Loudoun’s county government is taking a number of steps toward being a little greener.
County supervisors on Tuesday, Dec. 1 unanimously approved a number of initiatives that grew from County Chair Phyllis J. Randall’s (D-At Large) request for a broad overview of sustainability in Loudoun. Those included ideas like expanding the county’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which helps fund green energy projects. Supervisors voted to pursue Power Purchase Agreements, financing tools that allow renewable energy developers to build projects and sell the power to customers, which are often tax-exempt entities such as local governments that cannot directly claim federal tax credits for renewable projects. And they voted to create an Environmental Advisory Council, which would guide those and other environmental initiatives.
Randall said that work builds on the achievements of previous boards, including work in 2009 to create the first County Energy Strategy.
“As innovations come online, we want to be able to take advantage of what’s already going to be there, and so I want to get to a place where the County of Loudoun has a small-as-possible carbon footprint,” Randall said. “And because we’re such a tech-heavy county and have so many data centers, I think Loudoun really should be leading in this effort.”
Supervisors during the previous term took several steps toward making Loudoun more environmentally friendly, starting with a review of an existing energy strategy, approving a program to help finance commercial clean energy projects, and adopting new state ordinances to lower barriers to renewable energy at home and on farms. Supervisors also ordered a review of the county’s recycling program, ultimately dedicating $218,000 to test collecting glass separately to reduce contamination in other recyclables, making those recyclables harder to market.
The idea for a new Environmental Advisory Council, which could be similar to or even incorporate the existing Water Resources Technical Advisory Committee, has been part of the environmental review since supervisors approved it unanimously in April. At that time, Randall said it could be a technical committee, toward creating a set of technical recommendations, wrapping up its work within the current board’s term, then disbanding. The conversation Tuesday on the dais clarified that its sub-committees would meet on an ad-hoc basis, dissolving after their work plan is done.
It is not the first attempt at creating a local government body for environmental oversight.
Previously, the county had a Department of Environmental Resources that went away during a mid-1990s reorganization, an Environmental Review Team in the early 2000s that has since been disbanded, a short-lived citizen advisory on environmental issues, and a Sustainable Energy Task Force that finished its work and made its final report and recommendations in 2012.
Supervisors also voted to overhaul the County Energy Strategy, which was first developed in 2009. Supervisors took their first cut at reviewing that in 2018, finding that although the work was done quietly, that work was being done, although sometimes without formal tracking of its sometimes vaguely stated goals.
The overhaul will start with an estimate of how much that would cost, possibly including hiring an outside consultant and holding a Board of Supervisors workshop to figure out that consultant’s scope of work.
“It really is a bipartisan effort,” Randall said. “I have been talking to colleagues across Northern Virginia, and some of the stuff we’re doing, we’re not recreating the wheel. So there’s nothing we’re doing right now that we have to go to the state and ask permission. Everything we’re doing right now, some counties have been doing already.”