Nation’s Capital Takes Major Climate Action Step: Unanimously Approves 50% Renewable Energy Target
By Chesapeake Climate Action Network
The nation's capital took another step toward nation-leading climate action today, as the District of Columbia Council unanimously approved legislation, B21-650, to expand DC's renewable energy target to 50 percent by 2032.
"Today's vote is a major step toward growing the district's clean energy economy," said council member Mary Cheh (Ward 3), lead sponsor of B21-650. "This bill will create good-paying jobs, more affordable energy and healthier air for all district residents."
The bill, which heads to the desk of Mayor Muriel Bowser, sets one of the top-five mandatory clean energy goals in the nation at the state level. By creating incentives for 1,500 Megawatts of new solar and wind power, the bill will quadruple jobs in DC's solar industry, which currently employs 1,000 people. It will also reduce climate pollution at a rate equal to taking 500,000 cars off the road per year.
On top of expanding DC's Renewable Portfolio Standard, the bill establishes a "Solar for All" program that aims to cut the electric bills of 100,000 low-income district households in half by 2032 using clean energy and energy conservation.
"The DC Council is setting an example of strong climate action that leaders on Capitol Hill and across our region should follow," said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. "Solar and wind are the fastest growing sources of power and DC is positioning itself to capture the benefits of cleaner air, thousands of new jobs and a better future for all residents."
Clean energy is already a growing source of power and a driver of economic development in the district. DC's existing renewable energy standard requires 20 percent of the district's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020, a target the city is on pace to exceed. DC currently has more than 250 clean energy companies, which are positioned to grow under the new policy.
"Washington, DC is already seeing a solar boom and it's about to get a whole lot bigger," said Atta Kiarash, construction manager at DC-based Solar Solution. "Today's vote will create an estimated 4,000 new DC jobs in the solar industry that pay middle class wages and offer career pathways for DC workers."
The bill passed today will assist DC's low-income residents in particular. Low-income households spend a high proportion of their income on energy bills. By connecting low-income families to low-cost clean energy and money-saving energy efficiency upgrades, the bill will help DC residents cover basic needs like food, housing and education. More clean energy will also reduce toxic air pollution that disproportionately impacts the health of low-income people and people of color.
"With Mayor Bowser's signature, DC will join the ranks of a number of cities and states leading a clean energy revolution," said Chris Weiss, executive director of the DC Environmental Network. "The DC Council is taking the steps necessary to more aggressively curb carbon emissions that cause climate change. Additionally, the Solar for All program will make sure clean and affordable renewable energy is available to all district residents. The DC Environmental Network urges Mayor Bowser to sign this bill as soon as possible."
DC has more than enough renewable resources at hand to meet and exceed the 50 percent target approved today. DC can meet its higher goal by tapping just 11 percent of the wind power already in queue to be developed in the region. Meanwhile, DC's total solar potential is 2 Gigawatts or four times greater than the 5 percent solar "carve-out" set by the new legislation.
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