NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 16, 2009

In an effort to promote "green" jobs and to encourage energy savings in schools, universities and public buildings, the Washington legislature is considering HB 2334, which would send a $3 billion bond proposal to voters this fall.  The money would fund projects designed to save energy, as well as improve health and safety in public buildings.  Supporters claim the bill would create 90,000 new jobs in 2010-11.  Funding to repay the bonds would come in part from expected energy savings.

Washington state already has experience with similar efforts to spend taxpayer money to

improve the energy efficiency of schools.  In 2005, the legislature passed the "High Performance Buildings" law requiring schools to purchase energy efficient equipment.  That experience is instructive in the difficulty of spending taxpayer money wisely and achieving the predicted energy savings.  The High Performance Buildings law demonstrates a great deal about the cost-effectiveness of those investments, says Todd Myers, Director of the Center for the Environment with the Washington Policy Center.

Three things stand out from that experience:

  • "Green" schools that incorporate many of the elements called for in this proposal have fallen far short of the projected energy savings.
  • Recent studies and statements by those who work with the "green" schools in Washington state concur with previous findings: those buildings do not achieve the projected energy savings.
  • Some advocates cite studies claiming to show that buildings that meet "green" building standards like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) save energy when compared to other new buildings; these studies, however, make no such claims and are being misused.

Given the troubled experience with these types of investments included in new buildings and the projections of energy savings from those expenditures, legislators should reconsider how realistic the current legislation's energy saving projections are.  Experience indicates the expected savings will fall short of projections, says Myers.

Source: Todd Myers, "What Washington's "Green" Schools Tell Us about HB 2334's $3 Billion Spending Plan," Washington Policy Center, April 2009.


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