Editor: On Thursday, Oct. 8, Loudoun County Chair Phyllis Randall and Supervisor Mike Turner hosted an outstanding webinar called Climate Action Webinar. It was to “shape the direction of environmental policy and provide practical steps to move Loudoun forward on climate and energy issues.”
Chair Randall shared recent accomplishments in Loudoun, including:
• a Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program that eliminates the upfront cost of installing solar panels and other qualifying improvements;
• Sustainability Policies in the new comprehensive plan Loudoun 2019 which includes EV charging stations in public facilities.
Supervisor Turner expressed his focus on taking action, such as:
• Plans to introduce R-PACE (residential) enabling legislation in the next General Assembly session to promote solar panel installations on home.
• Developing a close working relationship with the Data Center Coalition, including identifying Green Energy Zones option to power Loudoun’s Data Center Alley with clean energy, not dirty fossil fuels (data centers annually consume over 2.75 Gigawatts of electrical energy).
Three outstanding panelists shared their assessment of Loudoun’s performance in the climate and energy realm and recommended specific steps that should be considered.
First, Steve Walz, Director, Environmental Programs, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, MWCOG, shared some sobering news. In the 2005-2018 greenhouse gas inventory of the region, other localities reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but Loudoun had a significant increase. Factors accounting for this include growth in: data centers; commercial buildings; and residences. Mr. Walz reassured the hosts that MWCOG is ready to assist Loudoun to do better. He cited expanded economic development as a benefit of climate planning because Loudoun will be more attractive to companies prioritizing Corporate Sustainability Goals. Mr. Walz also recommended that Loudoun develop a climate planning commission such as in Fairfax County. Elsewhere in the program, Chair Randall made a related remark suggesting creation of an Environmental Heritage Commission to hold Loudoun accountable to MWCOG Clean Energy and Environment Policy Committee adopted programs.
Next, Jay Fissette, former Chair of Arlington County Board responsible for the Arlington’s Community Energy Plan & current Managing Principal, DMV Strategic Advisors, made a detailed analysis of Loudoun’s climate action efforts. He made 10 recommendations, each with suggested implementation steps. Key recommendations include:
• Establishing a permanent climate change advisory committee
• Reorganizing existing County staff to provide a comprehensive analysis of policies and land use applications through an environmental/climate change lens.
Elsewhere in the program, Chair Randall indicated that there would be a new Environmental Commission.
The final speaker was Bob Lazarro, Executive Director, Northern Virginia Regional Commission. Mr. Lazarro recommended that:
• Loudoun update it’s County Energy Strategy which addresses climate change;
• expand C-PACE to include multi-family structures;
• support the adoption of Electric Vehicles.
• Make the Loudoun County website more user friendly and easier to find energy information.
The county has many recommendations to begin action. The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that there are less than 12 years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking unprecedented actions. Now, there are less than 10 years. No time to lose to act on climate.
Natalie Pien, Leesburg