Long Term County Energy Plan Revealed

by Katie Pyzyk November 28, 2012 at 11:55 am 5,216 74 Comments

A draft of Arlington’s Community Energy Plan (CEP) has been revealed. If approved, it would provide a guide for transforming the way energy is used, generated and distributed in Arlington through 2050.

Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan presented the draft to the County Board members at Tuesday’s Board meeting. Developing the CEP has been part of a three year effort by county staff members, who consulted with energy experts, community leaders and businesses.

“Once again, Arlington is taking a leadership role in advancing a transformative Community Energy Plan that represents the next generation of smart growth and another visionary way to support a sustainable future for our community,” Donnellan said in a press release.

The goal of the CEP is to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 3.0 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per resident per year by 2050. That equates to a reduction of about 75% from current levels.

The CEP lists six primary areas in which the county intends to implement the plan: buildings, district energy, renewable energy, transportation, county government actions, and education and human behavior.

In a press release, the county listed a number of strategies for achieving the energy goals, including the following:

  • Improving by up to 60% the energy efficiency of newly constructed and renovated residential, commercial and civic buildings. Includes financial incentives for investment in energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Managing home and building operations to reduce energy costs. Arlington County will continue to lead by example, through its Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE) program, and by partnering with Arlington Public Schools.
  • Creating district energy systems in the highest density development corridors. District energy, although not a new technology, has never been deployed on a community level by any jurisdiction in the Washington, D.C. area. The CEP calls for district energy and local cogeneration of power to provide about 40% of the County’s energy needs in 2050.
  • Deploying alternative energy sources, such as solar photovoltaic and other renewable energy systems. The CEP contains an ambitious goal for solar power: 160 megawatts of solar electricity by 2050; enough electricity to power 40,000 homes.
  • Refining and expanding transportation infrastructure and operations enhancements. The CEP envisions more people walking, biking and using transit and fewer cars on the roads, in addition to cleaner-burning vehicles.
  • Changing how people in our community think about energy, helping them to understand how to have an impact on energy consumption, and actually changing human behavior to transform how we consume energy.

County staff says a community benefit of the plan is a reduction in energy use, which would lower greenhouse gas emissions and create a more sustainable environment. Individuals and businesses would be able to use money saved on energy for other investments to improve their quality of life. Lower energy costs are also cited as directly affecting business’ bottom lines, which is expected to create a more competitive economic environment. Diversifying the local energy supply with alternative options like solar is expected to provide better energy reliability and supply security.

The Board will consider adopting the plan in June of 2013. If it’s approved, county staff would then begin implementation. Prior to adoption, there will be a number of meetings for the public to review the plan, ask questions and to offer feedback.

  • MrMeow

    All of these green intiatives are designed to drive up the cost of energy so that people can’t afford to consume as much of it, except the elitists who think up such plans, because the cost increases won’t impact them, unlike regular people. So my question is, with all these call for affordable housing and getting people to live in Arlington who can’t actually afford to live here, will we have to subsidize their energy bills too now that the costs of energy will skyrocket? Is that just another price we’ll have to pay so someone can feel good about themselves by enabling the poor and saving the world?

    • drax

      Give it a rest.

    • Corey

      Amazing that people can find something to object to even in the most unobjectionable things, like decreasing energy use and carbon emissions.

      The idea isn’t simply to raise prices, it’s to raise prices, thus creating demand for alternative energy sources.

      • MrMeow

        So why are you forcing people to do it? provide them to option to, don’t force it down their throats. Alternative energy sources will cost more than current ones, hence less money for other things. There’s only so much you can do with solar and wind. And don’t forget that ethanol has less energy per volume unit than does gasoline. Given energy is going to be more expensive in the future thanks to the policies that these greenies take, how is that going to help make arlington more affordable? So they can live in arlington but have to use candles presuming those haven’e been banned by then? Force them on the loser cruiser?

        • ThisIsSmart

          Why make people pay for their trash collection? Let them dump it in the street – that will make Arlington more affordable. Making people pay for their trash collection has increased costs for ordinary people, hence less money for other things.

          • drax


        • drax

          Who is being forced to do something?

          Alternative energy sources may or may not cost more – but what’s that go to do with forcing? I’m forced to breath pollution from your cheap coal energy. I’m forced to use that source that I don’t like.

          As for costs, part of the plan is efficiency, which LOWERS energy costs.

          • MrMeow

            You are a fool if you think this will “lower” energy costs. If everybody uses very efficient appliances etc and demand goes down for power, do you think the power companies will just sit there and notn do something and just accept they will make less money thanks to the more efficient appliances and bulbs? They will raise rates, so you will not save any money and in fact the more expensive types of energy will raise the prices even more.

          • drax

            Oh, and welcome back, steve.

          • drax

            “you are a fool if you think” – really lame argument. Not an argument at all in fact.

            The power company rates are regulated. They can’t just raise them any time they want. And they already do things to encourage energy efficiency because it is cheaper for them than adding new power generation capacity.

            Enough with the goofy conspiracies, steve.

        • ellen

          MrMeow, passive aggressive kitty, please tell me how you suffer? Sometimes up front money benefits down the line. But I am sure you are an avid reader, and I know that, you have just not gone into the reality isles of the book stores and library lately. You will someday, and you will swallow your words. Sorry to break wind on the ethanol theory, it consumes more energy and valuable land that could be used for food. (food and water and the next real crisis to be aware of, and our polluting sources of energy are the culprit. BTW, just because it’s cheaper, doesn’t mean its good for you, think McDonalds vs real food, think high fructose syrup vs actual cane sugar or agave. or spices or herbs for flavor..

    • malaka

      yes reducing demand always drives the price of stuff up…

      • MrMeow

        Orly? I suppose that’s why the power companies don’t charge for periods when the power is out? NOT.

        • drax

          You have to pay for power you don’t use when the power is out?

          No, you don’t.

        • malaka

          Well they don’t charge for KW usage when you can’t get any do they? and that’s what we are talking about here – usage

          • MrMeow

            They seek permission from the government to charge fees while they werent’ supplying power during power outtages. Demand has nothing to do with how much electricity costs due to the regulation. If there’s less demand due to effeciency then they will seek to raise prices.

            Query: Say if the greenies get their wish and gasoline cars are outlawed and you only have electrical cars. What will replace the gas tax? Wouldn’t it be unfair to have an electricity tax instead becaues not everyone who uses electricity would have an electric car, right? So would it be toll based? And no doubt ht would be some type of ez pass thing which requires a credit card and of course electric cars are very expensive and don’t last long because the batteries need to be replaced, meaning only the well off will be able to afford to drive. There will be no equivalent of someone driving a 1988 for escort they bought for $100 in this greenie future. So why are throwing people who are less well off under the bus?

          • drax

            Steve is still steve, even as a cat.

          • malaka

            There’s a bus?

          • Trolley Troll

            He, obviously, meant trolley.

          • drax

            “Say if the greenies get their wish and gasoline cars are outlawed”

            See, steve, your problem is that you’re not in touch with reality.

  • Ed

    “Managing home …. operations to reduce energy costs”

    Oh? Do tell.

    • Corey

      Probably though “smart grid” technologies. Relax, Ed – the jackbooted evirothugs aren’t invading your house.

    • drax

      Ed, the answer is in the article.

      • kevl

        any way to ban this guy fr commenting?

        • Captain_Obvious

          you can only hope for an epic N-S meltdown…and that didn’t even keep him away. MrMeow sounds very similar to N-S.

  • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

    And the anti-car brigade is at it again. Its a great idea to get people walking, biking, and using public transport…. if it is convenient and affordable. The county is not laid out in a fashion that allows for easy and safe non-vehicular transport to the central business and social areas that Arlington is creating. Public transportation is becoming more expensive, less reliable, and certainly less convenient. So I’d really love to see how this new measure will work to rectify these situations and allow citizens of all ages and walks of life to commute car free.

    • Captain_Obvious

      another incentive for the Arlington HomeBuyer’s assistance program should be segways for all household members !

    • drax

      Plenty of people find it easy to get to and through the central business and social areas without cars, and the county is making it even easier.

      Meanwhile, using a car is certainly not going to get any easier. Increasing the number of cars will only produce gridlock, and there is no room to widen roads, not that this helps for long.

      The urban areas of our county must be urban, and that means less reliance on cars.

      • Captain_Obvious

        But Arlington is suburban…

        • drax

          Not the urban parts.

          • Captain_Obvious

            I think you may have the definitions of urban and suburban confused.

          • drax

            No I don’t. Urban is an adjective that describes what an area is like, even if its outside the main city. And suburbs become more urbanized (there’s that word as an adjective again) as cities grow.

            But let’s not play this game. Change urban to “high density” and move on.

          • Captain_Obvious

            wrong, urban means city. Suburban mean outside of city. Arlington is not a city, but a county. DC is a city. Got it ? If you want to use “high density”, go for it. Arlington has maybe, at most, a handful of areas deemed “high density”, all of which are probably no bigger than a few city blocks each.

          • drax


            1. of, pertaining to, or designating a city or town.
            2.living in a city.
            3.characteristic of or accustomed to cities; citified: He is an urban type.


            1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a suburb.
            2. Located or residing in a suburb.
            3. Of, relating to, or characteristic of the culture, customs, and manners typical of life in the suburbs.

          • Captain_Obvious

            Oh I see you got it now. Good for you.

          • drax

            I got it – Arlington is county with some suburban and some urban areas.

          • Captain_Obvious

            no, suburban with some high-density areas.

          • drax

            It’s a suburb, but it’s not entirely suburban.

            They aren’t the same thing.

            By your logic, Rosslyn is suburban because it’s in a suburb but Spring Valley (single-family homes) is urban because it’s in DC.

        • Josh S

          Says who?
          Go look up the population density figure for Arlington and see how it compares to most of the rest of the US.
          Go ahead, we’ll wait.

          • Captain_Obvious

            I did and according to the 2010 census:

            Alexandria has a higher density figure than Arlington…yea, old town is so urban.

            Arlington’s density figure is 8309/sq. mi. The 125th ranked city in the US has 10,065/sq. mi….so a ways to go to even get to Arlington.

            Did you wait long enough ?

          • Captain_Obvious

            still waiting ??

          • Josh S

            Here’s a question for you: Which is more dense, Arlington or Los Angeles? LA, right, the second largest city in America? Would anyone ever call LA suburban? Nope, it’s Arlington.
            Second chance? Which is more dense, Arlington or Portland, OR? I think you’re probably on to me now, so yes, it’s Arlington.
            Yes, places like New York and San Francisco have densities much higher. But do we really limit our use of the word “urban” to only the densest places on earth? No. An urban landscape is one with different uses located close to one another, with a dense transportation network that provides a variety of connections from one place to the next, that has a lot of jobs and a lot of residents, etc. Arlington can rightly be called an urban county. In the past, sure it was suburban. But no longer.

          • Captain_Obvious

            You understand the concept of density, right ? Why didn’t you acknowledge Alexandria having a higher density figure than Arlington ?
            And Arlington hardly has a dense transportation network. 1 metro line and a piece of another hardly qualifies as dense. And by the way, LA has 10 of the top 50 densest locations in the entire US, so WTF are you talking about ? Look up the stats first, buddy.

          • drax

            Much of Arlington is suburban. But parts of it are urban. Jeez.

          • Josh S

            Did you think I meant Louisiana?
            A transportation network includes far more than light rail. I think if you include the rest of Arlington’s transportation network in your analysis, you might find that it’s quite extensive. (Also, I think your accounting may be faulty – Arlington has parts of three Metrorail lines, not two.)
            In any case, I freely admit that there are more dense places in the US and sure, I’ll take your word for it that Alexandria city is more dense.
            But let’s flip it around – what are the characteristics of Arlington that make you think it’s suburban? Where is the sprawl? Where is the car-centric development? Where are the houses on an acre of land? Heck, where are the two-story ‘campus”-style office buildings?

          • Captain_Obvious

            LA stands for Los Angeles. The rest of Arlington’s transportation network includes some bus lines, so what ?
            Correction noted: Arlington has the Orange line and parts of the blue and yellow line…those 3-4 stops of the yellow line make sure a huge difference.
            I think Arlington is mostly suburban due to the abundance of strip malls. And our transportation network does not make it easy to get to different parts of Arlington efficiently, unless you are talking about the Wilson Blvd. corridor.

      • DCBuff

        “there is no room to widen roads”–ArlCo is narrowing roads. Producing greater gridlock without any increase in the number of cars.

    • Josh S

      You do realize we are discussing Arlington, Virginia, right? Cause I don’t recognize the community you are talking about. What are these mysterious obstacles that exist in the landscape that prevent people from walking, riding a bike, or taking a bus / train to the business and social areas in Arlington?

  • Sam the Cat

    I will assist the energy conservation movement by switching off my central heat and burning either wood or coal in the fireplace.

    • FYI

      ^^^^ Troll ^^^^^

  • change is good

    …Changing how people in our community think about energy, helping them to understand how to have an impact on energy consumption, and actually changing human behavior to transform how we consume energy…

    why does this make me uneasy?

    • Captain_Obvious


    • drax

      Because you are paranoid?

      • ok

        will you pls go away?

  • Id

    Let’s all just fart in jars and be done with it.

    • malaka

      I think you juat did!

  • JimPB

    What are the proposed building code changes to reduce energy consumption? For example, greatly increase R values for wall and attic insulation; requiring landscaping to shade homes from the summer sun (while allowing winter solar heating) and for bloacking cold winter W and NW wins.

    A suggestionf or follow-up reporting. Will County Board members personally lead by example: post their past and on-going utility use data and the measures already in place and subsequently adopted (nature, date, cost) to reduce energy use, AND report on the utility amount and cost reductions that each additional measure achieves and the projected length of time to pay for each measure?

  • Joe Blow

    With all of the hot air in Arlington, I’m certain this could be harnessed for some kind of alternate energy generation.

  • Mr Green

    We have a 7,000 square foot house in our neighborhood. This got an award for Green Home Choice Program.

    7,000 square foot? Energy efficient?

    It’s not about consuming more at a lower rate per unit. It’s about simply consuming less by living simpler.

    • Josh S

      Well, both are probably important, but I’d agree that consuming less overall is probably more important.

      Personally, I’ve never heard of the Green Home Choice Program. It points up the dangers of all sorts of certification programs – most are simply made up. Does anyone remember back when car commercials didn’t refer to JD Power and Associates. Then, overnight, every car company had to crow about JD Power and Associates? Do you think ol’ JD Power had one hell of a marketing crew?

      • drax

        Are you saying JD Power makes up stuff?

  • Josh S

    These are laudable goals. Probably not ambitious enough, but a far cry better than nothing.

    As we see already here, there will be a lot of kicking and screaming. This is to be expected, as there is always a lot of kicking and screaming when it comes to major changes.

    Unfortunately, Arlington has little to no control over the price of electricity and of course it is the price of something that always sends the best signal to people. Steve complains above about how this plan will somehow cause prices to go up. A concern completely divorced from reality – Arlington County has zero to do with what you pay to your utility company. The plans talk about changing human behavior, but the county can’t make you do just about anything. It’s going to be like their current Car Free Diet program – PSAs and the like about the benefits of installing solar on your roof, etc. But they can’t make you do it.

    All they can do is lead by example, install the public infrastructure, and work with developers. You want to keep your metal-framed leaky windows from 1947, attempt to heat your home using your fireplace in the winter, hoard incandecent bulbs, and criticize the Green Building Council from your armchair, etc? Knock yourself out. This plan will not stop you.

    • brown before green

      Ah, but the community energy plan envisions scenarios where Arlingtonians do have more control over the price of electricity, and heat, as well as how to use much less of it while still getting the same services. Thinking outside the box. The utility of yesterday does not have to be the utility of tomorrow.

      • Josh S

        Indeed. Power to the people. But still, no county government forcing.


    I wish “super-green” Arlington would offer some kind of credit for homeowners who want to add solar arrays to the roof. The federal government offers a 30% tax credit, which is nice, but i wish the county would offer incentives, too. It’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination! Maybe they will with this new plan; I haven’t read it yet…

    • MrMeow

      Do I get a bidet credit? Think of all the TP I didn’t use because I got a bidet. Just doing my part to save the planet so I benefits in return!

      • Quoth the Raven

        FYI – bidets are typically used after using TP, not instead of using TP.

        • Dribble

          Really? they have Bidets in Barton House Steve?

          • drax

            Steve uses a litter box.

  • AC

    Can we get back the 30 million from the Homeless SHelter for Sex Offenders and put it towards this?

  • JnA

    On-Site Renewable Energy? What’s that?


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