The United States Environmental Protection Agency and Center for Resource Solutions presented Washington, D.C., a Green Power Leadership Award for its use of renewable energy resources.
The district was honored at the annual Renewable Energy Markets Conference on Oct. 19, recognizing Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration for implementing a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with Iberdrola Renewables, LLC in July.
As part of this agreement, the city’s Department of General Services effectively replaces 30 to 35 percent of government buildings’ electricity with wind energy from a wind farm in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The DGS maintains more than 400 buildings that are points of access to the city government for the public, such as schools and recreation centers. The DGS Energy and Sustainability Division is responsible for promoting conservation in its power and utilities usage, as well as for maintaining a sustainable district portfolio of green building.
DGS Energy and Sustainability Director Mark Chambers highlighted solar power usage as a potential expansion for its program.
“We’re actively pursuing solar,” Chambers said. “The idea is that we can use the portfolio of buildings to leverage their being more renewable. … We’re getting to a place now where we’re almost ready to engage and start that process.”
According to Georgetown University Student Association Secretary of Sustainability Caroline James (COL ’16), solar provides people with a visual on-site source of power that they can directly interact with, as opposed to purchased power.
“In my ideal world, they would use the combination of purchased power more for base-load power as well as installed on-site renewables in D.C.,” James said. “Say that they launched a project to have a whole bunch of solar on a whole bunch of houses, maybe city-subsidized housing … and say that the sun isn’t shining, the remainder of that power purchased through a PPA.”
The DGS currently uses a block-and-index strategy for its power blend, meaning it purchases a base load of ground power and then buys any more power necessary on the spot, maximizing dependence on the intermittent load of how much power the wind can provide at a given time.
Chambers emphasized this as a helpful strategy to keep sustainable energy interactive and cost-effective for the public. Additionally, it will supplement the long-term investment assumption that fossil fuel prices will rise and carbon taxes will be enacted.
“You’re really looking at ‘What are the projections of the wind?’ and ‘How much are we going to buy?’” Chambers said. “The more control you take over your power supply, the more opportunity for cost saving and I think the more you get a handle on how you can reduce your overall demand.”
Leader of the College Democrats Environmental Activism Team Madison Thomas (COL ’19) said she considers awareness and expenses to be some of the main issues facing environmentalism.
“There [are] so many different important issues that need to be funded,” Thomas said. “I personally think the environment is one of the most important things that we need to be conscious of when we’re choosing where we’re funding because that’s our entire future, but a lot of people don’t agree.”
James also stressed awareness as a crucial component in the energy-sourcing process.
“When you turn on your light, most people don’t take a lot of time to think about where that energy is coming from,” James said. “It’s certainly Georgetown’s responsibility and the city’s responsibility to publicize to people where that energy is coming from so people understand the underground importance of what’s going on.”
Chambers added that other major obstacles for going green in the city are potentially bureaucratic.
“I think in theory, everyone is supportive of it. I think in practice, you just have to get everyone used to new models of whether it’s procurement, where you find things, or new models of managing things,” Chambers said. “There’s a lot between us wanting to have wind power and actually getting it; there’s a lot of new things that our District government has to do.”
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