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Frequently Asked Questions about the Community Energy Plan

What is the Community Energy Plan?

What does the CEP recommend?

Who will benefit from the CEP?

Who will pay for the CEP?

How will we reach our goals in renewables? 160 MW sounds like a lot of solar panels!

How will we reach our goals in the transportation?

Will there be things that I can do in my home to reduce my energy use and reduce my carbon footprint?

What is district energy?

What are some of the benefits of district energy?

What’s wrong with how we currently get energy?

Does this mean Arlington will be getting into the district energy business?

Are district energy plants noisy?

 

 

What is the Community Energy Plan?

The Community Energy Plan (CEP) is a strategic plan to ensure Arlington’s economic competitiveness and energy supply security while reinforcing Arlington’s environmental commitment. Through this process Arlington will transform the way we generate, distribute, store and use energy.

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What does the CEP recommend?

The plan recommends the County help improve energy efficiency in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. It also recommends consideration and pursuit of ‘district energy’ in our dense urban corridors to provide more efficient energy supply. In addition, the CEP underscores the importance of implementing the County’s Master Transportation Plan, which will reduce energy use in transportation while improving mobility for all Arlingtonians. The CEP also recommends widespread use of renewable energy sources where appropriate. All of these goals are viewed in the context of improving energy reliability, economic competitiveness, and environmental commitment.

The plan uses greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a measure of overall energy productivity, in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). GHG is used as this measure because it captures the value of both energy efficiency and the cleanliness of energy sources. The plan’s ‘headline target’ is to reduce GHG emissions in Arlington from 13.4 metric tons CO2e per resident in 2007 to 3.0 metric tons CO2e per resident per year by 2050 a 76 percent reduction.

The CEP includes goals in 6 goal areas:

    1. Buildings: increase the energy and operational efficiency of all buildings.
    2. District Energy: increase local energy supply and distribution efficiency in Arlington using district energy.
    3. Renewable Energy: increase locally generated energy supply through the use of renewable energy options.
    4. Transportation: refine and expand transportation infrastructure and operations enhancements.
    5. County Government Activities: integrate CEP goals into all County government activities.
    6. Education and Human Behavior: advocate and support personal action through behavior changes and effective education.

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Who will benefit from the CEP?

The CEP seeks to improve the quality of life for all of Arlington by reducing energy costs and making them less unpredictable, making the grid less susceptible to weather events and strain from increasing energy use, and by improving our local and global environment.

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Who will pay for the CEP?

The CEP focuses on strategies where there is an economic as well as an environmental benefit. For example, making energy efficiency upgrades in a home or an office will result in lower utility bills for the homeowner or business owner. This means the end user will be “paid back” on their investment- often in a matter of a few years or less. Financing options and incentives can often either ensure the investor is paid back quicker, or spread the investment out so that the savings are realized immediately. The same concept applies with technologies like District Energy and Renewables- both will require an initial investment, but the CEP will strive to implement them in situations where there is an economic benefit, and will explore incentives and financing to make them more attractive investments.

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How will we reach our goals in renewables? 160 MW sounds like a lot of solar panels!

We recognize the goal of 160 MW of solar photovoltaics (PV) is substantial. However, solar prices are falling, solar panel efficiencies are improving, and the engineering and installation is not difficult. There are acres of building surface available for solar PV in Arlington, including building roofs and south- and west-facing vertical walls that can accommodate solar PV. We set a goal of 160 MW to help eliminate the peak demand for electric power in summer. Managing peak demand eases congestion and stress on the electric grid, which improves energy reliability for all. If efficiency efforts (including demand response) exceed expectations, this much solar power would further enhance grid reliability. There are many financial tools emerging to enable investment in solar, including lease options, group purchases, and sale of solar renewable energy credits

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How will we reach our goals in the transportation?

Arlington’s transportation accomplishments over the past two decades offer strong evidence that our Master Transportation Plan (MTP) elements are practical and effective. We are confident that continued implementation of the MTP will further enhance transportation options throughout Arlington. Future growth in Arlington is expected to be concentrated in our transit corridors. The links between our transit-oriented land use development patterns and our MTP ensures that economic growth in Arlington can continue without increasing traffic.

In addition, transportation demand management, combined with expected improvements in vehicle fuel economy and increasing use of lower-carbon vehicle fuels (e.g., electric vehicles, compressed natural gas, and biofuels) in the decades ahead offer strong promise of deep reductions in GHG emissions from transportation.

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Will there be things that I can do in my home to reduce my energy use and reduce my carbon footprint?

Yes! Energy audits identify areas of energy waste, and prime opportunities for savings include adding insulation, air sealing to reduce drafts, upgrading heating and cooling systems, and purchasing ENERGY STAR-labeled appliances.

Attend one of our events and explore our website for additional tips and resources.

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What is district energy?

District energy systems produce hot water or chilled water at one local facility and pipe that energy out to connected buildings nearby for space heating, domestic hot water heating and air conditioning. Individual buildings connected to a district energy system won’t need their own boilers or furnaces, chillers or air conditioners. Steam is used as the heating energy in older systems, but new modern systems – like that envisioned for Arlington — use hot water.

District energy is not a new technology. While it is not prevalent in our region, it is found in many U.S. cities and is common elsewhere around the world.

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What are some of the benefits of district energy?

A district energy system serves many customers from one location. It offers a level of energy efficiency and energy supply flexibility that individual buildings usually cannot. A district energy system can use conventional fuel like oil or natural gas, or a renewable fuel like biomass. Buildings connected to district energy systems don’t need their own heating and cooling equipment. This has a number of benefits- new buildings require a lower initial investment and have more usable space since they don’t have to pay for and house boilers and chillers. Operating costs would likely go down too, since there’s less equipment to maintain in the building.

In addition, district energy systems benefit the local power grid by reducing peak power demand and alleviating power congestion due to power transmission limitations, particularly in cities. So district energy not only helps heat and cool cities, it also helps alleviate the challenges posed by high electric consumption.

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What’s wrong with how we currently get energy?

The single biggest concern with our current energy distribution system is the tremendous amount of energy wasted at distant electric power plants. For every unit of electricity consumed in Arlington, more than two units of energy are wasted. Growing global demand for energy suggests the price of energy will continue to rise, and energy use has profound negative effects on our environment and public health. Using energy much more efficiently, and capturing wasted energy for reuse – as in district energy and combined heat and power systems – are proactive strategies for ensuring reliable energy supplies at affordable costs.

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Does this mean Arlington will be getting into the district energy business?

Arlington is studying or plans to study the economic feasibility of District Energy in some of the denser neighborhoods in the County. These studies will inform how, where, and when the County will pursue District Energy.

The District Energy systems would not necessarily be owned or operated by the County. There are a variety of ownership models, including (1) public ownership, as a municipal utility; (2) private ownership, as an investor-owned company; (3) a public-private partnership, involving a private company working with the municipal government, and (4) a cooperative ownership model. The County will investigate all of these options and decide which model works best for Arlington.

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Are district energy plants noisy?

Modern systems meet the most stringent noise and emissions standards in the world and make good neighbors. There are many examples of attractive installations in urban settings. The plants can be stand-alone energy facilities or can be located within buildings themselves.

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