DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

The District of Columbia, created by an Act of Congress in July 1790, is not a state although there is a political movement to make it one. Commonly known as Washington, D.C., it is our nation’s capital occupying 68 square miles, with a population density greater than any U.S. state – around 714,153 people. Although some politicians like to say that D.C. is a swamp, this is actually not scientifically correct. The city was built on a firm and dry riverbank. It is, however, mostly in a humid subtropical zone with steaming summers and winters featuring snow and ice.

D.C. is absolutely no stranger to climate change. Since the city was founded (as part of Alexandria, Virginia in 1749), the Potomac River has risen roughly one foot, twice as fast as the global average for sea level rise. Although DC is not on the ocean, the Potomac and Anacostia rivers are influenced by sea level. The rivers seem to be rising extra fast because land in DC is also sinking due to a geological phenomenon called subsidence. Flooding has become a part of life for the city’s residents, and it’s only going to get worse.

Storms are also accelerating. There have been plenty of tropical cyclones, like the derecho of 2012, and on a random Monday in July of 2019 a storm dumped a month’s worth of rain on the city in one hour. Suffice to say, this isn’t normal and the future doesn’t look better.

Climate change has already caused a rise of 2°F over the last 50 years, more than the national average. Summers have also been 5-10% more humid than they were in the 1970s. By mid-July, 2021, D.C. had experienced 3 heat waves, 19 days with above 90º days (above average), but with a high temperature of 95º (below average).

Thankfully, The District has been taking action. Already in 2005, they adopted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which has been amended several times subsequently. In 2016, their commitment expanded to require that 50% of all retail electricity sales in the District come from renewable sources by 2032, with no less than 5% of retail electricity sales to be generated by solar sources. Additionally, they drafted Climate Ready DC, a comprehensive plan to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The plan covers water management systems, resilience of energy, communication, and transportation infrastructure in regard to more frequent and more powerful storms. It also addresses ways to combat extreme heat, like increasing green space and tree cover.

In 2018 they passed the Clean Energy D.C. Act, accelerating the District’s move to 100% renewable energy by 2032, with the solar energy requirement increasing to 5.5% by 2032 and to 10% by 2041, an ambitious goal. The measure incentivizes electric vehicle purchases and toughens efficiency requirements for new and existing buildings, even helping to fund some of these upgrades.

Washington D.C. generates little of its own electricity and none of its own gas or petroleum. Already in 2019, almost half of the electricity generated in the District came from solar panels located on homes and commercial buildings throughout the city, with a third coming from biomass-generated energy and the rest of D.C.’s power comes from natural gas.

Although the District consumes more energy than it produces, it still uses less than any state except Vermont. Most of the energy used in the District is consumed by the commercial sector, which includes federal buildings, museums, and universities. Because of its heat and humidity, air conditioning is a significant chunk of energy usage in the city.

D.C. has become a significant market for electric vehicles with more electric vehicle charging stations than gasoline stations, resulting in the city’s per capita gasoline expenditures to be lower than those of any state. Additionally, in June, 2021, Metro announced that they will transform their 1,500 buses to electric by 2045.

CREDIT: EPA

CURRENT NEWS

PLANS TO ACCELERATE RENEWABLES

The District of Columbia’s Plan to Adapt to a Changing Climate

09/03/20
Climate change is no longer a distant threat. In order to prepare Washington, DC for the future, we can and must respond to new and substantial challenges created by climate change. Climate Ready DC is…

B22-0904 – CleanEnergy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018

05/31/19
As introduced, this bill increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 100% by 2032, establishes a solar energy standard post 2032, and establishes standards electricity suppliers must meet regarding purchasing a percentage of their energy from…

The Sustainable DC Plan

03/18/19
Sustainable DC is the District of Columbia’s major planning effort to make DC the most sustainable city in the nation. Led by the Department of Energy & Environment and the Office of Planning, it is a…

Clean Energy DC Climate Action Plan

10/24/11
Clean Energy DC is the District of Columbia’s energy and climate action plan. It explains how the District will use forward-looking energy policies, while also encouraging innovation, efficiency, and resiliency. Clean Energy DC re-imagines what…

KEY RESOURCES

District Of Columbia State Profile and Energy Estimates

09/23/21
The District of Columbia, commonly known as Washington, DC, is located on the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia. The nation's capital was created by an Act of Congress in July 1790, and it is…

Energy State Bill Tracking Database

09/10/21
The searchable Energy Storage Legislation Database displays information in interactive maps and charts, tracking state activity from 2017 to the present.

Environment and Natural Resources State Bill Tracking Database

09/01/21
The National Conference of State Legislatures tracks environment and natural resources bills that have been introduced in the 50 states, territories and Washington, D.C.

The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in Washington, D.C.

09/19/20
On July 8, 2019, a month’s worth of rain—4 inches—was unleashed over just one hour in Washington, D.C. The flood was one of the most extreme weather events in years and required the National Weather…

What Climate Change Means for the District of Columbia

09/03/20
The District of Columbia’s climate is changing. The region has warmed by more than two degrees (F) in the last century, hot days and heavy rainstorms are more frequent, and the tidal Potomac is rising…

DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU)

06/07/19
The District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility helps DC residents and businesses use less energy and save money. Since 2011, the DCSEU has delivered financial incentives, technical assistance, and information to tens of thousands of…

MORE NEWS

DC approves disputed Pepco rate increase in new approach to utility regulation

By Robert Walton  Photo: Daquella manera   06/08/21  
District of Columbia regulators on Friday approved Potomac Electric Power Company's (Pepco) multi-year rate plan (MRP), authorizing the utility to recover $108.6 million through higher rates over three years, from 2020 to 2022. The plan…

Intense rainfall, hotter summers | A look at how climate change impacts DC area gardens

By Nathan Baca  Photo: Becca Knier   05/18/21  
 Gardeners around the D.C. metro area are already noticing it. Stronger storms, longer droughts and higher temperatures. All leading to wilted or dying flowers and vegetables that are part of global climate change.
NPR

DC Water Just Finished Digging A 5-Mile Tunnel 100 Feet Below The City

By Jacob Fenston   04/28/21  
Chris has been underground since 2018, diligently digging, starting at RFK Stadium and slowly moving northwest. Now, Chris's work is complete — a 5-mile long, 23-ft. wide tunnel that will soon prevent sewage overflows into…

Early blooming of cherry blossoms concerns climate experts

By Farah Javed  Photo: Jeff, Flickr   04/17/21  
Thousands of people each year flock to cherry blossom festivals around the world. This year, however, these iconic pink trees are blooming early, and scientists believe climate change and urbanization are at fault.

Combating Climate Change: Essential, Not Optional

By Christopher Jones   04/14/21  
As residents of the nation’s most political town, Washingtonians know that climate change is back on top of the White House agenda. Are they aware, however, of the mounting threats climate change poses to life…

Opinion: The cicadas are coming. And they’re changing dramatically.

By Chris Simon  Photo: James M. Thresher , The Washington Post   04/12/21  
In late May 2017, my husband and I were walking around the leafy suburbs west of D.C. The noise of the cicadas was deafening. “Why are there so many cicadas” my friend’s 7-year-old son, Dylan,…

Rising waters trigger change for DC’s Tidal Basin

By Whitney Pipkin  Photo: Sam Kittner , Tidal Basin Ideas Lab   03/30/21  
A visit to the Tidal Basin in the District of Columbia should deliver sweeping views of cherry trees heavy with pink and white blooms this time of year, drawing millions of onlookers to the concrete…

DC first in Mid-Atlantic to require long-term renewable PPA for standard offer customers

By Robert Walton   03/24/21  
Exelon-subsidiary Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco) is working to reach a new renewable long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) to serve 5% of the District of Columbia's Standard Offer Service (SOS) energy needs.

Solar synergy: How good timing and partnerships propelled a suburban D.C. county to its clean power goal

By Elizabeth McGowan   01/12/21  
Arlington County is no slacker on addressing climate change. So it isn’t surprising that the District of Columbia suburb is on the verge of leapfrogging a goal of harvesting half of its electricity for government…

In 2021 we must set more ambitious targets for zero-emission trucks and buses

By Larissa Koehler   01/08/21  
There is no question that 2020 was a hard year — for some, it was the hardest year of their lives. Yet despite the historic difficulty of 2020, there were some climate and air quality…

Climate Deniers Moved Rapidly to Spread Misinformation During and After Attack on US Capitol

By Sharon Kelly  Photo by Tyler Merbler   01/08/21  
Climate Deniers Moved Rapidly to Spread Misinformation During and After Attack on US Capitol | DeSmog (desmogblog.com)

My green home: $90,000 in clean tech upgrades, $20,000 in tax breaks

By Timothy B.Lee   01/03/21  
A few years ago I started writing regularly about electric cars and the batteries that power them—technologies that are helping humanity transition away from reliance on fossil fuels. And as bad news continued to pile up about the harms caused by…

Public Response Key to Expanding Regional Effort to Curb Transportation Sector Climate Emissions

By Tim Faulkner   12/22/20  
The regional collaboration known as the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) will be operating, at least initially, with a smaller cast than expected.

A Plan by Eastern States to Cap Tailpipe Emissions Gets Off to a Slow Start

By Brad Plumer  Photo by Michael S. Williamson   12/21/20  
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C., all announced they would join a cap-and-trade program for cars and trucks. But many bigger states have yet to join.

DC environmental groups ask WMATA to electrify its bus fleet

By Stephanie Klein   12/10/20  
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the nation’s sixth-largest commuter bus fleet, with more than 1,500 buses making 130 million trips per year in DC, MD and VA. Hundreds of thousands of the…

Report: DC area more prepared than most states for climate change health impact

By Kristi King   12/09/20  
A report evaluating work underway to protect people from the health impact of climate change finds that the D.C. region is better off than most other states.

Why the District of Columbia is a leader in energy efficiency

By Catherine Nabukalu   08/19/20  
One of my favorite sessions from VERGE 2019 was a presentation by Amory Lovins on the expanding energy efficiency cornucopia. Among several things, he discussed the vital benefit of energy efficiency in working toward environmental…

DC citizen wins increase in rooftop solar limit to 200% of past usage

By William Driscoll   08/12/20  
States like California whose laws say residential rooftop solar must be “intended primarily” for self-consumption could join Washington, D.C. in increasing their limit, says D.C. resident David Roodman. Generation in excess of consumption will be…

EGEB: Washington, DC’s Metro makes a $50M solar power deal

By Michelle Lewis   07/10/20  
Washington’s Metro agrees to a huge community solar deal with SunPower and Goldman Sachs Renewable Power. Washington, DC’s Metro has made a 25-year, $50 million deal with SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) and Goldman Sachs Renewable…

A field in D.C. will soon be home to 5,000 solar panels. It’s all because of local Catholic groups — and a message from the pope.

11/06/19  
Churches say they are fulfilling God's command — and the wishes of Pope Francis in “Laudato Si" — by switching to renewable energy.

Here’s How Climate Change Is Going To Affect The D.C. Area

By Jacob Fenston  Photo by Jacob Fenston   09/17/19  
Since humans began burning fossil fuels, the Earth’s temperature has gone up about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. In the years since the city of Alexandria, Virginia, was founded in 1749, sea level on the Potomac River…

Washington’s famed cherry blossoms threatened by rising sea levels

04/04/19  
Washington D.C.'s cherry blossom season has gone well this year, thanks to warm weather that has coincided perfectly with the annual blooming that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each spring. But officials are claiming…

With Climate Change, Washington, D.C. Will Feel More Like Arkansas by 2080

By Marissa Fessenden   02/13/19  
he threat of climate change is big, yet nebulous enough that it can be easy to ignore despite mounting evidence that humanity faces a future with more extreme heat waves, floods, drought and food shortages.

D.C. Mayor Bowser Signs Historic Climate Legislation

By Ann Shikany   01/18/19  
Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser is taking a historic step to address climate action by signing the CleanEnergy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018. This action follows unanimous passage of the bill by D.C. City Council…

How D.C. Made Fossil Free History

01/10/19  
Last month,  Washington D.C. passed one of the most ambitious pieces of climate legislation (Legislation here:http://lims.dccouncil.us/Legislation/B22-0904?FromSearchResults=true) in U.S. history - The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 - which requires the city to…

D.C. passes strong clean energy bill with price on carbon

By Jamie DeMarco   12/18/18  
D.C. passes strong clean energy bill with price on carbon By Jamie DeMarco After a multi-year, grassroots-led campaign, today the Washington, D.C., City Council passed the strongest climate legislation anywhere in the country. The Clean…

D.C. Commits To All Renewable Energy by 2032

By Jacob Fenston  Photo by Jacob Fenston   12/18/18  
Washington, D.C. will be among the first cities in the nation to transition to 100 percent renewable energy, under a bill that passed a final vote today by the D.C. Council. The bill updates the…

Green Initiative of the Year: Washington, DC’s Green Bank

By Chris Teale   12/03/18  
Following the lead of various states including Connecticut and New York, Washington, DC became the first city in the United States to establish a Green Bank earlier this year. The Green Bank, which the DC Council voted…

Georgetown Climate Center heads to Katowice, Poland for COP24

By Georgetown Climate Center   11/28/18  
The Georgetown Climate Center will be taking part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP24), starting next week in Katowice, Poland. This year's COP, running from December…

Mike Bloomberg Names Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, DC as Winners in Bloomberg American Cities Climate ChallengeIssue is resolved.

By Bloomberg Philanthropies   10/21/18  
Today, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg joined Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto in West End Overlook Park to announce Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington D.C. as the next round…