Multnomah County is reducing its carbon footprint and utility costs, according to the that staff from the county’s Office of Sustainability presented to the Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners on November 1st.
The Resource Conservation Report is an annual update to the Board on the County’s progress toward Board-adopted goals. The Climate Action Plan, for example, sets goals around greenhouse gas reduction and recycling for county operations, and the 100% by 2050 Renewable Energy goal calls on the County to meet energy needs with renewable sources of energy.
Purchasing electricity from renewable energy sources is how the County has dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The people of Multnomah County care deeply about sustainability and expect its government to be good stewards of the natural environment and taxpayer dollars, staff reported. Sustainability closely aligns with the core mission of the County to support the most vulnerable members of the community, who are often the same people most impacted by environmental degradation and impacts from climate change. Through smart investments in operational efficiency, Multnomah County is reducing its energy costs, which allows it to direct more resources to provide essential services.
The Resource Conservation Report summarizes the past eleven years of County efforts to reduce energy and water use and reduce waste. And, the results are positive.
Comparing the fiscal year 2018 to the fiscal year 2007 baseline:
County buildings are 8% more efficient per square foot
Water usage has decreased by 23% per square foot
62% of all waste generated at the County is being diverted from the landfill
Together, these conservation achievements have enabled the County to avoid spending over $1 million in utility expenses each year.
Fiscal year 2018 was a breakthrough year for Multnomah County on reducing carbon emissions and advancing its renewable energy commitments. In June 2017 Multnomah County Board and the Portland City Council adopted the 100by50 Resolution, which puts our community on a path to using 100% renewable electricity by the year 2035, and 100% renewable energy sources in all other areas (e.g., transportation fuel, heating fuel, etc.) by 2050. In support of the County’s 100by50 Resolution, the County began to acquire renewable energy certificates, or REC’s, for 100% of the electricity used in County operations. The purchase of REC’s means that, in essence, all of the County’s electricity use is generated by clean and renewable sources like wind and solar.
In addition, the commitment to acquiring REC’s for the County’s electricity helped to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from County operations. In fiscal year 2018 emissions were 61% below fiscal year 2007 levels, the baseline year for measuring emissions. This puts the County ahead of its 2015 Climate Action Plan goal of a 53% reduction of emissions by 2030.
While using REC’s to meet the County’s operational climate goals is an effective strategy, it is only one piece of achieving sustainable operations. With continued support from Multnomah County leadership, the Office of Sustainability is working with the Department of County Assets and other departments to identify new opportunities, including:
Developing solar projects for both renewable energy generation and community resilience
Implementing a sustainable fleet strategy, including the use of more electric vehicles
Making additional investments in energy and water efficiency at County facilities
Encouraging employees and the community to make smart resource choices