April 21, 2021

Montgomery County Executive Elrich and Council President Tom Hucker Highlight Actions to Combat Climate Change as County Celebrates Earth Day

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich today unveiled his climate legislative agenda for the upcoming year and discussed the County’s climate accomplishments and initiatives at an event in Silver Spring that was part of the County’s celebration of the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. The Earth Day event was held at the Glen Manor Condominium in Silver Spring.

County Executive Elrich was joined at the event by County Council President Tom Hucker and several residents who have been advocates for improving the environment. Among those participating in the event were Wendy Howard, executive director of One Montgomery Green; Adam Roberts, executive director of Bethesda Green; and Brian Haaser, president of the Glen Manor Condominium association board.

With support from the Montgomery County Green Bank, Glen Manor Condominium implemented energy efficiency upgrades that are reducing operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The Montgomery County Green Bank was the first county-level green bank to be established in the country. The Green Bank is a publicly chartered 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to accelerating affordable energy efficiency and clean energy investments in Montgomery County.

County Executive Elrich used the occasion to provide an overview of the County’s long-standing efforts to combat climate change and highlighted major climate legislative and regulatory policies that the Elrich Administration has transmitted to Council for adoption. Those pieces of legislation include the Building Energy Performance Standard bill and the 2018 International Green Construction Codes.

The County Executive also provided a look ahead to additional legislative and regulatory actions he has planned for the upcoming year as part of his efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support climate resilience.

“Earth Day is yet another reminder of our climate emergency,” said County Executive Elrich. “There is much that the County has already accomplished, and we are continuing to break ground nationally on policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We can’t do it alone. As we move forward on climate action, we will need continued collaboration with everyone in the community. There is a role for each of us to play in combatting climate change.”

Council President Hucker said: “While we address the economic and public health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the existential threat of climate change. We must use this moment as an opportunity to build a better world post-COVID and invest in transportation and energy projects that advance our climate goals.”

Current Montgomery County climate initiatives include:
  • The Building Energy Performance Standard bill, which has been transmitted to Council, will require owners of the largest and most energy-consuming buildings to improve their buildings’ energy performance. Through following requirements and using accompanying tools to enable buildings improve their energy efficiency, owners will help reduce the climate impacts of their buildings. Among the actions they will be encouraged to take will be deep energy retrofits, operational improvements and tenant engagement. Building energy performance standards will directly reduce the County’s greenhouse gas emissions from the existing built environment and get the County one step closer to its goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.
  • The proposed 2018 International Green Construction Code (IgCC), which has also been transmitted to Council, sets more stringent requirements for new commercial construction projects and major building additions, including energy efficiency improvements, onsite energy generation and improved indoor air quality. The 2018 IgCC will apply in the County to all commercial construction and additions of 5,000 square feet and greater. The code requirements provide improved scope and stringency over the 2012 IgCC, which is currently in effect in the County. Adoption of the 2018 IgCC will help the County toward net-zero buildings.
  • With the support of the County Executive and County Council, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 768—Montgomery County – Community Choice Energy – Pilot Program— during the 2021 General Assembly Session that will give Montgomery County the authority to implement an opt-out Community Choice Energy (CCE) program. The bill will provide an opportunity for the County to purchase energy on behalf of residential and small commercial electricity customers. Maryland is only the ninth state in the nation to pass CCE legislation. CCE will enable the County to offer more renewable energy supply to customers than is currently provided by the three electric utilities serving the County. At the same time, it has the potential to deliver price stability and cost savings to residents and small businesses. Opt-out CCE is one of the actions identified in the County’s Draft Climate Action Plan as a tool to significantly reduce the County’s electricity-related emissions.
  • Montgomery County was the first county in the nation to adopt a Building Energy Benchmarking Law. Benchmarking leads to a better understanding of energy trends and performance among building owners and managers and has resulted in energy savings of roughly 2 percent per year in consistently benchmarked facilities.
  • In order to provide community solar power for low- and moderate-income residents lowering their utility bills, Montgomery County has installed 7.6 megawatts of solar power installed on its government facilities and an additional 6-megawatt installation is underway at the closed Oaks landfill site.
  • Montgomery County partners with Solar United Neighbors to offer a solar cooperative to bring down the cost for residents to install solar on their roofs and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.
  • The County is moving its entire government fleet to electric and zero emission vehicles. Four electric Ride On buses are already in circulation and ten more are on the way. The County is also pilot testing an EV police vehicle, the Mach-E.
  • To help people get out of their cars and use more public transit, in 2020 the County opened the first Flash bus route on US 29, and two more routes are in the works on Veirs Mill and Rockville Pike/355. Montgomery County Public Schools recently signed an agreement to lease over 300 electric school buses.
  • The County has added more EV charging stations and launched a pilot program in residential neighborhoods that allows residents to site charging stations in the right-of-way if they do not have off-street alternatives for siting chargers.
  • To make it easier for people to walk, bike and scooter, the County is building an extensive network of bikeway facilities, including protected bike lanes, and continue to install sidewalks. There is an e-bike and e-scooter “micromobility” pilot program underway as well.
  • Continuation and expansion of government employee teleworking policies to reduce commuting and traffic congestion of Montgomery County employees.
  • County government staff are receiving training to work across departments for climate solutions. The County is also engaging with the community on these efforts, including the upcoming launch of the climate stories project to hear personal stories about climate action.
Montgomery County climate legislative and regulatory efforts planned for the upcoming year:
  • Adopt the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code as a pathway to net-zero residential homes in the next two code cycles. This approach is designed to allow flexibility to home builders and establishes future market expectations that would encourage home builders to explore innovative solutions to building new homes.
  • Issue regulations to implement the Transportation Demand Management law, which expands strategies to reduce the use of single-occupant vehicles, particularly for work trips.
  • Evaluate modifications to the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program and introduce legislation to expand the type and size of projects eligible for C-PACE funding. It also would include climate resiliency activities as eligible PACE measures.
  • Introduce legislation to expand the role of the Green Bank to also serve as the County’s Resilience Authority in order to help finance projects focused on addressing the impacts of climate change, including flooding and other resilience activities.
Later this spring, the County will release its final Climate Action Plan that aligns all of the County’s climate initiatives and provides a roadmap for achieving 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2027 and reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. In conjunction with the upcoming release of the final Climate Action Plan, the County will issue an annual work plan of the climate initiatives planned for the 2022 Fiscal Year.

For more information about the Climate Action Plan and all of Montgomery County’s sustainability efforts, please visit. https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/green/