The Arlington County Board voted unanimously on Saturday (June 15) to adopt the six-part Community Energy Plan.
The CEP acts as a guide for transforming the way energy is used, generated and distributed in Arlington through 2050. It sets “ambitious, yet achievable, goals in the areas of building and transportation energy efficiency, and county government activities.”
The plan focuses on building efficiency, localizing energy sources, maintaining sustainable transportation options and education. It calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 3.0 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person per year. That’s almost 75 percent lower than current levels.
Last month, the county announced it had exceeded a goal set in 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from government operations by 10 percent. It did so through measures such as improving the efficiency of its buildings.
One goal of the CEP is to increase energy efficiency in all buildings by calling for a five percent reduction in energy use by 2020. That standard will escalate to 25 percent by 2030, 40 percent by 2040, and 55 percent by 2050.
“I think it’s absolutely fair to say that buildings are at the core for this plan,” said County Board member Jay Fisette. “We don’t have agriculture, we don’t have industry, [or] industrial factories, the other sources often plaguing many places.”
The Planning Commission noted the need to recognize that there will be different expectations of savings from new construction than from older buildings.
The plan will also focus on education to build the initiative of residents and business owners to help with implementation.
“The last three and a half years has been about education,” Fisette said. “The next 35 will be reinforcing finding new ways to educate. I actually believe that as one of the smartest places around we have a lot of people here and a lot of stakeholders and businesses very willing through friendly competitions or other ways to actually change behavior or do the right thing through education.”
Another goal is refining and expanding Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan, which the county has been working on with its transit-oriented development land use strategy and implementation of bike lanes.
Most of the 23 residents who spoke during the public session were supportive of the plan, but three voiced opposition. Timothy Wise, president of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, said there has been no global warming in the past 17 years and that the plan wouldn’t stay economically competitive. Robert Atkins opposed the localization of energy on the grounds that the county couldn’t take credit for Dominion Power’s increases in energy efficiency in explaining their own drop in emissions.
“The numbers are so fraudulent Bernie Madoff would gag,” Atkins said. “You need to have realistic numbers to make a plan that could work.”
Board members believe Arlington residents will eventually see tangible benefits from the CEP, such as lower utility bills and fewer power disruptions.
“I think this is an example of the Arlington Way at its best,” said Board member Libby Garvey. “I’ve been struck today particularly by how holistic this issue is because what helps the environment makes us more sustainable and competitive.”