg is one of the few cities of its size that has its own electric utility, and was the first city to create a community-funded renewable energy park, so there was a lot already happening.
In addition, the EE&CS was aligned with a concurrent update of the Land Development Code to make hay of opportunities to use the code to encourage energy efficiency in development and transportation.


Another defining aspect is that the city clearly wanted a planning tool, not a plan. So although there are guidelines and templates for developing plans that address the strategy’s focus areas, and background information from which to draw on, the action plans themselves are left for the city and community to complete over the next planning cycle(s).
Case studies in the EE&CS document are meant to inspire local action, not be imported. The upside of this approach is flexibility, something the city really wanted. The downside (and frankly this is always the danger) is that the EE&CS could end up sitting on a shelf.
When asked by a Council member what would make the difference between successfully implementing the EE&CS tool and its being shelved, I responded: “The difference is you — your leadership will make the difference.”
After a brief pause, the council member said gamely: “I think you’re right!” and his fellow members of the council grinned. The EE&CS was unanimously adopted.
Let’s see what happens next!

Kathleen O’Brien is a long time advocate for green building and sustainable development since before it was “cool.” She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. Having recently sold her firm, O’Brien & Company, she is now focused on leadership work with those “still in the trenches.” For more info see

Looking for energy incentives and rebates? This may be your answer

This is a monthly post by different representatives of the Northwest Building Efficiency Center. This post was written by Margaret Thomas. 

As a librarian for several years at a library specializing in the area of nbec-logo-sq-3colorsmall.jpgenergy, I responded to questions about energy-efficiency from homeowners, and those responsible for building, renovating or maintaining commercial buildings.

Often, what they wanted to know is: are there any rebates or other financial incentives to help me pay for energy-efficiency improvements? Of course there are, but they are as scattered and unpredictable as mercury on a marble floor.

A variety of utility, local, state and federal organizations offer help. But their programs are buffeted by budget cycles and political whims—they come and go with the seasons. Who keeps up? The Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

The Web site comes with a dangerous URL: Get it wrong and you may be in for a shock. Get it right and you are connected to the single most useful and up-to-date source I know of for information about financial incentives.

DSIRE has been around for more than a decade and established itself as a central clearinghouse for information about financial incentives from every source. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the database is managed by the North Carolina Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. They contact program managers regularly and update the database daily.

Posted on the front page is a clickable map of the United States. Choose any state and you get a menu including applicable grants, rebates, tax exemptions, and loan programs. The site also keeps track of relevant rules, regulations and policies.

If you don’t have time to clip coupons or shop around for energy incentives, bookmark DSIREUSA. It’s sites like this that can make a librarian feel as useless as the Maytag Repairman.

King County grant for spill “first aid” and 150 hazardous sites around Pioneer Square….

household hazardous waste disposalHumans aren’t perfect. Machinery is big. Despite our very best efforts, sometimes things spill.

King County knows that but it also knows a quick response to fuel, oil and lubricant spills will stop the problem from getting bigger and (more importantly?) more expensive.

So the county, together with DBM Contractors, is offering a one-time $10,000 grant to the organization that develops and implements the best job site spill response protocol for minor spills. There’s a catch though: only schools, special districts, tribes, local governments and private nonprofits are eligible to apply.

To all you bright private company professionals, would you apply for this grant if it were open to you? Would $10,000 be enough to illicit a response or is it not enough to make it worth your while? It seems to me like people that work near, about or around machines every day could have some pretty innovative ideas about how to fix this, so why leave them out of the running? Do you agree or am I way off the mark?

And another thing, one guideline says the protocol must primarily benefit King County. Nonprofits, local governments… would this help or hinder your interest in the project? For more info on the grant, go here.

And in Pioneer Square….. 

While we’re on the topic of hazardous sites, I discovered a really interesting tool today called MapHazards that conveniently showed me the 150 hazardous sites around the area I work in (Pioneer Square) ranging from an old brownfield 250 feet away to leaking underground storage tanks to hazardous waste generators… before it annoyingly informed me this was just a sample and I had to pay for other reports (don’t you hate that?!) See the report for my workspace here.

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