King County

King County, Washington


Background Information

King County and 13 cities — Bellevue, Burien, Issaquah, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Normandy Park, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Seattle, Shoreline, Snoqualmie, and Tukwila — have formed a partnership known as the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C), to collaboratively confront climate change. The K4C has established countywide greenhouse gas reduction targets: 25% by 2020, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, compared to 2007. In support of these targets, they have also set goals to increase countywide renewable electricity from 64% in 2015 to 90% by 2030.

Building on this foundation of shared, community-scale targets for climate and energy, King County updated its Strategic Climate Action Plan (SCAP) in 2015 with specific goals, targets, and a comprehensive set of priority actions for increasing the production and use of renewable energy in county operations and at the community scale. For example, the SCAP includes commitments to transition to 100% greenhouse gas neutral electricity for King County operations by 2025 (in 2014, 73% of the electricity consumed by King County for operations was carbon-free) and to increase the use of renewable energy in its operations by 70% by 2020 and 85% by 2025.

The county currently gets most of its supply from hydro, natural gas plants and coal. The average residential rates of electricity supplied from the two utilities in 2015 were 9.08 and 10.44 cents/kWh, respectively. The county is in the process of mapping out policy, technical, and institutional pathways to achieve these targets.

In collaboration with its major electricity utilities, Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy, the county has been tracking energy data. It has made benchmarking a priority and is on track to have all large buildings and facilities in Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager by the end of 2016. It is also tracking the progress toward community scale energy targets and is in the process of exploring a voluntary commercial benchmarking program to encourage energy efficiency in buildings to support community efforts.

Promising Practices

  • King County and 13 cities within its footprint have been working across political boundaries to set climate action targets, pool resources and make progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This collaboration, now formalized as the King County-Cities Collaboration (K4C), represents 75% of the county’s two million
    residents. In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded the K4C a Climate Leadership Award for its innovative partnership.
  • K4C has developed a shared vision and policy framework that addresses energy supply, green building and more, adopting both near and long-term shared greenhouse gas emissions reductions, partnering on municipal policy and code changes, and sharing technical support and learning.
  • The county has a strong commitment to equity and social justice around energy goals. Puget Sound Sage, a local nonprofit, works closely on the disproportionate impacts of climate change on communities of color and is working with community based organizations to design solutions to align investments and incentives, as well as to ensure youth have pathways to employment in the clean energy field.


  • High system costs of renewables and uncertainties around incentive levels have hindered adoption.
  • Lack of renewable energy incentive pathways and structures for renters or residents in multi-family housing to purchase renewable energy.
  • Utility’s “Lowest Cost Mandate” coupled with relatively low state Renewable Energy Portfolio Requirements(15% by 2020) discourage investor-owned utility investments in further renewable energy production, distribution, and storage options with higher upfront cost than existing hydro and new natural gas.