Innovations in solar policy aid Washington, D.C. on its path to sustainability

Participant Highlight

ASTI Newsletter | January 2014 Edition | By Tyler Espinoza

Image courtesy of Sustainable DC

Washington, D.C. has taken bold steps to make the District a leader in clean energy and sustainability.  Through the passage of the Sustainable D.C. Act, Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Council have laid out a path to establish the District as the healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the nation over the next 20 years.  As the new D.C. Solar Map shows, solar energy is at the forefront of the District’s efforts to transform itself into a model city for the 21st century.

The District Department of the Environment has convened monthly solar working group meetings with local stakeholders in order to review current solar permitting and zoning requirements and identify areas of improvement.  The local government has leveraged the D.C. Solar Roadmap to help benchmark processes and measure progress toward being a more solar-ready community.  The working group has identified several improvements which are now being actively addressed, including streamlined permitting, implementing flat fees, and reducing inspection turn-around time.

One of the District’s many recent policy achievements is the Community Renewable Energy Act of 2013, which expands access to solar energy by enabling new ownership models like community shared solar.  Apartment tenants and condo owners alike can now offset their electricity usage with clean power by investing in a solar energy system that is not necessarily located on their roof.  This community-based model has helped to transform solar markets in states across the country—including Colorado, Massachusetts, and Minnesota—and is now coming to residents of Washington, D.C.

Local officials have not stopped at policy and process improvements; they are determined to lead by example. The District’s Department of General Services assessed the solar rooftop potential of its entire building portfolio, which includes schools, police departments, and fire stations, and determined that by leveraging these assets the District can make major progress toward achieving its sustainability goals while also reducing its electricity bills.

In a region dominated by political gridlock, the District of Columbia has emerged as the 2nd biggest purchaser of green power among all local governments nationwide, according to the EPA Green Power Partnership, showing that local action can generate a powerful impact.

To connect with Washington D.C. on their solar efforts, email




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