Washington State House Democrats


Ramel Bills to Improve Building Energy Systems Pass House of Representatives

OLYMPIA — Two priority clean energy bills, sponsored by Representative Alex Ramel, D- Bellingham, addressing building energy use have passed the Washington State House of Representatives this week.

“Each of these bills is an important step toward clean energy deployment and energy independence. Buildings are one of the toughest energy-using sectors to address as we work to turn the tide on the climate crisis,” said Representative Ramel. “The good news is that we have the technology and the know-how; we just need to get it deployed. Whether it’s whole university campuses, apartment buildings, or small businesses, Washington state is moving forward to upgrade our buildings, create thousands of living wage jobs, and reduce energy costs all at the same time.”

House Bill 1390 would require state campus district energy systems to develop a decarbonization plan and provide privately owned district energy systems a chance to opt-in if they improve the efficiency of their energy generation and distribution.

Under this proposal, state owned district energy systems would increase building efficiency by upgrading to more efficient sources of energy generation. These upgrades would provide job opportunities in the energy sector and apply to the state capitol campus, universities, and correctional facilities. Historically, district energy systems have relied on a central heating plant using gas boilers and pumping steam to buildings. As of 2022, there is a significant maintenance backlog for these systems.

When asked about House Bill 1390, Rep. Ramel shared that “replacing central heating plants with more efficient and environmentally friendly sources of energy isn’t just the environmental decision. Ultimately, it will save campuses resources in the long term, build out public-private partnerships, and bring some of the state’s largest energy systems in line with building performance standards”. The legislation passed with a strong bipartisan vote of 92-4, and heads to the Senate.

House Bill 1391 would create a simplified process for homeowners, renters and small businesses to access cost effective ways to improve a buildings energy efficiency by creating a Statewide Building Energy Upgrade Navigator Program.

“Technological solutions to make our buildings more efficient and more affordable to operate are all at the ready,” said Rep. Ramel. “Heat pumps, distributed renewable energy, smart grid appliances and good old insulation are all ready to be deployed at scale. We know how to meet out climate goals for our buildings. Now, it’s a matter of creating an easy button for it”.

The proposed Statewide Building Energy Upgrade Navigator Program would tailor advice to Washingtonians based on the geographic location of a building, income-based opportunities, building type and other variables. If enacted, the program will especially focus on ensuring that low-income Washingtonians and disadvantaged communities can fully benefit from energy upgrades, cleaner air, and cost savings.

The bill couldn’t come at a better time with funding and rebates from the Inflation Reduction Act’s numerous energy programs that will be available soon.