Mayor McGinn has issued an executive order directing Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) to work to become carbon neutral by 2015. Seattle City Light has been carbon neutral since 2005, leading the way for our other utilities and agencies.
Our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are critical given the dramatic impacts we can expect from unchecked climate change. It is also important because this type of commitment spurs creativity and innovation as we devise ways to transition towards low-carbon energy sources.
Seattle’s Cedar River Masonry Pool Dam
SPU emits greenhouse gases as part of its delivery of essential utility services. The vast majority of the Utility’s emissions are from the fleet of heavy trucks it operates to service the infrastructure it maintains and from the treatment of water that is delivered to 1.4 million people in the region. To achieve climate neutrality, SPU plans follow the model established by Seattle City Light which achieves neutrality through conservation, renewable energy use and carbon offsets.
Over time, SPU will evaluate opportunities to reduce its energy and fuel use and become more energy efficient, as well as generate and/or purchase renewable energy. In the short term, as SPU evaluates energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities, it will purchase carbon offsets.
At current market prices and 2009 levels of emissions, achieving neutrality through the purchase of offsets would cost an estimated $160,000 per year, assuming roughly 20,000 metric tons of emissions and a market price of $8 a ton. That’s roughly equivalent to taking 4,200 passenger cars (averaging 21.5 miles per gallon and traveling 11,500 miles per year) off the road.