Task Force Brings District Together to Tackle Climate Change

This blog was co-authored with Sharon Jaye, Climate Advisor for Washington, DC.

BEPS Task Force Swearing In

District of Columbia

It should be no surprise that, as the capital of our nation and the seat of the country’s representatives in Congress, Washington, D.C., has taken the lead in convening a Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) Task Force that engages multiple, wide-ranging stakeholders in the environmental stewardship of their district.

While each city in the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge has set forth its own plan for addressing climate change, Washington, D.C. is the first city in the country to establish a building energy performance standard for existing buildings. The last year was dedicated to actively involving those in the utility, affordable housing, residential and commercial building industries. In addition, feedback was collected from universities, green banks, governmental agencies, and many others, to collaborate on ways to support and implement the district’s new BEPS program, set to launch in 2021.

The BEPS program, created by the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) in response to the CleanEnergy DC Omnibus Amendment Act, is a key component in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s vision for a Sustainable DC: “In just one generation—20 years—the District of Columbia aims to be the healthiest, greenest, most livable city in the United States.” Key goals include a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2032; a 50 percent reduction in district-wide energy use by 2032; and 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2050.

The BEPS Task Force has pioneered a robust and extensive stakeholder collaboration process to achieve these goals. Since buildings are the source of 75 percent of the district’s greenhouse gas emissions and are responsible for much of the district’s energy use, engaging the commercial real estate development  and affordable housing industries, as well as hospitals and universities, is key.

Working groups that were open to the public began taking place in June 2019 to gain feedback on program structure and implementation and to facilitate discussion on financial incentives and funding, technical assistance and training, and energy efficiency strategies. Of the 17 Task Force members, 15 began as attendees of these initial working groups, including four representatives from the affordable housing industry. DOEE, with the assistance of the National Housing Trust and Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers, held specialized working group sessions for the affordable housing industry in the fall. Moreover, the DOEE created a staff position in April 2020 to further assist affordable housing stakeholders and their compliance with BEPS.

The feedback from the working groups then fed into the BEPS Task Force that started meeting in December 2019. The mayor-appointed Task Force has been an integral part of the development of the program, advising DOEE on implementation, draft rules, and complementary programs and policies. The BEPS Task Force meets every other Tuesday, and the public is encouraged to attend and participate. Additionally, several members have hosted in-person presentations and webinars about the BEPS program and written blogs and articles. For meeting details (date, time, and location), notes from previous discussions, and up-to-date statuses of the Task Force’s ongoing progress, you can access the meeting agendas and minutes here.

To commend the scope and depth of its citywide engagement process, the BEPS Task Force was awarded the “2020 Leader Award: Excellence in Government, Advocacy, or Policy” by the U.S. Green Building Council National Capital Region at its event “A Midsummer Night’s Green,” which was held virtually on July 23.

With its robust head start on bringing together integral equity stakeholders, the BEPS Task Force is the standard-bearer for community engagement and is setting an example for all other cities striving to address climate change.

About the Authors

Maria Ortiz

City Strategy Advisor, American Cities Climate Challenge

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