Comparing various 100% renewable energy commitments, one interesting aspect is how much time cities, states, universities, and countries are giving themselves to reach this goal.
While most entities have until 2045 to 2050 to go 100% renewable, Washington, D.C. has taken a bold move and fully committed itself by the year 2032. The District has established one of the most aggressive renewable energy targets in the world, beating out the timelines of even California and Hawaii by 13 years.
The D.C. city council voted unanimously to put its climate change policy on the fast track last December, and this particular climate change-fighting vote was an important one because everyone on the council was behind it. Yet despite this impressive show of solidarity, a few questions remain with regard to how 100% renewable will work given the city’s high building density and where renewable energy will come from.
We’ve been seeing big renewable energy strides in the Southwest and Mountain West states lately, but these places have something that D.C. doesn’t… ample land. D.C. is situated in a relatively small area with high building density, meaning there’s not much land to work with to achieve this goal. And from the beginning, a big question has been how to define utility ownership of generation assets.
To tackle these challenges, Mayor Bower’s Clean Energy D.C. plan features 57 action items that include doubling the required amount of solar energy, making existing buildings more energy efficient, requiring public transit vehicles to become emissions-free, funding the D.C. Green Bank, and offering energy bill assistance to low-income residents. Utility company Pepco (and its parent company, Exelon) are now prohibited from owning clean energy assets to prevent any intentional delays in moving towards solar, and D.C.’s other power will be coming from the PJM electricity market. Meanwhile, companies will have to pay into the city’s Renewable Energy Development Fund if they miss their benchmarks.
The issue of limited space is being addressed on the city’s building rooftops, with panels often being installed atop canopies that provide shade to residents who enjoy lounging in courtyard spaces with skyline views. But something unique about the renewable energy movement in D.C. is that it is also addressing the local affordable housing crisis.
Rooftop solar panel partnerships are advancing solar technology, enabling building owners to comply with new requirements, and collecting solar energy powered from these buildings. This energy will be donated as credits to low-income residents of D.C. to help reduce electricity costs. It is estimated that thousands of D.C. residents won’t have to worry as much about being unable to pay their monthly electric bills because of the push for new, cheap solar installations.
Some say the number 13 is unlucky, but we think this aggressive 13-year timeline is exactly what D.C. needs to push back against the anti-environmental efforts around town and to set an example for the rest of the country here close to home.
Curious about how much energy you could generate check out our Solar In Washington DC write up.