• For more information on Green Party membership or to contact Green Party leadership, email info@greensofarlington.org Join the Arlington Greens online on Zoom on Wednesday,October 7 at 7 pm. For Zoom meeting ID and password, email us at info@greensofarlington.org

October 26, 2020

Arlington Residential Energy Conservation Program: Give out $1,000 grants to Arlington homeowners to weatherize, conserve, and reduce carbon emissions by up to 20 percent

environment,Uncategorized — @ 4:28 pm

Carbon emissions in Arlington averaged 9.1 metric tons (MT) per capita in 2016 or a total 2.0 million MT for Arlington.  About 23 percent of carbon emissions in Arlington came from homes, according to Arlington County.  In 2019, the Arlington County Board set the goal in the Arlington Community Energy Plan (CEP) to have a carbon neutral Arlington by 2050.

There are 28,500 were single family-detached houses, and 11,200 single family-attached houses in Arlington, most of which are owner occupied. Energy conservation (generally weatherization, insulation, and sealing air leaks) is the most cost effective way to reduce carbon emissions in a house; many houses in Arlington were built decades ago, and while some have been improved to high energy efficiency, the majority have not.  

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has indicated that low cost weatherization and more insulation can cut household use of electricity by 7 percent and heating by 18 percent, and save the homeowner about $300 a year.  Such energy conservation is the ‘low hanging fruit’ of addressing climate change.

To encourage Arlington homeowners to undertake energy conservation, the county government should fund a program to give out a $1,000 grant to cover the costs so every household can have an energy audit, and then do the most effective and lowest cost recommendations to cut heating and cooling.   The goal would be to reduce the energy use over 5 years in three-quarters of the 40,000 existing single-family detached and attached Arlington households by up to 20 percent. This will NOT make the house carbon neutral, but it will cut carbon emissions in homes substantially, and perhaps homeowners would take additional steps like solar panels on roof on their own.

The program would operate on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis to recruit Arlington homeowners to have a free energy audit of their home that would provide a detailed plan for energy conservation measures to cut use of electricity, water and natural gas.  The program would pay the homeowner $50 for participating, and then up to $1,000 for the highest priority energy improvements recommended in the energy audit.   This program’s goal is to have all homeowners eventually get an energy audit, and to begin to at least do the low cost changes that will reduce energy use.

Existing weatherization programs today in Arlington are targeted at low income homeowners of whom there are few in Arlington, and thus weatherization has not met its full potential.  EcoAction Arlington has had a small program of weatherization done by volunteers in low income apartments and houses.   Inertia and lack of interest by many homeowners and the hassle of getting an energy audit, and then following up with contractors or the homeowner doing the work them self, has impeded energy conservation in Arlington.

Funding for the residential energy conservation program would be obtained by raising the Arlington utility tax on electricity and the separate tax on natural gas from current $3 per household per month to $6 per month and eventually to $15 per month.  This is a carbon tax that makes electricity and natural gas more expensive.  The tax proceeds from the additional utility tax would mostly be rebated to homeowners to weatherize and reduce their utility bills by more than the additional tax would cost.

Tagged:

October 12, 2020

Arlington Carbon Neutrality Goal by 2050: failure without local energy building code and tighter controls over demolition of existing houses

Development,environment — @ 3:20 pm

In 2019, the Arlington County Board approved the Community Energy Plan with a significant environmental goal that Arlington County become carbon neutral in energy use by 2050.  Nearly two-thirds of the 2.0 million metric ton carbon reduction would occur through de-carbonization of the electricity supply and changing all transportation to electric vehicles.  However, de-carbonization by itself alone cannot achieve carbon neutrality unless building energy efficiency is greatly increased and significant amount of local renewable energy production occurs (solar and geothermal energy).

The CEP set a goal that 23 percent of the 2.0 million metric tons of carbon reduction would come from local actions—11 percent from local renewable energy production and 12 percent from improving local buildings’ energy efficiency.  The county must adopt its own energy building code that requires new or renovated buildings to include state-of-the-art energy technology so that new buildings are mostly carbon neutral.  The county government should pass a restrictive energy building code, and then seek permission from the General Assembly to implement it.  The State building code is woefully inadequate and energy inefficient, as compared to most other Northeastern states.

New buildings should be required as part of the building code to add solar and geo-thermal energy.  Thus, Arlington could produce a significant amount of energy locally and not have to rely on the grid to bring in electricity produced elsewhere from solar or wind energy.   The grid cannot supply enough electricity to compensate for the loss of natural gas for heating.

Commercial buildings use 35 percent of local carbon emissions.  In the past, the county mainly encouraged energy efficiency in new commercial buildings through a subsidy program based on a bogus LEED, Energy Star or similar energy rating systems that do not significantly cut carbon emissions.  Academic research has now concluded that LEED and Energy Star and similar energy rating systems do not significantly reduce primary energy use in certified buildings. Marketing claims of 20-30 percent or more decline in carbon use in LEED buildings are bogus.

Arlington County has no data to confirm that the over 80 commercial buildings in Arlington with 37 million square feet that obtained LEED or Energy Star local subsidies used less energy than comparable non-certified buildings in the county.  The county should require as part of the CEP that all commercial property owners annually report use of water, electricity and gas or fuel for heating by building. 

Residential buildings.–About 23 percent of carbon emissions in the county in 2016 came from residential buildings; about half of the residential use was in detached or attached single family houses, and the other half was in multifamily housing.   There are about 28,500 detached single family houses and 11,200 attached single family houses in Arlington in 2019, according to the Arlington County Office of Planning, Housing and Development.  Many of the houses in the county were built in the 1950s and 60s or earlier and are energy inefficient. 

The county government should fund a program to give $1,000 to homeowners to weatherize and retrofit their older energy-inefficient houses.  Basic weatherization and energy refits that cost generally under $5,000 can reduce a typical house’s energy use by up to 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  With more substantial and expensive energy upgrades, such as solar panels and solar hot water heaters, the energy use in existing houses in Arlington could be cut by well over 570 percent and very close to carbon neutrality.

Tear downs of existing houses in Arlington pose a major obstacle to having carbon neutral housing.   The tear down of an existing house and the building of a completely new conventional house typically uses about 50 m tons of carbon.  A new house in Arlington is often twice or three times larger in living space than the demolished house.  Since energy use is directly proportional to square footage, the new larger house built under current building codes will use at least twice as much energy although energy efficiency in the new building can cut perhaps 30 percent use.  Nevertheless, each older house demolished and replaced raises energy use by at least one hundred percent.

Tagged:

September 19, 2020

Tear downs of old homes and building McMansions raises carbon emissions, and should be halted

Development,environment — @ 2:34 pm

The rising value of land and houses in Arlington has resulted in a very unhealthy rise in carbon emissions and other environmental damage because of the demolition of older and smaller houses and the building of mansions with often two or three times the living area of the demolished house. All living vegetation and trees are demolished on site to build the new house, and more open surface area is paved which thus increases storm water runoff and raises the temperature because of loss of tree canopy.

The County Board decided in 2019 to have a carbon neutral county by 2050.  The demolition and then the construction of a new house typically raises carbon emissions by about 50 metric tons. A remodeling of an existing house typically raises carbon emissions by 15 m tons. A typical house in the U.S. generates 7.5 m. tons of carbon a year; even if the new house generated 30 percent less than the demolished house, it would take 20 years to recoup the carbon used in the new construction. However, new and larger square footage houses use more carbon in operating energy than the demolish house.

Energy use of a house is proportional to the square footage of the house. Thus a typical new 4,000 square foot house in Arlington would use nearly twice as much energy as an existing 1,400 square foot house. If the new house meets high insulation and building tightness standards (perhaps 30 percent more efficient), then the new house uses only 100 percent more energy.

The only realistic way for the Arlington County Board to halt this tear down disaster is to impose a county wide zoning called a historic district designation on all Arlington neighborhoods. A historic district zoning de facto blocks tear downs of houses, but does allow for renovations and additions.

The historic district also requires that older trees and existing green space be preserved so that there is no loss of tree canopy. There is one Arlington neighborhood Maywood that has had a historic district since the late 1970s and in the 40 years, no house has been demolished although most have been renovated and expanded.

Tagged:

September 4, 2020

Greens support 5 cents bag tax

environment — @ 11:30 am

Arlington Greens endorse 5 cents per plastic bag tax in Arlington
Greens at their Sept. 2 meeting endorsed the imposition of a 5 cents per plastic bag tax for single use grocery/retail stores. Greens support EcoAction Arlington’s petition to the Arlington County Board to impose this 5-cent tax and encourage everyone to sign the online petition now at
https:/www.ecoactionarlington.org

The goal is to present the petitions to the county board their November 14 meeting. The Virginia General Assembly authorized local governments to impose this tax.

When Washington DC imposed its 5 cent bag tax over five years ago, the use of grocery plastic bags dropped by 80 percent, resulting in less floating in the rivers and Bay. Virtually no plastic bags today are recycled.

About ten years ago Arlington Greens urged the county board to BAN these plastic bags but the county board refused and it has taken nearly a decade to get the county board to act on this environmental nuisance that clogs our storm drains, rivers and oceans.

Tagged:

June 15, 2020

Arlington Greens Release Lecture on U.S. LEED Green Buildings by Oberlin college professor Scofield, Finding Minimal Environmental Benefit

Development,environment — @ 3:39 pm

June 15, 2020

The Arlington Greens announced today the release online of a talk on March 2 in Arlington by Oberlin College of Ohio professor John Scofield, a national expert on green building technology, on his research into marketing claims that green-certified buildings such as the LEED rating significantly reduce carbon emissions.  EcoAction Arlington, an Arlington environmental non-profit organization, co-sponsored the talk held at the Arlington County public library with the Arlington Greens.  The Arlington Independent Media and Miriam Gennari of the Sustainable Scoop recorded the talk and interviewed professor Scofield.

View the one-hour talk online   https://youtu.be/UeolxpvJzVk

Professor Scofield used energy data from hundreds of thousands of commercial buildings in ten major U.S. metro areas to examine if energy certifications like LEED (a trademark meaning “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”) significantly reduce carbon emissions over non-certified comparable buildings.  His findings demonstrate very small, almost negligible carbon savings.  Scofield found that carbon emissions reductions in LEED buildings are quite modest, generally well below 10 percent, and well below marketing claims of over 25 percent.

The research finding that LEED and other similar commercial building energy rating systems save only negligible amounts of carbon emissions is an important environmental policy issue for Arlington County and for many other U.S. communities.  Over 40 such certified buildings in the county got generous subsidies based on now discredited claims of substantial carbon emissions reductions.  Arlington County subsidies for bogus green energy technology wastes county funds which should be used to incentivize proven effective green technology that does substantially reduce carbon.

In 2019, the Arlington County Board approved a community energy goal that the county become carbon neutral within 25 years.  About 80 percent of carbon emissions in the county occur in commercial and residential buildings, and thus the county’s goal can only be achieved by large carbon emissions drops in buildings.   The county government’s past reliance on LEED and similar energy certifications to reduce energy use in commercial buildings now appears to be wrong.

Tagged:

March 13, 2020

Tear downs and Large Energy Wasteful Houses Contribute to Rising Carbon Emissions in Arlington

Development,environment — @ 4:31 pm

Energy use in Arlington for homes has been rising over the past few years, in part fueled by more residents but also by changes in the size of new houses being built, particularly detached houses.  The 9-percent rise in residents in Arlington during 2010-18 increased use of electricity and natural gas in apartments and houses, but so did having more new McMansions.[1]  During 2010-18, residential use of electricity in Arlington rose 3 percent to 809 million kilo watt hours (kwhs), while use of natural gas rose 28 percent to 91 million therms. [2]

The average house in the United State has about 1,971 square feet of living space; the average house in Virginia is slightly larger at 2,227 square feet, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.[3]  The larger the living area, the more energy is required to heat, cool, and power devices and appliances in that space.

In Arlington over the past decade or so, more and more older detached houses, generally with under 1,500 square feet of living space, are torn down, and replaced by a new 4,000 or larger square foot house.  In 2019, the number of such tear downs amounted to 158.[4]

While the new house may have better insulation and often more energy saving appliances than the demolished house, the much larger living space overwhelms any such energy efficiency savings.  Studies of energy use in U.S. houses indicate that a 4,000 square foot house uses about 160 percent more electricity than a 1,500 square foot house, and about 76 percent more natural gas, as outlined here.[5]

Energy use by size of house in the United States:

Size of house                   Electricity    Natural gas    Combined Carbon 

(Annual in kwhs)  (Annual in therms)    (Metric tons)

Average 1,500 ft2 house     12,000                   10                       8.9

Average 4,000 ft2 house     31,200                   18                     22.0

Increase (percent)               160                          76                      146

 

From a carbon emissions basis, the larger house uses 146 percent more carbon than the 1,500 square foot house.   The larger house is 167 percent larger in living space, but uses about 146 percent more carbon.  Thus, standard building or appliance efficiency does not overcome the effects of the larger living space.   A new larger house would need to cut its emissions by 146 percent and that would require solar panels, much better insulation, geothermal heating and cooling, and other passive building technology.

[1] The population of Arlington rose 9 percent from 207,000 to 225,000, according to Arlington County VA,  Profile 2018, and Profile 2008 https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2018/04/2018Profile.pdf

[2] A therm is the heat value of natural gas; 100 cubic feet of gas (CCF) equal 1.036 therms.

[3]  U.S. Dept. of Energy,  “Household energy use in Virginia,” based on 2009 data,  www.eia.gov/consumption/residential

[4] Arlington County, “Quarterly Development Tracking Report,” for 2019, https://projects.arlingtonva.us/data-research/development/quarterly-tracking-report/

[5] Natural gas use data from Http://pemc.coop, and electricity use from https://comparepower.com/kwh-electricity-energy-usage-calculator/  Energy data were converted to carbon equivalents as follows:  1,000 therms equals 5.3 metric tons of carbon; 1,423 kwhs equals 1 metric ton of carbon.  Source:  EPA.

Tagged:

February 26, 2020

Why is the State of Virginia Giving $37 million to Coal Companies to Mine more Coal?  Why are we taxpayers subsidizing more coal production in Virginia?

environment — @ 5:34 pm

If one completes their Virginia income taxes this year, they may note an obscure tax credit listed on the tax form called “the Virginia Coal and Production Incentive Tax Credit” that gives a tax credit to Virginia mining companies (up to $3 per ton of coal mined).  (Code of VA 58.1-433.1)  In the latest year for which data are available (2015), the State of Virginia gave out $37 million to 56 corporations to subsidize their mining of coal.  This tax boondoggle started in 1988, and has given out so far over $610 million to coal owners and operators.   Yes $600 million to encourage more coal mining in our state.

Mountain top coal removal in WVA, from EarthJustice

Given our climate emergency, one would have thought that encouraging more coal mining is the last thing on Earth we Virginia taxpayers should be doing.  The Virginia Sierra Club and the Virginia Conservation Network have repeatedly called for ending this tax subsidy for coal mine owners and operators. http://www.vcnva.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/HB2198.pdf  But, the Virginia General assembly has refused to stop this carbon emission madness.

What if this $37 million each year was given to homeowners as a $1,000 tax credit to install their own solar panels or put in $1,000 of insulation and weatherization in their home?   This would help 37,000 Virginia homeowners lower their utility bills either through solar panels or just more weatherization and insulation.   The home owners’ utility bills would be markedly lower, and so would carbon emissions in Virginia.

Alternatively, this $37 million or a portion of it could be used to pay for re-training, pensions, and re-location of Virginia coal miners who lose their jobs inevitably.  There are only about 2,000 coal miners left in Virginia, and their days of employment coming to an end.  The State of Virginia could re-train the younger ones, and provide pensions to older workers unable to retain or to relocate to an area in Virginia with low unemployment

Tagged:

February 21, 2020

Arlington Greens will meet on Wednesday, March 4, at 7 pm, Ballston Firehouse

Arlington Greens will meet at the Ballston Firehouse Community Room (located at George Mason Drive and Wilson Blvd).
Major topics are:
Outcome of our March 2 Green Buildings Certification talk by professor John Scofield
Next steps for the Arlington Community Energy Plan including our advocacy for local powers to require new green buildings
County board and school board openings this year
Virginia Green Party nominees for president
Affordable housing–advocacy for housing grants at March county board budget hearing in late March
Plan to attend.   Any Arlington resident can join at the meeting–membership is $5 a year.   Public can attend but cannot vote.
Tagged:

February 5, 2020

Are LEED Commercial Buildings Really Green–Talk by Oberlin College professor with Q&A

Development,environment,Events — @ 12:30 pm

Measured Energy Savings & Greenhouse Gas Emissions from LEED-Certified Buildings, Talk by Oberlin College Professor John Scofield, followed by Q&A on implications for 2020 Arlington Energy Plan for Carbon Neutrality

Monday, March 02 at 7-9 PM  Arlington Central Library   (1015 N. Quincy Street)  Arlington, VA 22203

Oberlin College professor John Scofield, a national expert on U.S. green building certification, will speak about his research on energy savings and greenhouse gas emissions from LEED buildings that demonstrate such building certifications do not significantly reduce emission from commercial buildings.   Discussion follows on Arlington County’s own green building program, and the forthcoming 2020 Community Energy Plan in Arlington that proposes to make Arlington carbon neutral.  Attendance is free.   EcoAction Arlington is co-sponsor with the Arlington Greens.   Attendance is free.

Tagged:

January 9, 2020

Greens ask Virginia General Assembly to give Arlington local powers over energy/environmental building codes

Development,environment — @ 5:55 pm

At the January 7 meeting, Arlington Greens agreed to ask Arlington state delegates and state senators to support granting Arlington County local powers over energy/environmental building codes so that Arlington can achieve carbon emissions cut set by Paris Climate Treaty.  We ask that Greens and community members also contact their delegates and senators to support this common sense environmental legislation:

Petition to Arlington state delegates and state senators, January 2020 on allowing local authority to achieve environmental/energy plan

To:   Virginia General Assembly Delegates Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, Mark Levine, Rip Sullivan, and State Senators Barbara Favola, Adam Ebin, and Janet Howell:

As residents of Arlington, we ask that you support environmental legislation in this session of the General Assembly that would allow the Arlington County Board of Supervisors to modify the existing Virginia building codes so as to strengthen energy savings and environmental protection for any buildings in Arlington.   We ask that Arlington be permitted a local option to override Virginia State building codes so that Arlington can fulfill its Community Energy Plan that would meet the required carbon emissions stipulated in the Paris Climate Treaty.  The Arlington County Board approved its community energy plan in September 2019, but does not have the full authority under state law today to implement it.

The Virginia Board of Housing and Community Development (BHCD) has repeatedly failed (as recently as 2017) to approve the minimal International Environmental Conservation Code that would have achieved at least a 30 percent savings in energy use in new buildings, and thus new buildings in Virginia are very energy wasteful.

Arlington County needs authority to require builders of new structures to meet stringent energy savings including carbon neutral buildings, mandating geothermal and solar voltaic panels, enhanced insulation, among other features in order to meet its community energy plan goal to have a carbon neutrality goal by 2050.  It cannot do this since 80 percent of carbon emissions in Arlington occurs in buildings without stricter building codes.

We therefore act that authority be delegated to Arlington County or to any other jurisdiction that may also want to implement its own strict environmental energy plan (such as the City of Alexandria) to strengthen building codes so as to achieve energy savings and thus meet environmental goal on carbon emissions.

Tagged:
Next Page »