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What’s Next: Meeting Our Community Energy Goals

What’s Next with Nicole is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

From the local to state to federal level it finally feels like there is momentum to make an impact on climate change. In order to meet our collective goals, it is incumbent upon us all to take responsibility for these aspirations in our everyday actions.

Arlington released bold energy goals in the 2019 Community Energy Plan. The county resolved to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2025 for government operations, achieve 100% community renewable electricity by 2035, and become carbon neutral by 2050.

In 2020, Governor Northam signed the Clean Economy Act (sponsored by Arlington’s Rip Sullivan) that directed sweeping environmental standards. It set a path to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045, required Dominion Energy to supply 30% of their power from renewables by 2030 and close all carbon-emitting power plants by 2045, made it “in the public interest” for generation of that 5,200 megawatts of offshore wind and 16,100 megawatts of onshore wind and solar, expanded net metering for solar credits on Dominion electric bills, required expanded energy storage capacity for solar by Dominion, among many more provisions.

Today on Earth Day, President Biden pledged to cut US emissions of greenhouse gasses in half by 2030 — a goal twice as ambitious as what President Obama originally agreed to upon the initial signing of the Paris Climate Agreement. A significant amount of funding will be found in the upcoming Infrastructure Bill for improvements to the grid, public transportation, and other items.

What Arlingtonians can do to personally make an impact on our environmental goals

  • Join the solar co-op. If you are a resident or business that has the ability to install solar you can join a collective of members from Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William, and Manassas to negotiate reduced rates for installing solar. There is a similar program for EV chargers.
  • If renovating or building a home, use the free green home choice program. The free consultation helps with designing a better home for the environment including utility optimization, energy efficiency, stormwater management, and other factors that can help improve both your impact on the earth and your home value.
  • Participate in an Earth Day event any day this month, including the Green Valley Earth Day Clean Up event at various clean up sites.
  • Upon your eventual return to work, resolve a return to taking public transportation when possible. Reducing the number of single occupancy driving trips from a significant portion of our community will help our greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle! Return to basics and keep this in mind as you participate in our consumer economy. From reducing the number of boxes you use for Amazon orders, to reusing glass jars for alternative purposes, to getting a quick refresher on “where does it go” for disposal of recyclable goods.
  • Advocate for energy efficiency improvements in the Virginia Legislature and thank or donate to legislators who are making this a priority. Join the Sierra Club, apply to be on the Climate Change, Energy, and Environment Commission, lobby your legislators in Richmond.
  • Bring young Arlingtonians to our parks to have them learn and appreciate our natural environment. I will never forget the unique experiences that the Outdoor Lab and trips to Potomac Overlook had when I was a student in APS. To this day I spend a significant amount of free time in our national and state park system and I attribute a lot of that to these types of trips in my childhood.

Happy Earth Day.

Nicole Merlene grew up in Arlington County and has been a civic leader in both policy and political arenas. She has been an Economic Development and Tenant-Landlord Commissioner; Community Development Citizens Advisory Committee, Pentagon City Planning Study, Rosslyn Transportation Study, and Vision Zero member; Arlington County Civic Federation and Rosslyn Civic Association Board Member. In 2019 she sought the Democratic nomination for the 31st District of the Virginia State Senate. Professionally Nicole is an Economic Development Specialist where she works to attract businesses to the region. She lives in an apartment with her dog Riley and enjoys running and painting.

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