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A light breeze and sunny sky offered a fitting backdrop to the roof of the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center Wednesday morning, where Mayor Muriel Bowser made public a deal between the District and energy company Iberdrola Renewables, the biggest U.S. municipal agreement of its kind.
For the next 20 years, Iberdrola will supply 35 percent of the D.C. government’s electricity with power generated at the company’s wind farm in Fayette County, Pa. The agreement is expected to save taxpayers $40 million over that period, and remove approximately 100,000 tons of carbon pollution from the air. That’s the equivalent of taking 18,000 cars off the road every year, the mayor said. The District aims to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 50 percent by 2032, she added.
“D.C. doesn’t deny the facts or science,” Bowser said. “We know that climate change is real, and we know that climate change is now… We want to show the rest of the country what’s possible.”
The agreement was brokered by the District Department of General Services, which manages the city’s portfolio of government buildings, including public schools, agency offices, and recreation centers, among others. Mark Chambers, associate director of sustainability and energy at DGS, said all that property amounts to roughly 30 million square feet of space. He added that the city received more than 30 project-proposals as part of a larger effort to buy efficient energy supply.
Asked how much the Iberdrola deal will cost the District, Chambers replied that there was “not an upfront capital investment,” and that the brunt of the cost will be “time and learning.” As for the 35-percent benchmark, he explained that DGS and other city agencies want to “understand more about how the [renewable-energy] market works.”
“It’s a sensible investment,” Chambers stated.
Barrett Stambler, the vice president of Iberdrola Renewables, explained that the agreement, which went into effect Aug. 1, establishes a fixed-contract price through 2036. “It’s like a fixed-rate mortgage versus a variable-rate mortgage,” he said. “This will power the equivalent of 12,000 D.C. homes annually. The price of wind will be the same today as it will be in 20 years.”
In addition to the wind power-purchase deal, Bowser announced that the District Department of the Environment has been renamed the Department of Energy & Environment to reflect the agency’s growing emphasis on providing affordable, renewable energy to residents. Tommy Wells, the agency’s director (who ran against Bowser for mayor), said he plans to focus on helping low- and fixed-income families gain access to solar power as well as to create renewable-energy deals for small businesses with public and private investment. Half of DOEE’s budget is devoted to energy, Wells added. “Green is not just a color, it’s a way to lead,” he said.
According to the EPA, D.C. has the most Energy-Star-certified buildings of any U.S. city: 480.
Photo by Andrew Giambrone