Dow Constantine Draws Blinds, Hopes to Cut County Energy Consumption 10 Percent in Two Years

With air conditioning units whirring nearby on the roof of the Chinook building, King County Executive Dow Constantine pledged to reduce the amount of energy each county building uses by 10 percent in the next two years with at least half of all energy consumed coming from renewable sources.

The sweltering-for-Seattle temperatures aren't helping.

In addition to trying to make the county greener, it's part of Constantine's plan to try and nickel and dime his way out of multi-million dollar deficits projected over the next two years.

Constantine's announcement today was essentially a rehashing of a similar plan created by former Executive Ron Sims in 2007. That year Sims set more or less the same goals: a 10 percent reduction in overall energy use at the county with a goal of having 50 percent of the energy used in everything but cars and buses come from renewable sources like water and wind.

It's understandable why Constantine would ride Sims' coattails on energy efficiency -- the Sims plan appears to be working. According to Constantine, building retrofits started under the Sims administration are now saving the county about $2 million a year in energy costs.

The problem is, with major building retrofits already done, the $2 million in savings is already been built into the county budget. So it won't help reduce the projected $60 million deficit next year.

Now Constantine has to come up with smaller, less obvious ways of saving kilowatts and money. To do that, Constantine says he's looking to individual employees to help save energy costs. "In my office... we have drawn the blinds," he notes.

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