Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville declared 2016 the “Energy Year.” The challenge will support efforts to save energy, increase the use of renewable sources as well as address climate change. This is in conjunction with utility companies, nonprofits and local businesses.
It is also a part of an attempt by the city to win $5 million as part of a two-year energy competition run by Georgetown University.
Beginning in 2015, Bellingham became one of 50 towns, cities and counties across the US to make it into the semifinals of the Georgetown University Energy Prize. Bellingham is currently in eighth place.
Each group is monitoring it’s energy usage, carbon footprint and money savings in homes, schools and municipal buildings.
Bellingham has the Bellingham Energy Challenge, capital investments in city buildings and schools, (the city is in the currently switching out all its streetlights for LEDs). There are rebates and subsidies from Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Natural Gas, and there is a water-use efficiency program.
Residents can help by creating a free online account at BellinghamEnergyPrize.org and setting up a plan to make energy-efficient improvements in their homes.
A few suggestions are to vacuum the dryer vent that leads outside your home to clear it making your dryer more efficient. Other suggestions are “use power strips” to avoid “vampire” energy use by chargers and televisions; switch light bulbs from halogen to LEDs to save money and energy; add drapes and rugs to save on heating costs; and set your thermostat to lower heat levels when you’re not home so you’re not heating an empty house.
The city hopes to get 5,000 homes into the program in 2016, and are well on the way with 2,000 already involved.
Sustainable Connections and the Opportunity Council already operate the Community Energy Challenge, which provides energy assessments for homes and businesses and helps people figure out how to save energy.
Sustainable Connections is also promoting “Solarize Whatcom,” to help people learn about having locally produced solar panels installed on their homes and take advantage of low interest rates through Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union. Prices on solar keep coming down and payback is quicker than you would imagine. There is also another local benefit. A solar panel will be donated to the Bellingham Food Bank with every contract signed during the campaign, thanks to Itek Energy, a local solar panel manufacturer, and Ecotech Solar, and Western Solar, local installers.
Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Natural Gas have tax incentives and credits for switching to more efficient appliances. PSE also has a voluntary Green Power Program that allows customers to offset their carbon footprint by buying into renewable energy sources.
The contest go’s through December 2016, the winners will be announced in 2017.