MWCOG’s regional progress report on climate and energy issues and a recent series of blogs on this site highlight progress being made by area governments in advancing renewable energy projects and implementing policies to promote green buildings and green fleets. What may be less known are recent actions by the region’s largest employer, the federal government, to adopt clean energy policies.
The fact that Uncle Sam’s new goals align closely with those of local and state governments means there is an even greater opportunity to transform metro Washington into a more sustainable, secure, and economically competitive region. But to meet this potential, area leaders and experts agree more collaboration is needed.
To that end, on July 24, MWCOG, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the Maryland Clean Energy Center brought together representatives from the Department of Defense (DoD), armed services, federal, state and local energy offices, private industry leaders and policy experts to discuss existing sustainability activities and new opportunities for federal-regional partnership.
The DoD and military officials and Jonathan Powers, from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, all stressed President Obama’s executive order on sustainability specifically called for greater collaboration with regional officials, particularly for energy security actions with strong economic development potential.
They noted DoD’s goal to deploy three gigawatts of renewable energy – including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal – on Army, Navy, and Air Force installations by 2025 – enough to power 750,000 homes. Military facilities are also exploring microgrid technologies to strengthen their energy security and reliability, which is compromised by severe weather, heat waves, and deteriorating transmission lines. DOD is also improving building energy efficiency under President Obama’s goal that the federal government enter into $2 billion in energy performance contracts by 2013.
Participants also discussed advanced energy activities at several local installations that will help metro Washington meet its sustainability goals. For example, Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland is involved in the Army’s Net Zero Initiative. It is one of 17 installation that has pledged to consume only as much energy and water as it produces. To succeed at this initiative, officials at Fort Detrick are focusing on a number of clean energy strategies, including solar power and smart grids.
Michael Aimone, Director of Business Enterprise Integration for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, outlined a systems approach to DoD facility energy and provided perspective on the magnitude of the opportunity in the region. There are nearly 14,000 DoD buildings in Maryland, DC, and Virginia, as well as more than 400,000 acres on installations, a portion of which could be used for renewable energy deployment.
Base operating costs for the three jurisdictions is approximately $1.4 billion. The panel stressed that DoD does not have significant capital funding but has a very large operating budget that can potentially be used to fund new energy projects. DoD, like local governments, must identify and tap a variety of new and existing financing mechanisms to fund deployment of new energy solutions.
At lunch, a representative from the Department of Energy (DoE) Sandia Labs described a cooperative project among stakeholders in Vermont to meet that state’s ambitious goals of 90% renewable energy by 2050. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was instrumental in providing the seed money from DoE for Vermont. An interesting aspect of the approach used in Vermont was to establish a board of directors made up of public and private stakeholders to coordinate the planning and implementation of the new energy program.
At the last session, moderator Tom Peterson, from the Center for Climate Strategies, led a discussion of what processes and metrics the region could use to better coordinate federal and regional clean energy initiatives. With the multitude of local, state, and federal sustainability activities in motion or soon to be underway, MWCOG Vice Chair Karen Young from the City of Frederick urged for an ongoing dialogue among all the key players to focus on new, multi party actions. For the region to better leverage its clean energy investments and, in the process, create good jobs for area residents, Young stressed the meeting could not be a “one-time event.”