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.

3 minute read

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 rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Ice fishing tents surrounded by fence in Safe Outdoor Space for unhoused people in parking lot in Denver, Colorado.

An Affordable Housing Model for Indigenous Americans

Indigenous people make up a disproportionately high percentage of the unhoused population, but many programs designed to assist them don’t reach those most in need.

5 hours ago - High Country News

An electric bicycle is shown with the legs of a human who is riding the e-bike.

Oregon Bill Would Ban E-Bikes for Riders Under 16

State lawmakers seek to change Oregon e-bike laws following the death of a 15-year old last summer.

6 hours ago - Oregon Capital Chronical

Aerial view of canal cut into beach in Charlestow, Rhode Island with boats parked in sand.

Northeastern Waterways More Polluted After Wet Year

Intense rains washed more runoff into local bodies of water, while warmer temperatures contributed to the growth of an invasive bloom.

7 hours ago - University of Rhode Island

Senior Planner

Heyer Gruel Associates

Regional Transportation Planner

Crater Planning District Commission

Senior Planner- Long range

Prince William County Planning Office

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.