County Board Aims for Carbon Neutrality by 2050 in Updated Energy Plan


Ainsley Burke

Riding a bike to school is one of the ways to achieve carbon neutrality.

Owen Bracy, Sentry Staff Reporter

The County Board updated Arlington’s Community Energy Plan (CEP) on September 21 in response to advancements in the energy sector since the initial adoption of the CEP in 2013, thus creating ambitious goals such as an updated target for carbon neutrality by 2050.

When the CEP was first adopted in 2013, it held goals such as net three tons of carbon dioxide per capita annually by 2050 (down from nearly 13 tons per capita in 2007). The 2019 plan has eliminated those three tons as well as the creation of entirely new principal goals, including a 100% renewable community electricity target by 2035. In addition, energy resilience has been chosen as a metric to consider the implementation of the 2019 CEP to make Arlington’s energy grid stronger and more reliable in the future.

“… the shift to resilience expands the scope of the former [CEP] to show how our community can use a variety of technologies, systems, and resources to keep the power on in Arlington buildings and homes during a widespread power outage, or to quickly get the power back on if a building or home loses power,” according to the 2019 CEP staff report.

Alongside resilience, energy equity is another new perspective added to the update.

“There is increased emphasis on energy equity to ensure that access to energy upgrades, participation in energy programs, and the movement toward a clean, reliable and secure grid is also shared with low-to-moderate and disadvantaged communities,” the 2019 CEP staff report said.

Alongside environmental benefits, renewable energy such as solar panels are more affordable and accessible in the long term for Arlington residents. 

The updated plan was first drafted in response to technological improvements and increased affordability for renewable and low emission energy.

“Since the 2013 plan, the price of solar panels … has fallen dramatically, and both the affordability and availability of low emission cars has increased,” the principal planner of the 2019 CEP, Richard Dooley said.

For students, engagement with the CEP is important. During the creation of the 2019 CEP, the County Board received a wide-ranging number of comments from Arlington citizens, many of whom were students. Those comments motivated the ambitious shift of goals, such as having a 100% renewable community electricity by 2035, that made it in the updated CEP. Alongside making your voice heard, volunteering at nonprofits such as EcoAction Arlington can help with the successful implementation of the CEP and the creation of a more efficient, environmental and equitable Arlington.