District of Columbia to Adopt the Nation's Strongest Renewable Energy Target

Move over, Hawaii and California, with your ambitious goals of going to 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2045. The District's city council passed legislation on Tuesday that sets 2032 as the target to reach 100 percent renewable.

Read Time: 3 minutes

December 23, 2018, 7:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Solar Houses

Vsevolod33 / Shutterstock

"The Clean Energy D.C. Omnibus Act of 2018 doubles Washington’s current policy, which says that by 14 years from now, the nation’s capital must be getting half its electricity from zero-emissions sources like solar and wind," writes Alexander C. Kaufmana climate and environment reporter at HuffPost

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states had adopted renewable portfolio standards by July 20, 2018 that "require utilities to ensure that a percentage, or a specified amount, of the electricity they sell comes from renewable resources."

Hawaii had the strongest goal: 100 percent by 2045. California adopted the same goal after Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed SB 100 in September.

Under the D.C. program, utilities that sell electricity generated from fossil fuels will pay fees, and renewable energy credits will play a central role.

While the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) may be the most high-profile part of the bill which goes well beyond regulating electricity generation, the author, Democratic councilwoman Mary Cheh, notes that it is a climate bill in her news release as it calls for reducing overall emissions as well.

When Mayor Bowser  signs the bill [as is expected], it will become the strongest climate law ever passed by a U.S. city. The bill outlines concrete steps that when fully implemented are projected to reduce the District’s greenhouse gas emissions by over 40 percent [pdf]. The District has committed itself to cutting its emissions by 50 percent [below the 2006 baseline] by 2032.

The bill tackles buildings, which account for 74 percent of DC’s carbon emissions according to Cheh.

The RPS will be an important part of cutting the District’s emissions, however, the most innovative and high-impact provisions of the law are its measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in the District.

With adoption, the District will become "the first U.S. jurisdiction to require a broad swath of existing buildings to improve their whole-building energy performance."

Another important component is transportation. The bill requires that all public and private transportation fleets operate only zero emissions vehicles by 2045, adds Kaufman. On Dec. 14, the California Air Resources Board  adopted a rule requiring all public transit fleets to operate zero-emission buses by 2040, but the D.C. "provision applies to fleets with more than 50 passengers, according to Utility Dive, meaning the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft are included."

Also on Tuesday, the District signed a Transportation and Climate Initiative agreement with nine states in the greater Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region to develop a policy to cap emissions from transportation and invest in low-carbon transportation solutions. 

Additional reading:

Related in Planetizen: 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018 in Huffpost

Green bike lane with flexible delineators and textures paint in Hoboken, New Jersey

America’s Best New Bike Lanes

PeopleForBikes highlights some of the most exciting new bike infrastructure projects completed in 2022.

January 31, 2023 - PeopleforBikes

Walkable, mixed-use neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain

Conspiracy Theorists Discover the 15-Minute City

USA Today debunks the false claim that the United Nations’ call for enabling 15-minute cities is a coded plan to institute ‘climate change lockdowns.’

February 8, 2023 - USA Today

Aerial view of MBTA commuter rail station in Concord, Massachusetts among green trees

Massachusetts Zoning Reform Law Reaches First Deadline

Cities and towns had until January 31 to submit their draft plans for rezoning areas near transit stations to comply with a new state law.

February 1, 2023 - Streetsblog Mass


Washington Could Legalize Single-Staircase Buildings

Supporters of ‘point access blocks,’ which are common in Europe and other parts of the world, say the design maximizes living space and lowers the cost of construction.

February 8 - The Urbanist

View of downtown San Francisco from top of windy street at sunset with Coit Tower in distance

San Francisco Housing Plan Gets State Approval

The city cleared a major hurdle as its housing plan, which paves the way for 82,000 new homes by 2030, is certified by the state.

February 8 - KALW

Green Line, Los Angeles

Rail Transit Plans Would Connect L.A.’s South Bay to the Regional Rail System

Two new transit extensions promise several new routes for South Bay residents to access the Los Angeles region’s transit system.

February 8 - The Source