Regional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are succeeding. That was the message to the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) from staff at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) at the Commission’s meeting last week. Despite a 19 percent growth in the region’s population, GHG emissions remained level between 2005 and 2015. Per capita emissions decreased 16 percent during the same time. In 2015, residential and commercial energy consumption accounted for 53 percent of GHG emissions; transportation, and mobile sources (on-road vehicles, air travel, commuter rail, and off-road activities, such as use of construction and landscaping equipment) accounted for 40 percent. Efficiency and switching to cleaner fuel sources contributed to GHG reductions.
In 2008, MWCOG and local governments across metropolitan Washington collaboratively established regional GHG emission reduction goals: 10 percent below business as usual projections by 2012 (back down to 2005 levels); 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020; and 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Metropolitan Washington met the 2012 goal, demonstrating that GHG reductions are possible even as the population and economy grows. The challenge, of course, is to maintain and improve on that track record.
Regular readers of this column will recall that, in 2004, Fairfax County adopted its 20-year Environmental Excellence Vision Plan, which was updated last year to include a chapter about climate change, an issue that wasn’t on most radar screens in 2004. Following on that update, the Board of Supervisors adopted an operational energy strategy, which will foster collaboration between county agencies and employees to reach new goals, targets, and actions. Included in the strategy is a plan to place solar panels on the county’s warehouse, located in Mason District, as a pilot project. Fairfax County has lots of rooftops that may be appropriate for solar arrays in the future; the warehouse pilot will provide useful information to plan for more. The strategy also identifies energy projects that can reduce county energy use by 20 percent by 2029. The 10-year investment for this goal is about $45 million; the initial $4.5 million will be considered by the Board in September during the FY2018 Carryover Review.
Under Virginia law, the county lacks the legal authority to impose energy efficiencies on the private sector, including homeowners, except for new construction, but provides information and guidance for county residents on its website, www.fairfaxcounty.gov. In 2017, the first Solarize Fairfax program resulted in 47 homeowners signing contracts for solar arrays on their homes; the 2018 results still are being compiled. This spring’s lightbulb exchange was so popular (residents exchanged more than 8000 old bulbs for new LEDs, free of charge) that I am seeking opportunities to repeat the program next year. And just last Friday, the Virginia Energy Purchasing Government Association and Dominion Energy signed an agreement for conversion to LED streetlight fixtures, a lengthy effort led by Fairfax County and NVRC. The county’s programs, when combined with private sector efforts, will continue to reduce GHG emissions, and help meet the reduction goals adopted by the region’s jurisdictions.
Spotlight by Starlight Update: Capital Steps fans will be pleased to learn that the rained-out concert at Mason District Park has been rescheduled for Friday, Sept. 7, at 7:30 p.m. The park is located at 6621 Columbia Pike in Annandale. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at email@example.com.