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Washington D.C. Passes Building Efficiency and Renewable Energy Policy

On December 18th, the Council of the District of Columbia passed Councilmember Cheh’s “Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018” and, in doing so, voted to set the most ambitious renewable energy policy in the country. Using the District’s Clean Energy DC Plan as a guide, the legislation is the result of over a year’s worth of working group meetings with local environmental organizations, the Put A Price On It Coalition, and the business community.
“The “Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act” is a historic piece of legislation that puts the District at the nation’s forefront in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The fight to reduce the impacts of climate change is the most important environmental issue of our time and, if the federal government is to abandon us in this effort, then the District can serve as a model for other jurisdictions and states to follow,” said Councilmember Cheh.

Cliff Majersik, Executive Director of the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), stated, “IMT congratulates Councilmember Mary Cheh, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District. This law will make D.C. the first U.S. jurisdiction to require a broad swath of existing buildings to improve their whole-building energy performance and is the strongest climate law ever passed by a U.S. city.”

Major provisions in the legislation include:

  • New Building Emissions Standards – The Building Energy Performance Standard Program for privately-owned and District government buildings will be the first of its kind in the country. Implemented by the Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE), the program will guide the District’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, most often large commercial buildings, in retrofitting their buildings to become more energy efficient.
  • Transitioning to Renewable Energy Sources – Currently, Pepco customers must opt-in to purchasing energy from renewable sources. The “Clean Energy DC Act” would flip that option so that residents must opt-out of purchasing renewable energy. The legislation also requires that 100% of electricity sold in the District come from renewable sources by 2032.
  • Funding local sustainability initiatives – To fund the Green Finance Authority, commonly known as the District’s Green Bank, and strengthen funding available for low-incoming energy assistance, this bill will increase the SETF fee for electricity and natural gas consumption. It does so in a way that will result in less than a $1 increase to residents’ average monthly electric bills and about a $2.10 increase to residents’ average monthly gas bills. 20% of the generated funds will be used by DOEE to provide relief to low-income residents struggling to pay energy bills.
  • Transportation Emissions –Once passed, this legislation will direct the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue rules that make the District’s vehicle excise tax amount dependent upon fuel efficiency, therefore incentivizing the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles. The bill will also authorize the Mayor to establish a greenhouse gas fee on motor fuel if Maryland or Virginia also do so and authorizes the Mayor to join in any forthcoming regional transportation-sector greenhouse gas reduction initiatives.

The legislation has been transmitted to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office for her review and signature.


 


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