Buildings that Act Like Guinea Pigs for Energy Efficiency: The Puget Sound Regional Council Plan for Green Jobs

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that validation “would give companies that are here, that have access to those services, a huge leg up in the markets,” says Schinfeld. “We believe it would catalyze the ability for local folks to sell their energy efficiency goods and services to other people.”

A big issue will be figuring out ways for companies that might traditionally look at each other as competitors to share, learn, and build something together in the ‘sandbox,” all while protecting their intellectual property, Schinfeld acknowledges. But he is convinced there’s a market for a service like BETI’s. “We have actually heard from folks that there is an appetite for collaboration, particularly where there are products that are complimentary,” he says. “What if you could take someone who does HVAC and someone who does windows and put them together, and build an integrated product. I think people will be excited about that.”

Unlike an incubator model, where companies are physically located at a third party facility for an extended period, firms would utilize the BETI Center only for specific testing, monitoring, and collaboration, on a for-fee-service basis. That way BETI can accommodate a larger volume of companies long-term, Schinfeld says. “We are going to be competitor neutral in testing these technologies,” he says. “Our goal is not to pick winners, our goal is to help companies launch into the marketplace successfully.”

Schinfeld and PSRC associate economic policy analyst Sherry Ambrose say it will take approximately $8 million to $16.5 million to jumpstart the project, which the Prosperity Partnership will seek through a combination of government and independent grants, private fundraising, and membership development. The group was unable to secure a hoped-for $2 million in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy, but Schinfeld says the program has other options to move forward. He says the program also doesn’t need the full $8 million to get going.

To that end, the Prosperity Partnership has already started talking to the Seattle 2030 District, a mix of city representatives, local architects, and utilities companies about involvement in the project, according to Schinfeld.

“The main stakeholders are five of the biggest downtown property owners—so Unico, and Vulcan, and folks like that,” he says. “They’ve all come together and they’ve all said ‘We want to make our buildings in downtown Seattle the most energy efficient that we can make them,’ which is fantastic… I would say, in an ideal world, we could start doing some things within six to nine months.”

Building the actual center would come well down the line, of course. But Schinfeld already has his eyes on a couple of locations that he thinks are ripe to become an energy efficiency hub. The first: one of the large buildings downtown that would, ideally, be one of the project’s guinea pig sites. The second: in a lot right next to the McKinstry Innovation Center in Georgetown, where he says the region could “set up a whole little energy efficiency neighborhood.”

“You’ve got the Innovation Center, which is developing new technologies, then you’d have BETI, which is testing and demonstrating those new technologies, and then you’ve got McKinstry, which would go out and use them, and sell them. It would be genius,” Schinfeld says.

The BETI steering committee is holding its next meeting next week, when it will finalize the financial aspects of the plan, and the five-year budget. In the meantime, Washington State has set aside $5.5 million in the current budget for cleantech investment, and Schinfeld is hoping to persuade the state to put some of that money toward the Center.

Regardless of where the Center gets its funding, Schinfeld and Ambrose are confident that the plan could put the central Puget Sound region on the map for energy efficiency.

“If proximity to BETI and BETI services is the best way to market for energy efficiency goods and services, those companies will move here,” Schinfeld says. “The national play is still an economic development play to grow jobs here in the long run.”

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