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Mayor Durkan Proposes $1.7 Million in 2022 Budget to Fund Oil-to-Electric Heat Pump Conversions for Low-and-Middle-Income Households

Investment supports efforts to reduce pollution to meet climate goals, prevent soil and groundwater contamination, and improve air quality

In her 2022 budget address, Mayor Durkan announced $1.7 million to support residents in converting from dirty and expensive heating oil to clean electric heat pumps, including funds to provide no-cost heat pumps for approximately 125 low-income households. The budget also funds inclusive outreach and engagement with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities that have borne the worst impacts of climate change, environmental hazards, and systemic racism.   

In 2019, Seattle passed the Heating Oil Tax, which sets a.24 cents per gallon tax on oil service providers with a goal to fully phase out the use of oil heat by 2028. Delayed due to COVID-19, the heating oil tax law will go into effect in April 2022 and create a funding source that helps pay for electric heat pumps for low- and middle-income households currently heating with oil.  

“We can’t wait any longer to stop burning fossil fuels. Our climate and our communities need action now,” said Jenny Durkan, Mayor, City of Seattle. “With these funds, we are seeking to backfill lost revenue from the delayed oil heat tax and accelerate Seattle’s efforts to phase out polluting fossil fuels and provide residents in need with cleaner air, lower bills, and air conditioning for our increasingly dangerous summer heat.”  

Eliminating the use of fossil fuels is a critical component to meeting Seattle’s climate goals and stemming the worse impacts of climate change. Heating oil represents 16-18% of total carbon pollution in the residential sector and 9% of carbon pollution in the total buildings sector. It is estimated that more than 400,000 MTC02e will be reduced over a 10-year period by phasing out heating oil to clean electricity. 

“Buildings are responsible for more than 1/3rd of Seattle’s climate pollution and rising,” said Christine Bunch, Climate & Energy Advisor, Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment. “We estimate that there are between 15,000 and 18,000 households in Seattle heating with oil. Converting them to Seattle’s clean electricity will reduce our climate pollution by the same amount as taking 90,000 cars off the road for an entire year.”  

In addition to reducing carbon emissions, converting households from oil to clean electricity also has these benefits: 

  • Reducing pollution, overall energy use, and heating bills through the equitable adoption of clean heating technologies such as heat pumps.  
  • Air-conditioning and air filtration that will be important as we experience longer summers,  hotter temperatures, and more wildfire smoke due to climate change. 
  • Preventing future oil leaks from underground storage tanks that can contaminate the soil and ground water, and that can be hazardous to human health.  
  • Reducing future environmental damage, cleanup costs, and economic burdens to households. 

In future years, this programming at both the Office of Sustainability and Environment and Office of Housing will be supported by revenues from the Heating Oil Tax, which has been delayed until April 2022.  

“Providing no-cost conversions from heating oil to electric heat pumps has made a huge difference in the lives of the homeowners and families we have served so far,” said Emily Alvarado, Director, Seattle Office of Housing. “Not only do these conversions keep residents healthier and more comfortable throughout the year, but the associated energy savings also help low- and middle-income households afford to stay in their homes. This is especially important for households of color who are at the greatest risk of experiencing displacement, housing instability, and negative health outcomes from climate change and other environmental factors.” 

Since 2017, the City has provided nearly 775 rebates and since 2019 has converted 65 low-income households at no cost, to clean electric heat pumps. The City offers a $1,500 instant rebate on qualified heat pumps installed by a participating installer. A list of installers can be found at  Mayor Durkan released her proposed 2022 budget and transmitted to council on Monday, September 27. More here: