Arlington Sets Ambitious Goals in Energy Plan

The Arlington County Board has adopted an update to the Community Energy Plan that sets ambitious targets for transforming the county’s energy sector.

“This plan is bold, because nothing less than a bold response from every community across this nation and across the globe is essential to address the dire threat posed to our planet by climate change,” said Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. “Arlington’s updated Community Energy Plan is based on the latest climate science and views energy decisions through the lenses of energy security, economic competitiveness, environmental commitment and equity.” The board voted unanimously to adopt the update.

The plan incorporates goals for buildings; resilience; renewable energy; transportation, county government actions, and education and human behavior. It envisions a carbon neutral Arlington by 2050 that will be more resilient, where all electricity will come from renewable sources, where more residents will drive electric vehicles and more will use transit, and where homes and buildings will be more energy-efficient.

With a goal of lowering total building energy use in Arlington by at least 38 percent from 2016 levels, despite the growth in the number of households and corresponding economic activity, the plan calls for numerous steps, including more stringent energy codes; expanding investment in energy efficiency programs and land use and transportation approaches that promote energy efficiency; and pursuing funding opportunities and partnerships for energy efficiency programs and projects that reflect local and regional needs.

With a goal of ensuring Arlington’s energy resilience, the plan calls for seeking opportunities to develop or facilitate projects that enable Arlington’s energy infrastructure to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and more quickly recover from disruptions like storms and floods.

The policy targets of 50 percent renewable electricity for government operations by 2022 and 100 percent by 2025, and a goal for the community achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035. In addition, Arlington plans for the installation and use of 160 megawatts of on-site solar electricity.

The energy plan has specific targets for reducing the amount of per capita carbon produced each decade through 2050. The County also will produce a plan that describes what it would take to transition away from internal combustion engines and increase the use of alternative and public transportation to reduce vehicle miles traveled.

County government operations will become carbon neutral by 2050 and energy security will be improved throughout county operations.

The County plans to engage individuals to reduce energy use; to increase the level of professional expertise and work force in the community related to energy; to recognize extraordinary efforts made to help the community reach the energy goals; to increase transparency about energy use, and to put in place programs that address energy equity issues, including seniors, the underserved, low-to-moderate income or disadvantaged communities and challenges in the rental market.

The goal is to provide have a proposed implementation plan by June 2020.

On Saturday, outside of the Arlington Government building where the County Board was discussing the energy plan, more than 50 supporters, organized by the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, celebrated Arlington’s historic commitment to 100 percent clean electricity.

Speakers gave context for why the CEP goals are so meaningful, sharing different perspectives on why a purposeful transition to clean energy is critical.

“You’re trying to figure out why in the world is the NAACP talking about climate change,” Karen Nightengale, executive director of the Arlington NAACP, said. She went on to explain the urgency of environmental and climate justice: “Our current fossil fuel energy system has long represented a form of hidden violence against brown and black communities. Historically, people of color have been disproportionately impacted by air and water pollution.”

Dr. Neelu Tummala with the Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action told a story of one of her first patients, a 14-year-old boy who she described as “one of the many faces of the climate crisis.” Due to worsening asthma, Michael had to give up his passion of playing soccer, and leave a team that was central to his identity and social belonging as a teenager.

Arlington is now the 145th locality in the U.S., and the first in Virginia, to make a 100 percent clean energy commitment.

“By making such an ambitious commitment, Arlington is making a strong statement to both our state government and Dominion Energy. Restrictive energy policies have long held Virginians back from reaping the benefits of the clean energy future we need,” said Alice Redhead, Clean Energy Organizer for the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter.

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