City of Seattle brings Utility Discount to 10,000 more households

Today Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) Director Andrew Lofton announced proposed changes to the Utility Discount Program (UDP) to auto-enroll more than 10,000 low-income Seattle Housing Authority households. Today’s announcement puts the City on track to surpass the Mayor’s goal to double program enrollment two years ahead of schedule.

“As Seattle’s economy continues to grow, we know that economic gains have not reached all our neighbors. Too many families are still struggling to meet basic needs,” said Murray.  “This partnership with the Seattle Housing Authority will cut utility bills in half for financially strapped residents so they can manage their utility costs on tight budgets.”

“The majority of people we serve at the Seattle Housing Authority are in the very lowest income segment,” said Lofton. “The extension of the City’s Utility Discount Program to our residents and voucher tenants will make a tremendous difference in their ability to pay for basic utilities and still afford food, medications and other necessities.”

Once auto-enrollment is complete, the UDP will provide more than $10 million in utility assistance each year to SHA tenants. This will cut in half their Seattle electric, water, garbage/recycling, sewage and drainage bills. The average household benefit will be $1,030 per year.

This move is a part of Murray’s commitment to address Seattle’s growing income inequality and remove institutional barriers between services and those in need. In 2014, Mayor Murray challenged City Departments to double the number of households enrolled in the UDP from 14,000 to 28,000 by the end of 2018.

“I would like to thank SHA for providing a place to stay and the Mayor for giving those of us living in subsidized housing the opportunity to participate in the Utility Discount Program,” said Ed Frezier, a resident at Rainier Vista in South Seattle. “I am on disability and have a limited income. After I pay my bills, the lights, phone, water, there’s nothing left.  This will leave me with a few dollars to buy groceries and whatever else is needed. It’s a blessing.”

After legislation to enact today’s proposal is approved by the Seattle City Council, all income-eligible households of Seattle Housing Authority will be notified that they have been auto-enrolled in the Utility Discount Program, beginning August 1, 2016. All households will have the opportunity to opt out of the Utility Discount Program if they prefer. The Council will take up this proposal this spring. Current City ordinances prevent SHA tenants from participating in the program.

The Utility Discount Program offers a credit of 60 percent on Seattle City Light bills and 50 percent on Seattle Public Utilities bills. This program is available for residential City Light and Seattle Public Utilities customers only and does not apply to residences used for business purposes. Eligible households must have income of less than 70 percent of state median household income, about $60,000 for a family of four.

Today’s expansion of the UDP to SHA tenants is paid for by all utility customers. The average Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities bill will increase between 0.5 percent and 0.65 percent in coming years.

“This auto-enrollment program change supports people in need and minimizes bureaucracy.  This is truly government at its best,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who represents the West Seattle and South Park communities.  “Thousands of low-income Seattleites will no longer need to choose between keeping the lights on and putting food on the table.  I’m fully committed to expanding access to the UDP program even further.”

“Having light, heat, and water are basic needs that every resident should have,” said Council President Bruce Harrell. “As a compassionate City, we have demonstrated our commitment to helping our residents by continually improving one of the strongest utility discount programs in the nation.”

“I have strenuously advocated for auto-enrollment into the Utility Discount Program. Studies show auto-enrollment results in systematically greater access,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee. “I am grateful to Kelly Enright at Seattle City Light for tirelessly working on this. Even after this step, there will still be thousands of others who will need to be enrolled, and I look forward to continue working with City Light and the Mayor’s office.”

This program expansion builds upon a partnership with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission to auto-enroll eligible households of other affordable housing projects, reducing administrative barriers to utility discount services.

Ray Hoffman, Seattle Public Utilities Director, Larry Weis, Seattle City Light General Manager and CEO, and Catherine Lester, Human Services Department Director, were also in attendance at today’s event.

The UDP program is funded by both Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities and is administered by the Seattle Human Services Department. Utility Discount Program eligibility information and application materials can be found here.

Seattle City Light Proposes Higher Energy Savings Goal

Seattle City Light will work to help its customers achieve even more energy conservation in the next two years without increasing its budget under a proposed goal submitted to the City Council today.

City Light is required to set energy conservation goals every two years under the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard, as approved by voters with Initiative 937. The new goal was determined using a conservation potential assessment that incorporates data from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

“Seattle City Light is a national leader in energy conservation, which helps to keep its electricity prices the lowest in America’s largest cities,” Mayor Ed Murray said. “We are pushing ahead to do even more. It’s another example of why City Light is the nation’s greenest utility.”

With Council approval, City Light’s goal for 2016-17 would be 25.62 average megawatts of electricity conservation. That’s an eight percent increase over the 23.68 average megawatts goal for 2014-2015. An average megawatt is one megawatt of electricity every hour of the day for a year.

Two key factors have increased City Light’s confidence in meeting the higher conservation goal. First, the utility is on track to exceed its current 2014-15 goal because more customers are adopting energy efficient appliances, equipment and technology.  Additionally, new energy saving measures have helped enterprise level data centers and indoor agriculture cut their energy use.

City Light has one of the longest-running conservation programs in the country. Since its start in 1977, energy efficiency measures supported by the utility have saved enough energy to power Seattle for more than two years.

Last year, conservation measures supported by City Light reduced customers’ electricity bills by more than $115 million. They also avoided the release of more than 961,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of removing about 211,000 cars from the road for a year.

“Doing more with the clean, renewable energy resources we already have reduces the pressure to build new power plants, holds costs down for our customers and limits our impact on the environment,” City Light Conservation Resources Director Craig Smith said. “That’s why conservation is our first resource of choice and what we are counting on to meet the energy needs of our fast-growing community for the next decade.”


Year        Savings (Megawatt Hours)

2009       102,693

2010       141,581

2011       126,196

2012       137,374

2013       138,159

2014       160,894

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.

Seattle City Council Approves two new Historic Landmarks

Seattle National Bank

Seattle City Council approved landmark designation ordinances for two city of Seattle landmarks. Located in Downtown and Yesler neighborhoods, these buildings showcase the rich cultural and architectural heritage of Seattle.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Board approved the nomination, designation, and controls and incentives for each of these landmarks, and provided draft ordinances to City Council. The final step to the process is approval by City Council.

The new landmarks are:

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Historic Preservation Program is responsible for the designation and protection of more than 400 historic structures, sites, objects, and vessels, as well as seven historic districts located throughout the city. For more information on the landmark designation process and to view other city landmarks, visit

You are Invited to Participatory Budgeting Forum on January 27

Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a city budget.

Councilmember Nick Licata and City Neighborhood Council will co-host a forum on Tuesday, January 27 about how participatory budgeting has worked in other cities, and discuss how it could work here in Seattle. It’s scheduled from 6-8 p.m. in the Bertha Knight Landes Room in City Hall.

Participatory budgeting is a flexible tool that has worked in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. It can be used for budgets at a district level, citywide or for specific groups; Boston let city youth as young as age 12 decide how to spend $1 million in city funds. There will be a speaker from the Participatory Budgeting Project to tell us how it’s worked in other cities in the US, Europe, and South America.

Food and beverages will be provided. Come find out more, and share how participatory budgeting could work in Seattle!

Seattle City Council Approves Historic Designation of Seattle Center Buildings

Municipal Archives, 1962

Seattle City Council has approved the landmark designation ordinance for the Northwest Rooms and International Fountain Pavilion located at Seattle Center. Designed by architect Paul Thiry, these buildings reflect the architectural heritage of the 1962 World’s Fair.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Board approved the nomination, designation, and controls and incentives for this landmark, and provided the draft ordinance to City Council for approval.

For more information about these buildings and others on the Seattle center campus, visit


Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Historic Preservation Program is responsible for the designation and protection of more than 400 historic structures, sites, objects, and vessels, as well as seven historic districts located throughout the city. For more information on the landmark designation process and to view other city landmarks, visit