Arlington Drafts Ambitious Plan for Sustainable Energy Future

  • Groundbreaking plan to achieve a sustainable, secure, economically competitive energy future
  • Targeting 75% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050
  • Proposed new element of County’s Comprehensive Plan
  • Three-year effort brought together community leaders, businesses, energy experts
  • County Board will consider action in June 2013

ARLINGTON, Va. — Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan today presented a groundbreaking draft Community Energy Plan (CEP) to the County Board. If adopted, the CEP would provide a roadmap for transforming the way energy is used, generated and distributed in Arlington through 2050.

The CEP’s goals are ambitious; it sets a target reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 3.0 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per resident per year by 2050, a reduction of approximately 75% from current levels. That is the level of Copenhagen, Denmark, the global benchmark for low emissions.

“Arlington County’s commitment in its Community Energy Plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by about 75 percent over the next several decades is one of the strongest statements any community in the world has made about the importance of moving to a cleaner energy system,” said Stockton Williams of HR&A Advisors, which advised the plan. “The County’s comprehensive approach, laying out paths of action in buildings, transportation, and clean energy generation, should create substantial economic and environmental benefits for the businesses and residents of the County, while enhancing the high quality of life for which Arlington has long been known.”

Comprehensive Plan Element

The CEP is proposed as the newest element to the County’s Comprehensive Plan. Inclusion of the CEP in the Comprehensive Plan is significant because it would clearly designate the energy plan as an important part of Arlington’s future.

“Arlington has been a leader in advancing ‘smart growth’ and sustainable development, and our Comprehensive Plan reflects that leadership through its vision, goals and policies,” said Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan. “Once again, Arlington is taking a leadership role in advancing a transformative Community Energy Plan that represents the next generation of smart growth and another visionary way to support a sustainable future for our community.”

CEP Elements

The Plan outlines 14 policies, in six goal areas, affecting all major aspects of community energy consumption. The accompanying Community Energy Implementation Framework (CEIF) lays out a wide range of strategies and tools for achieving energy goals, including:

  • Improving by up to 60% the energy efficiency of newly constructed and renovated residential, commercial and civic buildings. Includes financial incentives for investment in energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Managing home and building operations to reduce energy costs. Arlington County will continue to lead by example, through its Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions (AIRE) program, and by partnering with Arlington Public Schools.
  • Creating district energy systems in the highest density development corridors. District energy, although not a new technology, has never been deployed on a community level by any jurisdiction in the Washington, D.C. area. The CEP calls for district energy and local cogeneration of power to provide about 40% of the County’s energy needs in 2050.
  • Deploying alternative energy sources, such as solar photovoltaic and other renewable energy systems. The CEP contains an ambitious goal for solar power: 160 megawatts of solar electricity by 2050; enough electricity to power 40,000 homes.
  • Refining and expanding transportation infrastructure and operations enhancements. The CEP envisions more people walking, biking and using transit and fewer cars on the roads, in addition to cleaner-burning vehicles.
  • Changing how people in our community think about energy, helping them to understand how to have an impact on energy consumption, and actually changing human behavior to transform how we consume energy.
  • Working with our regional partners on regional energy planning.

Benefits to the community

CEP implementation will bring numerous benefits to Arlington:

  • Improved energy use will result in a more competitive economic environment, as lower energy costs will directly affect business’ bottom lines.
  • District energy and alternative sources, e.g., solar energy, will diversify energy supply and flatten peak demand for electricity, providing greater energy reliability and supply security, another competitive advantage in the regional market.
  • Dramatically reduced energy use will result in lower greenhouse gas emissions and a more sustainable environment. Residents and businesses with lower energy costs will have funds available for other investments, improving quality of life.

Three-year community effort

Development of the CEP has been part of a three-year effort that has brought together community leaders, businesses, energy experts, and County staff. The Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force was appointed in 2010 and presented its recommendations to the County Board in May 2011.

At that time, the County Board asked the County Manager to come forward in November 2012 with the Community Energy Plan, which would become a new Comprehensive Plan element, a Community Energy Implementation Work Plan, and a process for the community to learn more about the two documents. Helping to review the documents since May 2011 was the Community Energy Advisory Group, comprised of local stakeholders.

Next steps

County staff will be holding numerous meetings — including commissions, civic groups, business partners and residents – and will be sharing information, answering questions and asking for feedback.

Culminating the three-year effort, the County Board will consider adoption of the Community Energy Plan – and its inclusion to the Comprehensive Plan – in June 2013. If the Board approves the CEP, County staff would begin implementation, following strategies outlined in the Community Energy Implementation Framework, a companion document to the CEP.

As part of its overall community engagement process, staff will provide an interactive, educational event, the “Energy Journey,” on Feb. 2, 2013. Watch for a special insert in the January/February edition of the Citizen newsletter, mailed to every household in Arlington.

Visit to learn more about Arlington County’s commitment to making smart energy choices.

Arlington Va., is a world-class residential, business and tourist location that was originally part of the “10 miles square” parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation's Capital. Slightly smaller than 26 square miles, it is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, and one of only a handful with the prized Aaa/AAA/AAA bond rating. Arlington maintains a rich variety of stable neighborhoods and quality schools, and has received numerous awards for Smart Growth and transit-oriented development. Home to some of the most influential organizations in the world — including the Pentagon — Arlington stands out as one of America's preeminent places to live, visit and do business.