Solar Power, Green Buildings Making D.C. Region More Sustainable

Oct 10, 2013

Area governments, businesses, and utilities in metropolitan Washington are implementing a number of green initiatives that are enhancing the region’s sustainability and prosperity according to the Climate and Energy 2012 Progress Report, which was released yesterday by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Between 2009 and 2012, renewable energy capacity has grown 600 percent, which reflects a spike in new solar power systems in the region. The report found that 73 percent of local governments have renewable energy systems on their property.

The report notes that there are over 700 LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green buildings in the region. It highlights the nearly 80,000 square foot Bowie City Hall and Police Department building, which achieved a LEED Gold rating. The report also calls attention to Loudoun County’s nine LEED projects including the County Youth Shelter, which achieved LEED Gold Certification.

Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner, who serves as Chairman of COG’s climate and energy committee, acknowledged the region’s achievements but also said much hard work remains to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He pointed out that emissions from electricity use dropped 17 percent in the region between 2005 and 2012 but that was mostly a result from utilities switching from coal to natural gas.

One area where officials see great potential for regional action is green purchasing. The Council of Governments already administers a program to purchase goods and commodities at reduced costs through volume buying. The report highlights recent work to train local officials and environmental stakeholders on buying products like energy efficient lighting, copy paper, and toner cartridges and to incorporate green purchasing into the regional cooperative purchasing program. To further advance solar power use, COG, Optony, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are currently working with area governments on region-wide solar power purchasing.

In regards to transportation, the report found that 50 percent of local governments have in place—or are planning—alternative fuel vehicle infrastructure, which includes electric vehicle charging stations, biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane.

The report also referenced recent work to strengthen the region’s climate resiliency in COG’s Summary of Potential Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation Strategies in the Metropolitan Washington Region.

The region’s climate goal for 2020 is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels. By 2050, the goal is to reduce emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels. These goals were established in the 2008 National Capital Region Climate Change Report and 2010 Region Forward Vision Plan and approved by the COG Board of Directors.

 
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