DC City Profile

In 2011, the District of Columbia released its first Climate Action Plan, in which it committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2032 and 80% by 2050 (compared to 2006 levels). Last year, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser upgraded this latter commitment to full carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve these goals, the city has developed programs around green buildings, transportation, and clean energy. Most of these climate goals are run out of the Department of Energy and Environment, an agency under the DC government that consolidates all the programs and services to build a clean and healthy environment under one roof. Washington, DC also became a member of the C40 network in 2015, joining over 90 other cities that are committed to reducing their contributions to climate change. The city is also a part of the Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), a National Science Foundation-funded effort in which scientists and community leaders from four cities (DC, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh) provide innovative education to city residents about climate change.

            To support its low-carbon transition, the District released the DC Clean Energy Plan, which outlines the steps that the District will take to achieve its clean energy goals. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2032, DC has parallel goals of reducing energy use by half and increasing renewable energy penetration to 50% by the same year. DC has a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in place that requires utilities serving the District to source 20% of the power they supply to DC from renewable energy sources by 2023, with 2.5% of that energy coming from local solar power. By 2032 this requirement increases to 50%, with a 5% carve-out for local solar. This RPS couples with several other policies and incentives that DC has in place to promote the development of local solar power, including energy rebates for solar installations and the exemption of solar panel additions to property tax calculations. Residents of DC also receive Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) for each kWh of energy their solar panels produce. They can then sell these credits to further improve the economics of their solar energy systems.

            In addition to renewable energy, the DC Clean Energy Plan also emphasizes the important of low-carbon transitions in buildings and transportation. The DC Sustainable Energy Utility, established in 2011, already provides information and incentives for energy efficiency retrofits in DC homes and buildings, and the District also has a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to provide financing support to residents that want to invest in energy efficiency . The DC Energy Plan aspires to expand these options in the future, eventually offering incentives to help all newly constructed buildings meet a net-zero carbon emission target by 2020. DC also plans to introduce a requirement by 2026 that all commercial and large multifamily buildings be carbon neutral, and it hopes to establish a green bank to expand financing options for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. On the transportation side, DC wants to introduce a financial incentive for purchasing electric vehicles (EVs) and also plans to update building codes and parking lot requirements to make the city more EV-friendly. To help better visualize the impact these various recommendations, DC’s Department of Energy and Environment created an interactive websites where the effects of each policy in the DC Clean Energy Plan are modeled out for interested parties to see.

DC has also created an Office of Resilience under the city government to fortify itself against external shocks, including those exacerbated by climate change. In 2016, the city joined the 100 Resilient Cities initiative, which allows it to receive technical and financial assistance to increase its resiliency. The District is currently in the process of designing its Resilience Strategy, working with a diverse range of urban stakeholders to develop a plan that will allow DC to respond effectively both to catastrophic events, like hurricanes and cyberattacks, as well as to chronic stresses like inequality and unaffordable housing.