DC Adopts Nation’s Strongest Climate Law

With more existing buildings than planned new construction, D.C. needs to improve energy efficiency in the buildings it already has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2032.

According to the bill’s summary:

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 long-term purchase agreements with renewable generators. It removes restrictions on energy efficiency measures. It expands the uses of the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund and also establishes an energy performance standard program for buildings at the Department of Energy and Environment.  Among other things, it authorizes the Mayor to commit the District to participation in regional programs with the purpose of limiting greenhouse gas emissions and requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue regulations tying the vehicle excise tax to fuel efficiency.

The Omnibus Act will provide guidance on how to accomplish the District’s established goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2032.

Since the District adds less than 3% (on average) to its building stock each year, it must reduce energy
use in existing buildings in order to reach its emissions goal. This is not a regulation one normally sees
implemented. DC is going to employ a new policy mechanism: the building energy performance standard (BEPS).

Developed by the Institute for Market Transformation, the District will group buildings into building types and set a separate minimum energy efficiency standard no lower than the median performance level for each building type. Under BEPS, all existing buildings over 50,000 square feet will be required to reach minimum levels of energy efficiency or deliver savings by 2026, with progressively smaller buildings phasing into compliance over the following years. The good news is that most buildings in the District are so efficient that they already comply or will be able to comply with BEPS without any capital investment.