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July 12, 2017

Arlington’s use of electricity continues to rise as Arlington Community Energy Plan goes unfulfilled

Development,environment — @ 3:38 pm

In early June 2017, the Arlington County Board pledged adherence to the Paris Accord on Climate Change (despite president Trump’s withdrawal), and indicated that the Arlington 2013 Community Energy Plan (CEP) goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Arlington by 75 percent within roughly 30 years would make the Paris accord possible in the county. Unfortunately, the Arlington County Board adopted the CEP four years ago in 2013, but never implemented the main policy measures to meet the goals set in the plan, and energy use–mainly electricity continues to rise.

Energy use in Arlington, particularly of electricity, has continued to increase over the past 17 years, and there has been no paradigm shift to energy-savings building design particularly in the new and larger houses. Energy use in residential and commercial buildings accounted for about 79 percent of Arlington GHG in recent years (transportation for the remainder). Since 2000, total electricity use in Arlington rose by 14 percent led by a 45-percent rise in residential use, according to utility data provided by Arlington County. Commercial use of electricity peaked in 2007, and declined by 11 percent during 2007-15 as about 20-percent of office space became empty, and the recession took hold.

Higher residential use of electricity and natural gas can be traced to about 14-percent more Arlington residents, and tear downs of older detached houses and replacement by larger wasteful McMansions. Larger square footage in a home is directly related to energy use unless extraordinary energy-savings technology is introduced. The residential population in Arlington rose by about 14 percent to 216 million during 2000-15.

Total use of natural gas in Arlington did fall about 28 percent during 2000-15 as commercial buildings used much less, but natural gas use in residences rose by 4 percent during 2000-15. Warmer winter temperatures have curbed natural gas use for heating, and the nearly 20-percent office vacancy rate in 2015 reduced the need to heat offices. However, as vacant office space is rented in the future, energy use in commerce will rise.

The county government has failed to bring into effect the two main goals set in the 2013 Community Energy Plan–much tighter new building standards and co-generation of electricity. Without these measures, the county will never be able to reach the goal of a 75-percent reduction in carbon emissions in the county.

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