Fairfax County has put in place an ambitious strategy to cut energy use in its buildings, vehicles and operations.
The Board of Supervisors adopted this first-ever operational energy strategy on July 10, which sets specific goals and targets for reducing energy use, with the aim of lowering utility bills while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The strategy addresses 10 distinct focus areas, ranging from energy use and efficiency to reporting and collaboration.
“Fairfax County’s Energy Strategy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower utility bills for county buildings and promote an energy conscious culture within the county’s workplace,” said Chairman Sharon Bulova. “Fairfax County Government and Fairfax County Public Schools account for only 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in Fairfax County, and the other 97 percent are generated by homes and businesses. It is important that we all do our part to be leaders in energy efficiency to help support and protect a healthy environment well into the future.”
The strategy seeks to reduce energy consumption in county buildings and facilities by 20 percent per square foot over 10 years. This target will be achieved with a mix of conservation measures and cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades, such as replacing fluorescent lighting with LEDs.
The strategy makes reducing electricity consumption a top priority. Electricity accounted for 51 percent of the county’s total energy use in 2016—and it produced 65 percent of carbon emissions. Electricity was also responsible for 69 percent of the county’s total energy bill. Other contributors to the county’s energy bill include natural gas, gasoline and diesel fuel.
The plan continues the county’s commitment to renewable energy and innovative energy technologies. It will supplement the county’s successful waste-to-energy and landfill gas operations with the on-site generation of electricity from solar panels. An initial pilot project will install rooftop solar panels on the county’s Springfield Warehouse, capable of generating nearly 820,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year.
The strategy also proposes that 5 percent of the county’s passenger car purchases be electric or hybrid plug-in vehicles by 2030. Electric vehicle charging stations will be installed at up to 20 major county facilities to support this fleet.
The strategy carries an approximately $47 million price tag over 10 years—but its energy saving measures are expected to generate utility savings of more than $82 million during this time. By the seventh year, utility savings generated by the investment will essentially pay for the plan’s projects.
When fully implemented, the strategy is expected to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 533,000 metric tons compared to today. This is equal to the amount of climate-warming gases that would be released from burning 1.24 million barrels of oil or 584 million pounds of coal.
The new energy strategy supports the county’s overall Environmental Vision, as well as the county’s Cool Counties commitment and regional climate change goals. It will also reduce the county’s operational carbon emissions by 2 percent per year for 10 years, making a proportional contribution to regional climate change goals.