Arlington, VA

After months of debate and discussion, the Arlington County Board has unanimously approved a plan to reach carbon neutrality in Arlington by 2050.

The plan, approved at the Saturday (Sept. 21) County Board meeting, has environmental goals across six categories, from new building regulations to transportation goals and standards. More from a county press release:

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.

The plan has been criticized as both too aspirational and not ambitious enough. While there was near-universal support for the idea behind the plan among speakers at the meeting, various members of the public and commission representatives expressed concerns about its implementation.

“We need to ensure sensitivity to individual circumstances isn’t lost in said implementation,” said Scott Pedowitz, government affairs manager for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses and residents should have the flexibility to meet the targets in a matter that makes practical and economic sense for their particular circumstance.”

Most of those who spoke represented various social and environmental groups and expressed support for tighter local environmental regulations. Several dozen gathered at a Sierra Club-organized rally outside of the County government headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd to support the new plan and its clean energy goals

“We are excited about the clean energy bill coming from Arlington,” Karen Nightengale, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, told ARLnow. “The community needs it. It is really impacting multiple communities, especially brown and black communities living in low lying areas. We are excited about Arlington taking this step to go forward.”

Others testifying in the public hearing said they hoped for even earlier deadlines and stricter environmental measures.

“To really aim for a cleaner County, we need an earlier deadline for this plan,” said Jason Spitzak.

Elenor Hodges, executive director of EcoAction Arlington, said the recent protests in D.C. and activist Greta Thunberg’s testimony at the House of Foreign Affairs and Climate Crisis Committee were inspiring.

“We saw Greta Thunberg sail across the Atlantic and yesterday, thousands marched across the world in a climate strike,” Hodges said. “I hope we can take on [this] ambitious plan.”

Hodges said she’d like to see all new construction meet zero-carbon emissions standards and for Arlington’s tree canopy to be preserved or expanded.

In a three-page letter to the County Board, William Ross, chair of the Park and Recreation Commission, said he was disappointed in the final product. Ross argued the plan doesn’t do enough to promote or explore new green space options in Arlington.

“For all of the technical intensity of the plan, it misses some critical opportunities to improve our carbon footprint and mitigate the negative aspects of energy consumption because the plan fails to adequately address aspects of energy efficiency and environmental protection that are not wholly dependent on technology-based solutions,” Ross said.

After the plan’s approval, the Arlington County website says staff will now get to work on an implementation framework to be brought back to the County Board next June.

Jay Westcott contributed to this story

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

High utility bills disproportionately impact those with lower incomes.

On average, low-income households pay 7.2 percent of their income on utilities — more than three times the amount that higher income households pay (2.3 percent).

Families struggling to pay energy bills may sacrifice nutrition, medicine and other necessities, which compound the effects of inequality. Energy efficiency can make a noticeable difference.

The Income and Age-Qualifying Home Improvement program provides in-home energy assessments and installation of select energy-saving products. Single-family homes and multi-family homes (apartments or condos) all qualify.

To help save on energy costs, qualifying Dominion Energy customers can receive a free energy assessment and free energy-saving measures that may include:

  • ENERGY STAR qualified LED light bulbs
  • Efficient, low-flow showerheads
  • Efficient, low-flow faucet aerators
  • Pipe wrap insulation for hot water pipes
  • Attic insulation and air sealing

Eligible applicants must meet ONE of the following criteria:

  • Household income is less than 60% of the state median income
  • Household income is less than 120% of the state median income for residents over 60 years of age

These retrofits can make a big difference to some families, so please share this information.

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Arlington County is working on plans to be “carbon neutral” by 2050.

The new goal comes is part of an ambitious update to the county’s current Community Energy Plan (CEP). It’s the result of community feedback that the earlier plan didn’t go far enough in addressing energy efficiency concerns, according to a staff report on the plan.

A pair of public hearings on the updates are expected to be scheduled for September at this weekend’s County Board meeting.

Carbon neutrality means reaching net zero metric tons of emissions each year. The idea behind the update is that, in 30 years, any carbon emissions would require some form of carbon offset in equivalent exchange.

The current plan, approved in 2013, targeted reaching three metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per capita by 2050. The updated goal relies on technology that is still science fiction as of 2019 and admittedly strains the boundaries of what the County is allowed to promise.

“Arlington’s community leaders point to today’s climate science reports as a need for people to take action and for a stronger, bolder CEP,” the report noted. “It is important to note that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, that is, local governments have limited authority, and can pass ordinances only in areas where the General Assembly has granted clear authority. A more aspirational 2050 target of zero metric tons of CO2e per capita per year simultaneously pushes the limits local jurisdictions have in Dillon Rule states, and assumes numerous technological advancements and disruptions take place.”

Rich Dooley, Arlington’s community energy coordinator, said the Dillon Rule also means Arlington can’t require developers to build energy-efficient buildings above what is required by the state, they can only continue to offer incentives like bonus density for going above-and-beyond the state’s standards.

Even so, the report on the update points to several places where Arlington could be more energy efficient, from requiring greater levels of energy efficiency in new buildings to prioritizing public transit infrastructure over cars.

Buildings currently use approximately 60 percent of all energy in Arlington, according to the update. The 2013 plan charted a gradual reduction in energy use in residential buildings, ending with 40 percent less energy usage in 2040, compared to 2007 levels. The update shifts that goal to a 38 percent reduction by 2050, compared to 2016 levels.

Arlington County would also need to significantly scale up its solar energy production and purchasing. The updated plan says by 2025, solar energy should supply 100 percent of government operations and by 2050, solar energy should supply half of all electricity use in Arlington.

Dooley noted that the plan is meant to be a high-level look at the goals and policies of the project, and some of the next steps include working on updating the “dated” implementation framework.

The report notes that the specific shift to a carbon-neutral goal by 2050 was partially the result of prodding from the Arlington County Board.

“During its work session deliberations, the County Board members noted the importance of acting now to address climate change while keeping in mind the other important CEP goals,” the update said. “The work session concluded with County Board guidance to staff to show in the 2019 CEP that the community should aspire to become Carbon Neutral by 2050.”

Dooley said that staff initially presented the update as being able to realistically reduce emissions to one metric ton, but the community spoke up at meetings and said the County should commit to going to fully carbon neutral.

“The County Board heard that and said ‘we can go ahead and get it there,'” Dooley said.

If the technology to help Arlington reach its 2050 goals doesn’t materialize over the next few years, Dooley said there carbon offsets the County can purchase.

The update also includes other renewable energy objectives for the nearer term:

  • Government operations will achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2022, and 100% renewable electricity by 2025.
  • The community will achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

But other concerns remain that the plan might not be authorized by the state government or that it might fail to address consumer emissions — emissions associated with the local consumption of products that aren’t created in Arlington.

At the County Board meeting on Saturday, July 13, the Board is expected to approve advertisement of a public Planning Commission hearing on Sept. 9 and a public hearing at the County Board meeting on Sept. 21.

Image via Arlington County

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So you have a Tesla or some other electric car, but where in Arlington can you charge it?

Most of the electric car stations are grouped around Arlington’s Metro corridors, according to ChargeHub, a website that tracks charging stations. Charging stations follow a line between Rosslyn and Ballston, for instance, and there are 22 throughout the Crystal City and Pentagon City area alone.

But finding stations outside of those areas can be a hassle.

One bank of electric chargers is located along Columbia Pike at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street). In Shirlington, an electric car charging station is located at the Campbell Avenue parking garage.

Additionally, there are three charging stations in residential North Arlington:

  • Discovery Elementary School (5301 36th Street N.)
  • Harris Teeter (2425 N. Harrison Street)
  • Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 N. Marcey Road)

There are seven Tesla-specific charger locations in Arlington.

  • Two Liberty Center (4075 Wilson Blvd) — Four Tesla connectors available to the public
  • Clarendon Square (3033 Wilson Blvd) — Two Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • Market Common Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) — 18 Tesla Superchargers
  • 2311 Wilson Blvd (2311 Wilson Blvd) — Three Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • 1320 N. Courthouse Garage (1320 N. Courthouse Road) — Two Tesla connectors, parking fees may apply
  • The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City (1250 S. Hayes Street) — Two Tesla connectors, available for patrons only
  • Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel (2800 S. Potomac Avenue) — Two Tesla connectors, available for patrons only

Meanwhile, if your car is charged and you’re looking for fellowship with other electric car enthusiasts, a local group of residents has formed the Arlington Solar and EV Charger Co-op, with the goal of making it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels and electric vehicle chargers.

The group is planning to hold an information session on Thursday (June 27) from 6:30-8 p.m., at the Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) to discuss solar energy, electric vehicles, and simplifying the “going solar” process.

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Arlington is looking for public input on a plan to use energy more efficiently.

Tonight (June 4) from 7-9 p.m. at the Central Library Auditorium (1015 N Quincy Street), county staff plan to host an open house during which the community can ask questions or offer feedback on an update to the county’s Community Energy Plan (CEP).

Goals for the project include:

  • Increase the energy and operational efficiency of all buildings: By 2050, the plan aims to have total building energy usage in Arlington be 38 percent lower than in 2007. In the report, staff says both code-required reductions for buildings and incentives for voluntary efficiencies — a carrot and stick approach — will be required.
  • Ensure Arlington’s energy resilience: The report notes — and anyone in Ballston two weeks ago can confirm — Arlington’s energy infrastructure is vulnerable to extreme weather and other factors. The report says Arlington will need to use new technologies to rely on more local sources of energy and potentially establish “microgrids” to make critical pieces of infrastructure like Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and the Virginia Hospital Center more independent from blackouts across the county.
  • Increase locally generated energy supply: The plan aims to have Arlington County follow the example of Discovery Elementary, which won accolades for using all its energy generated on-site, and establish more solar energy collectors and other green energy sites across Arlington.
  • Move more people with fewer greenhouse gas emissions: The goal here is fairly self-explanatory, but the general idea is to get more Arlingtonians using buses, bicycles, and other non-car means of transportation, while encouraging those who are required to use cars to shift toward hybrid and energy-efficient vehicles.
  • Integrate energy goals into all county government activities: The report says Arlington should aim at having government facilities reduce CO2 emissions to 71 percent below their 2007 levels by 2040. The approach would involve a mix of smaller efficiencies in energy and water usage and larger shifts in making new government facilities more energy efficient from a design standpoint.
  • Support residents and businesses that reduce energy usage: The final goal of the report involves using county staff and resources to help encourage locals — from individuals to business owners — find ways to rethink energy usage in their own lives.

“We invite the community to drop in and spend as much time as needed to learn about the draft CEP update, CEP implementation details, and provide feedback on the proposed changes to the 2013 CEP,” Rich Dooley, Arlington’s community energy coordinator, said in an email.

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The annual Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo is coming to Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road) on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The home show is a community event — not a commercial event. The goal: to educate Arlingtonians about the best ways to add value to their homes and improve their overall quality of life.

Now in its 13th year, the home show is a one-stop shop for all things related to improving and building homes including permitting, financing and choosing the right contractors. This year the show will focus on informing visitors about value remodeling — making sure that every dollar invested in home improvement achieves the best return.

The free, family-friendly event will include 18 workshops covering a wide spectrum of topics, including Accessory Dwellings (ADUs), Energy Efficiency, Smart-on time and on budget-Contracting, Landscaping, Going Solar and the well established Landlord Seminar that deals with the legal and practical nuts and bolts of being a landlord. The Show features more than 65 exhibitors, including local builders, designers, master gardeners and more.

Attendees can also discuss their home improvement or building plans with representatives from a number of Arlington County agencies, who will be available for one-to-one consultation.

Admission and parking are both free. There will be a raffle for a 50-inch television, free LED bulbs for visitors, many contractor specials and great food will be provided by Cafe Sazon.

The event is organized by Arlington County’s Housing Division and the nonprofit group Resilient Virginia. Gold Sponsor of this year’s show is Alair Homes Arlington.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

Congratulations to the homeowners, architects and builders who were honored at the recent Green Home Choice certification ceremony. Thank you for helping to create a more sustainable Arlington one project at a time!

More than 335 Arlingtonians have used Green Home Choice to make their homes energy efficient, healthy and comfortable. Green Home Choice is a county program that offers free sustainability consulting and certification for renovation projects and new home construction.

Green Home Choice projects go beyond just creating an energy efficient home. They include water efficiency, indoor air quality, waste reduction, stormwater management, tree and site preservation and more, resulting in a more cost efficient, environmentally friendly and comfortable place to live

Homeowners living in new Green Home Choice homes save about $1,600 per year on their utility bills compared to other Arlington homes of the same size. Green Home Choice renovation projects save approximately $600 per year.

Have you been thinking about a home renovation, expansion or new construction in 2019? A full list of builders, architects and other Green Home Choice service providers is available online.

For more information about the program, visit the Green Home Choice website or contact the program manager at [email protected].

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Morning Notes

Clerk’s Office Stressed By Extra Work — “Increasing amounts of paperwork – whether of the hard-copy or electronic variety – are putting the squeeze on the staff of Arlington’s clerk of the Circuit Court.” [InsideNova]

Amazon Aiming for Net-Zero HQ2? — “Amazon seems to be eyeing the possibility of constructing ‘net-zero energy’ buildings when it readies its new offices in Pentagon City and Crystal City, and raised the issue repeatedly in negotiations with county officials.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Lauded for Music Education — “Arlington Public Schools has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation for its commitment to music education.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Alexandria Running Out of Office Space — “Alexandria’s efforts to lure new companies into the city are being thwarted by a space problem — there’s just not enough of it… there’s a dearth of the the right kind of office space, and that needs to change if Alexandra hopes to step up its game.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Crystal City commuters were greeted by a bit of an unusual sight this morning at the neighborhood’s Metro station: a human-sized Amazon Echo.

Environmental activists with the group Greenpeace USA invited people at the station to ask questions to their very own “Alexa” Thursday, and posted a variety of signs around the area proclaiming it as “National Landing,” the name chosen by local officials pitching the trifecta of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard for the tech giant’s new headquarters.

It was all part of a demonstration designed to draw attention to Amazon’s practices for powering its data centers scattered across the Northern Virginia area.

Though much of the opposition to the company’s move to Arlington has centered on its labor standards or the incentive money flowing to the massive firm, this morning’s demonstration accused Amazon of falling short of its commitments to use renewable energy to fuel its 55 data centers scattered across the region.

“We asked Alexa if she thought Amazon would be a good neighbor to Virginians and she replied, ‘that depends how much you like breathing clean air,'” Elizabeth Jardim, a Greenpeace USA senior corporate campaigner, wrote in a statement. “Amazon’s cloud including Alexa is powered largely from Northern Virginia, where it uses 88 percent dirty energy — meaning every question to Alexa is driving carbon emissions.”

Activists invited commuters to ask questions of “Alexa” about Amazon’s energy practices, and the life-sized Echo (voiced by local improv instructor Donna Steele) was ready with plenty of snarky replies.

Amazon committed years ago to someday using 100 percent renewable energy at its data centers, run as part of its lucrative Amazon Web Services cloud computing division.

But Greenpeace is accusing the company of abandoning that effort, even as other tech companies in Virginia like Google and Microsoft make progress.

The tech giant responded to the report by saying it’s “firmly committed” to that goal, and claimed that Greenpeace is using “inaccurate data” that “overstate both AWS’s current and projected energy usage.”

The activists stand by their numbers, however, insisting that the company address the issue if it’s to be a good neighbor in Arlington.

“Before Amazon breaks ground on its HQ2 in Virginia, Jeff Bezos needs to take responsibility for Amazon’s already massive energy demand in the state and follow through on its commitment to use 100 percent renewable energy,” Jardim said.

Arlington officials have said in the past they’ve had their own conversations with Amazon executives about the best ways to ensure that the company’s new office buildings across “National Landing” are energy efficient, but those discussions won’t proceed in earnest until the county formally signs off on the incentive package designed to bring the company to Arlington.

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The arrival of summer brings family trips to the beach, backyard barbecues and for many homes, peak energy use.

Fortunately, Washington Gas makes saving energy surprisingly easy — for the community and for their customers. If you are a homeowner, the season is right to take advantage of programs and services from Washington Gas that can help save energy, money and the environment.

Before you plan your next outdoor picnic, take a moment to use the free Washington Gas Home Energy Profile Tool, available on their website, washingtongasrebates.com/profile.

Within a few minutes, you will get a comprehensive analysis of your home’s energy use and learn how you can save energy through identifying potential cost savings. The Home Energy Profile Tool is available in both English and Spanish.

Big energy savings can begin by making small changes in and around your home, especially during the summer months. To help get you get started, Washington Gas is making its free energy conservation kit available to all Virginia residential customers who complete the Home Energy Profile.

Customers can simply request the kit once completing the Home Energy Profile. The items contained in the free kit will help you conserve energy and reduce utility bills. The items in the free kit include:

  • A High-Efficiency Showerhead: Enjoy strong, consistent water pressure from a high-efficiency showerhead, while saving water and the energy required to heat the water.
  • A Bathroom Faucet Aerator: Made to fit bathroom faucets, this product maintains great water pressure while conserving water and energy.
  • Self-Adhesive Door Sweep: Prevent air leaks under entry doors by creating a tight seal between the door and the door’s threshold.
  • A Roll of Closed Cell Foam Weather Strip: Seal air leaks around doors
    and windows to prevent outside drafts from coming in and to prevent air inside your home from escaping.

This summer take the first step toward creating a more energy-efficient home by completing the Home Energy Profile available at washingtongasrebates.com/profile.

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Morning Notes

Hot Day Ahead — Anyone spending time outdoors today should hydrate frequently and take proper precautions. The heat index is expected to climb into the 90s or even the low 100s. An air quality alert is also in effect. [Twitter, Twitter, National Weather Service]

Energy Rebate Program Ending — Arlington’s energy rebate program, which provides rebates to homeowners who add high-efficiency HVAC or water heaters, or who perform other energy-saving work, is ending due to county budget cuts. The last day to apply is today, June 18. [Twitter, EcoAction Arlington]

Rosslyn Bus Tunnel to Open — “A long-delayed bus tunnel in Rosslyn that is expected to help ease traffic in the area and significantly speed up bus trips has now been turned over to Metro, and should formally open within weeks. Metrobus and Arlington’s ART routes are expected to begin using the street-level tunnel June 24 through a glitzy new building between N. Moore Street and N. Lynn Street.” [WTOP]

GOP Beyer Challenger Courts LGBT Voters — “Thomas Oh, the Republican candidate embarked on an uphill quest to unseat U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), is reaching out to a constituency often left untapped by local Republican candidate. ‘I proudly support the LGBT community. I firmly believe in providing equality for every American,’ Oh said as he marched with the Capital Area Young Republicans in the recent Capital Pride Parade in the District of Columbia.” [InsideNova]

County Board Approves DARPA Changes — “Citing its desire to retain DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency headquartered in Ballston, the Arlington County Board today unanimously approved adding 1,265 square feet to its building for a secure screening and visitor check-in facility.” [Arlington County]

Graduations at Arlington High Schools — Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown high schools help their respective graduation ceremonies last week. Said Wakefield’s class president: “Just because this chapter of our lives is closing, we will prevail and go on to do great. The thing is, don’t think of this as a ‘goodbye,’ but a ‘see you later.'” [InsideNova, InsideNova, InsideNova]

Photo courtesy @TheLastFC

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