Fairfax County’s Ambitious Plan to Tackle Climate Change

Published on
07/09/2024
The County Conversation - Operational Energy Strategy (OES)

 

Fairfax County is taking bold steps to combat climate change through its Operational Energy Strategy (OES). 

In a recent episode of the “County Conversation” podcast, Kevin Smith, division manager for energy programs with the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination, shared insights into this important initiative.

“We really are trying to lead by example,” Smith noted. “To show, that as a government, we are serious about tackling climate change, [and] doing our part.”
 

WHAT IS THE OPERATIONAL ENERGY STRATEGY?

The Operational Energy Strategy (OES) is Fairfax County's policy for reducing energy use and lowering carbon emissions in government operations.


Adopted in 2021 by the Board of Supervisors, it sets an ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 for all government operations. This means all county operations will run on clean, renewable energy sources, with any remaining fossil fuel use offset by non-fossil fuel sources.


“The OES establishes a goal of carbon neutrality by 2040 for all government operations, which means, in a nutshell, all of the energy that the county uses to operate comes from clean renewable resources, no fossil fuels, or if we have to, we offset some of our fossil fuel use with non-fossil fuel sources.”

 

THE "BIG THREE" FOCUS AREAS

The county is concentrating on three main areas to reach its climate goals:

  1. Building energy efficiency: This includes upgrading lights to LED, improving heating and cooling systems, and better managing energy use in county buildings.
  2. Renewable energy: The county is focusing on solar power as its primary renewable energy source.
  3. Vehicle electrification: The county aims to replace its fleet with electric vehicles, which are more efficient and produce fewer emissions.

 

PROGRESS ON SOLAR POWER

Fairfax County has already installed solar panels on six county buildings, with plans for many more. The county is using two methods to add solar power:

  1. Direct purchase: The county buys and owns the solar systems outright.
  2. Power purchase agreements: Solar contractors install and own the equipment, selling the power back to the county at a fixed rate.

 

ELECTRIFYING THE COUNTY"S VEHICLE

The county has made significant progress in electrifying its vehicle fleet:

  • Nearly 100 electric vehicles have been purchased.
  • 12 battery-electric buses are currently in service.
  • All new passenger vehicles are electric, unless a specialty vehicle is required. 

 

"We like to say that as a county government, we want to lead by example. It's lofy goals, but, I think we're on the rigth track." - Kevin Smith, Operational Energy Strategy

 

OTHER KEY INITIATIVES

The OES includes several other important focus areas:

  • Zero waste and recycling: The county aims to achieve zero waste in government buildings by 2030.
  • Sustainable supply chain: Fairfax County is working to ensure its contractors and vendors share its climate and sustainability values.

 

HOW RESIDENTS CAN GET INVOLVED

Smith encourages residents to calculate their own carbon footprint using the EPA’s carbon footprint calculator. This tool can help individuals identify areas where they can reduce their environmental impact. 

For more information on Fairfax County’s climate initiatives, visit the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination.

By taking these steps, Fairfax County is setting an example for other local governments and communities in the fight against climate change.

 

THE COUNTY CONVERSATION PODCAST

The “County Conversation” is a podcast featuring employees and subject matter experts from the Fairfax County Government discussing programs, services and items of interest to residents of Fairfax County. Click here to listen to past episodes of "County Conversation.” To find other county podcasts, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/podcasts

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