Climate Action Offsetter: Environmental Responsibility a Core Function at Seattle City Light

October 8, 2013


written by Seattle City Light

Environmental responsibility is a core part of Seattle City Light’s operations, starting with the statement of its mission:

Seattle City Light is a publicly owned utility dedicated to exceeding our customers’ expectations in producing and delivering environmentally responsible, safe, low cost and reliable power. 

In 2005, City Light became the first electric utility in the country to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions. It has maintained that carbon neutral status every year since, making City Light the greenest electric utility in the United States.

“We take our mission of environmental responsibility and stewardship seriously,” General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said. “To fight climate change, we work to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as much as we can through energy conservation and renewable energy and then support projects that offset carbon emissions to make up for those we can’t avoid.”

City Light uses greenhouse gas offsets registered with the Climate Action Reserve and other third party organizations to offset its greenhouse gas emissions.

Seattle City Light uses hydroelectric resources for 90 percent of the power it provides to about 1 million people in the greater Seattle area. But that important resource is also one of the primary reasons City Light takes the additional climate action step of offsetting all its greenhouse gas emissions, including those created by the generation of electricity the utility buys, employees’ travel and the trucks and other equipment used in its operations.

Seattle City Light’s hydroelectric dams depend upon mountain snowpack to store water for generating electricity throughout the summer. Climate change that brings more precipitation as rain or starts the melt-off earlier in the spring would threaten the utility’s ability to generate the electricity it needs to serve its customers in late summer.  In addition, the City of Seattle’s water supply comes from nearby watersheds, and changes to precipitation patterns could also impact those important resources.

“We want to do something about that,” said City Light Strategic Advisor Corinne Grande, who leads the utility’s offset program. “Starting at home was a powerful motivator.”

Each year, City Light offsets 100,000 to 300,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, depending on how much electricity the utility has been able to generate from its hydroelectric resources and how much power it has to acquire elsewhere.

Among the projects Seattle City Light has purchased carbon offsets from are:

  • Biodiesel fuel for Seattle area busses, ferries and garbage trucks
  • Shore power for cruise ships at the Port of Seattle
  • Aerobic composting of local food and yard waste
  • And methane recapture and destruction at dairy farms and landfills.

“Our small amount of money is not going to change the world, but hopefully it will encourage new and innovative projects and act as a catalyst for others,” Grande said.



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  • Ella R. says:

    One of the best environmental initiatives cities can do – and which Seattle is doing! – is to require composting of food and yard waste. Why don’t all municipalities require this? Thanks Seattle!

  • Pepper P. says:

    So awesome that Seattle City Light supports local carbon offsets! Each of the projects listed above sounds so fantastic! Though I do hope that clean fuels for public transit and municipal fleets, shore power for all ships, composting of food and yard waste, and methane capture and combustion at dairy farms and landfills become the universal, standard, business-as-usual (or required by regulation) activity. It should be ubiquitous!

  • Stacey Nicholas says:

    Congrats to Seattle City Light for being carbon neutral! My favorite green initiative which is being offered in more and more cities is a bikeshare program! It allows both tourists and residents to make quick trips without worrying about bus schedules. A great way to get around!

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