04/30/13

Energy 2030 in Action: Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments taking the lead on Energy Efficiency

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, an association of 300 elected officials and 22 local governments in the metropolitan Washington area, has created a vision - Region Forward - to transform the region to become more accessible, sustainable, livable and prosperous.

This vision aligns with the Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy's plan to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030 and make more efficient use of our energy resources. To achieve this ambitious goal, the Commission urges Americans to investmodernize, and educate—and metropolitan Washington is on its way to doing just that.

Investment

Barriers to large-scale investment prevent energy and economic savings from being realized. Metropolitan Washington aims to overcome this challenge and to unlock the potential for investment in home and commercial building energy efficiency retrofits by enabling new finance mechanisms through Region Forward's legislative priorities.

A major obstacle among homeowners is that current finance offerings don’t allow the owner to transfer project loans if they move. Large retrofit projects are much less appealing if the homeowner must continue loan payments even after the house is sold. Mechanisms such as On Bill Finance or Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans seek to address this issue.

Modernization

Modernizing land use plans, building codes, and infrastructure will deeply transform the way Americans use energy. Energy 2030 recommendations highlight the potential savings that can be achieved through integrated regional plans that align transportation funding with local land use plans to encourage transit-oriented, mixed-use communities.

Metropolitan Washington has demonstrated initiative in this field. In updating the Activity Center Map, the Council's Region Forward Coalition identified areas slated for growth by local governments and integrated these plans into the regional vision.

The Council of Governments' vision recognizes that increasing opportunities for walking, biking, and taking transit for everyday trips does not just reduce the energy it takes to get from A to B, but makes for vibrant streets that support local economies and improve quality of life. Walkable communities are also more resilient to economic shifts and less vulnerable to increasing gas prices.

Education

When it comes to education, the Commission recognizes that the first step in making smarter energy choices is based on knowing how much energy you use. More effective energy ratings for commercial and residential buildings, consistent labeling for appliances and vehicles, and increased access to energy use data make the consumer better able to make informed purchases.

Through the climate action planning process, the Council of Governments is developing recommendations for local governments to lead the way in tracking and disclosing building energy use. Putting these recommendations into practice is a first step in bringing the region’s business community on board to spur better energy management and efficiency investments.

Please visit the Council of Governments' website and blog for more information on the Region Forward plan.

Julia Allman at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Alliance Policy Intern Christina Ospina contributed to this article.