Tag Archives: energy

Climate & Energy

Energy Talk Focuses on Future of Newer Infrastructure, Greater Reliability and Efficiency

Area leaders turned their attention to energy for the next installment of COG’s 2014 Regional Infrastructure Series. During the May Board meeting, utility officials and experts led a wide-ranging discussion on more than $5.5 billion in investments over the next five years to replace and upgrade aging natural gas pipes and electric power lines as […]

Climate & Energy

Stat of the Week: $327 Billion…Per Year!

COG’s Legislative Priorities for 2014 focus broadly on initiatives to strengthen the Metropolitan Washington region’s economy and quality of life: from transportation, to the energy grid and cleaner water and workforce development. The energy efficiency and productivity priority encourages the region to lead the national trend of upgrading our infrastructure and existing energy delivery network. […]

Climate & Energy, Environment, Transportation

For 2014, Get Involved in Regional Transportation, Environmental Issues

Looking for a civic-minded New Year’s resolution? How about getting involved in transportation, air quality or climate and energy planning in the D.C. region? Two public advisory committees housed at the Council of Governments are recruiting new members—the Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee (ACPAC) and the Transportation Planning Board’s Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC). In […]

Climate & Energy, Energy, Environment

Stat of the Week: 177 Million Square Feet

With 177 million gross square feet of LEED certified buildings spread across three states and over 700 buildings, metropolitan Washington is easily very green.  The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia are in the US Green Building Council’s top 10 states for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification per capita and added over […]

Climate & Energy, Economy

Leaders Work to Spur Investments in Building Energy Efficiency to Create Jobs & Fight Climate Change

Financing energy retrofits has been a major focus of area leaders on the Council of Governments’ climate and energy committee since retrofit projects create jobs, increase energy efficiency, and fight climate change. Retrofit projects have also been of great interest to former President Bill Clinton, which is why he joined AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other […]

Climate & Energy, Environment

Partnerships Bring Cleaner, More Efficient Engines to Local Businesses

Diesel engines, especially older ones, generate a lot of pollutants. That black smoke you see pumping out of trucks, buses, and boats produces major negative effects on human health, the environment, the climate, and exacerbate environmental injustice. To ameliorate these effects, Congress passed the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) in 2005. The legislation was reauthorized […]

Climate & Energy

Local, State Innovations Provide Way to Meet Climate Goals

As frustrating as Congress’ unwillingness to take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be, additional legislation may not even be necessary to achieve the country’s climate mitigation goals. That was one of the key points stressed during a recent panel discussion with climate experts from the Georgetown Climate Center, Brookings and local elected […]

Climate & Energy

Sustainable DC: A Major Advance in Moving the Region Forward

Laine Cidlowski, AICP, Urban Sustainability Planner, and Tanya Stern, Chief of Staff, DC Office of Planning On February 20, Mayor Vincent C. Gray released what is being lauded as one of the nation’s most ambitious plans to improve quality of life in the Washington Metro region. The Sustainable DC Plan establishes a bold vision to make […]

Climate & Energy

Regional Investment in Energy Efficiency: Good for the Economy and the Environment

Nicole Steele, Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy & Julia Allman, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments It’s long been said that the cleanest, cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. And consuming less energy doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort or holding back economic growth. On the contrary, when we improve our energy productivity we […]


Progress Versus Tiny Pollutants Shows Big Improvement in Region’s Air Quality

In 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said our region was not meeting its fine particle (PM 2.5) pollution standards. This meant pollution levels were too high and that area leaders, through COG’s Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, needed to devise a plan to clean the air. Fast forward to 2013 and after a lot […]


Scaling Up Electric Vehicles in Metropolitan Washington

Metropolitan Washington regularly finds itself at or near the top of a lot of lists. Some of these distinctions are good, such as being the most educated region in the country, and some of them are bad, such as being one of the most expensive places to live. Unfortunately, “most electric vehicles” is not a […]

Lots of potential for electric vehicle growth in metro Washington

Although it currently lags behind early adopters on the West Coast, metro Washington holds great potential for widespread electric vehicle (EV) adoption in the future.

Electric Vehicles in Metropolitan Washington, a new COG report, outlines the region’s present EV readiness and offers recommendations for overcoming some of the major barriers, including limited vehicle availability and underdeveloped charging infrastructure.

But before we go any further, why should we want greater EV usage?

EVs boast stronger environmental credibility than traditional and even hybrid vehicles, with much lower greenhouse gas emissions (yes, that’s even when accounting for emissions generated by power source). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) views electric vehicles as one of the highest impact strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030.

They’re also much cheaper to operate. EVs have fuel economy ratings equivalent from 75 to over 100 miles per gallon of gasoline and cost approximately $0.04 per mile to operate when charged in metropolitan Washington (compared to $0.13 per mile for a traditional vehicle).

Furthermore, EVs are practical for much of the region’s population. Most vehicle trips in metro Washington are short, with an average trip length of less than eight miles. This is well within the range of one charge for all EVs on the market today, eliminating one of the major obstacles to greater EV usage, “range anxiety,” which keeps people from traveling long distances out of fear they won’t have anywhere to recharge their vehicle.

Although metro Washington still has a relatively small electric vehicle market, consumer interest in EVs is growing and more models are becoming available. However, the region’s charging infrastructure and EV policies are not yet sufficient to accommodate more widespread adoption of these vehicles.

When it comes to infrastructure, regions like San Francisco and San Diego are ahead of ours in the number of EV charging stations, though the gap is decreasing due to stimulus funding and private investment.

An April 2012 COG inventory of EV charging stations in the region identified 332 chargers in 133 publicly available charging station locations. D.C. has the most charging stations (36), followed by Fairfax County (18), Arlington County (15), and Charles County (11). D.C. and Arlington County also have the highest number of chargers (85 and 62, respectively).

In addition to infrastructure, the absence of a clear policy framework for EV infrastructure planning exacerbates existing market barriers to wider EV adoption. EV planning involves permitting, citing, zoning, utility policy, and other issues. The report notes that a streamlined regional strategy would help overcome these obstacles and encourage wider EV adoption.

RF Round-up: Sprawl Out, Urbanism In / Pedestrian Safety / BRT in Metro DC / Economic Growth / Reducing Child Poverty

The Yardstick has covered a very diverse range of topics over the past few weeks, from bringing BRT to metro Washington to reducing child poverty to making the region’s economy more competitive and resilient. In case you’ve missed any of them, here’s your chance to get caught up:

The next gener
ation of metro Washington’s growth and development: The office park model of development, based on low-density sprawl, is obsolete. That’s why leaders in the region are working to focus future growth – which is estimated to bring 1.6 million more people to the region in the next few decades – in urban, mixed-use Activity Centers. The evolution of Crystal City from a primarily industrial landscape in the 1960s into a major commercial center today is an illustrative example of the process of building successful urban centers.

Making the region’s roadways and walkways safe for all users: While motorist fatalities in the region declined by nearly 30 percent from 2006-2010, pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities remained essentially flat. The result is that pedestrians and bicyclists now account for 30 percent of the region’s traffic fatalities. That’s unacceptable, especially as the region aims to increase its share of walking and biking. Jeff Dunckel, Pedestrian Safety Coordinator for Montgomery County and George Branyan, Pedestrian Program Coordinator for D.C. site down for a video chat to discuss pedestrian safety issues.

Bringing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to metro Washington:
The region’s first BRT line could be operating in Northern Virginia by early 2014 thanks in part to a federal TIGER grant received by the TPB two years ago. The line will run approximately five miles along the Route 1 corridor between the Pentagon City and Braddock Road Metro stations, connecting growing housing and job centers to the existing transit system. Several bus routes serve the corridor already, but local planners say significant high-density development that is either underway or expected in the next few years will increase the demand for new and better service.

Moving the region’s Economy Forward:
The idea that metro Washington should diversify its economy is not new, though the urgency behind the notion is at an all time high. Nearly half a million jobs are threatened by sequestration, while a combination of the country’s “fiscal cliff” and ongoing political gridlock jeopardize future growth. Metro Washington ranked 13th out of 15 major metro areas last year in terms of job growth.

And even if Congress does manage to prevent sequestration, the current economic and political environment means that federal spending and employment is not likely to reach its recent levels in the near future. That’s why COG decided to make improving regional economic growth and competitiveness its key focus for 2012. Economy Forward, COG’s plan to prepare for reduced federal spending will develop sustainable transportation funding solutions, prioritize growth in Activity Centers, re-brand the region, improve workforce development, and establish a regional liaison with the White House.

Even in wealthy metro Washington, child poverty is on the rise and it’s an obstacle to progress:
This region is one of the most affluent communities in the world, yet, families and children are living in poverty as profound as in some developing countries. And despite the best efforts of many people over the years, things aren’t getting better, they are getting worse. A new report, Capital Kids: Shared Responsibility, Shared Future, paints a statistical portrait of our children and youth – including how their opportunities differ by where they live. There is a large and growing gap in this region between those who have the opportunities and resources to live a productive life and those who don’t.

Telework continues to gain popularity in metro Washington as technology advances and employers grant more flexibility:
More than 600,000 people in the region telework “at least occasionally” and another 500,000 say they “could and would” work remotely if given the opportunity, according to the results of a TPB survey of commuters’ travel patterns. That’s nearly half of the region’s 2010 workforce of around 2.4 million people.

Actions at Local Military Bases, DoD Buildings Will Make Metro Washington More Sustainable

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.”

Prevent Sprawl and Enjoy Local Food: Save Agricultural Land in Metro Washington

Between 1987 and 2007 metro Washington’s agricultural land declined by 23%, according to the recently released Region Forward Baseline Progress Report.

Currently, the entire region has less agricultural land than neighboring Fauquier County alone. This trend in which metro Washington is losing more than one percent of agricultural land per year represents a huge shift culturally and economically for the region.

At the current rate, metro Washington will drop below the Region Forward target of preserving at least 450,000 acres of agriculture land very soon. Now is the time to observe the positive and negative impacts of our development choices and determine what we want our future to look like. As we noted last week, economic growth and development need not be at odds with preservation and environmental protection if better land-use decisions prevail.

Metro Washington is one of the fastest growing regions in the nation. Sixty years ago, Fairfax County’s principal economic output was milk. Today it is the region’s most populated jurisdiction with an economy led by several fortune 500 corporations. This type of shift has occurred throughout the region and it has brought increased prosperity and resilience to our economy. However, this shift has also resulted in a rapid and fundamental change to our environment that will continue to impact all residents into the foreseeable future.

For several decades, land use and transportation policy encouraged expansive low to moderate intensity development characterized by single family homes and auto oriented commercial facilities. However, the dominance of this highway-centric development model is quickly fading. Over the past two decades the region has chosen to plan for fewer and fewer new highways, opting instead to pursue transit-oriented development and promote other alternatives to automobile travel, such as walking and biking.

This development pattern is more compact, devouring less land to house the same number of people and companies and has led to creation of vibrant new centers of activity throughout the region as well as the revitalization of areas that had been in decline.

Communities throughout the region have successfully implemented different approaches to development. Some jurisdictions have opted to concentrate growth in key areas; others have decided to preserve their environmental resources first. As we continue to grow, we are quickly reaching a critical point at which we must decide as a region 1) whether we want to preserve local agriculture? And 2) what tradeoffs are we willing to accept to preserve open space?

Every year more acres of agricultural land are developed for commercial purposes. If we wait too long to decide what we want from these resources they will be gone.