Bellevue and Bellingham are neck-and-neck in a national contest to be the greenest mid-sized city in the country. Now the two cities are engaged in a friendly battle to see which can cut more energy usage in their homes, schools and city buildings, regardless of where they finish in the national competition.
Bellevue and Bellingham are currently tied for fourth place among 50 cities vying for a $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize by reducing energy use and raising awareness about conservation over a two-year period.
“The $5 million prize is certainly a strong incentive, but it’s the title of being the most green that we’re after,” said Bellevue Mayor John Stokes. “Bellevue strives to be an innovative city, especially when it comes to saving money through energy efficiency. Weâ€™re really looking forward to this friendly competition with our Bellingham neighbors!”
“I am excited that Washington cities are so committed to developing a cleaner, more efficient energy future for our state,” said Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville. “Bellingham is happy to accept the challenge from Bellevue, and we will be even happier to accept their congratulations when we win the Georgetown prize. Earlier this year, I declared 2016 to be ‘Energy Yea’ in Bellingham, and we will be putting forward our best effort.”
Bellevue residents can take a pledge to be “Energy Smart,” and reduce their energy use in easy ways. Turning down thermostats at bedtime, turning off electronics and washing clothes in cold water could save residents 16 to 20 percent annually on their energy bill ($333 to $417).
Residents signing the pledge will be entered to win energy-saving devices, such as smart power strips, LED lightbulb kits and solar mobile phone chargers. If all Bellevue households take this pledge, the city has the potential to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 59,000 metric tons.
The Eastside Energy Corps, a team of students from middle schools and high schools around Bellevue, is supporting the competition by spreading the word about Energy Smart in their schools and energizing other young people about how saving energy helps our environment.
Bellingham’s effort is organized into a campaign called the Bellingham Energy Prize. Prize partners include Bellingham Public Schools, Community Energy Challenge, Northwest Clean Air Agency, Opportunity Council, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Connections and Western Washington University — with support from utilities Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Natural Gas.
The mayor of the city that comes in second in the Bellevue-Bellingham competition will send a basket of local food items to the mayor of the winning city.
The Georgetown prize was established to spur energy-saving innovations with competition. Bellingham and Bellevue are semifinalists after they submitted detailed, long-term plans for cutting energy consumption in their communities.
Energy use in all of the semifinalist cities over 2015 and 2016 is being measured. The winner will be announced in the summer of 2017, based not only on the amount of energy reduced, but also on the number of people participating in the campaign and the innovation and replicability of the city’s programs. That city will use the $5 million for energy efficiency projects.