Alexandria needs to beef up green efforts


To the editor:

The city has adopted a plan to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. At that time, 25 percent of Alexandria’s energy supply is supposed to be generated by renewable sources like solar or geothermal. City Hall’s targets for 2050 are much higher: an 80-percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions — like carbon dioxide from coal-generated electricity — and an equivalent increase in the amount of our energy derived from cleaner renewable sources.

This is a laudable albeit difficult challenge and will require us to ratchet up our standards and expectations of commercial projects. Take the Sheet Metal Workers Union building along the waterfront near Oronoco Bay Park, which is being converted into high-priced condominiums. I believe this building had working solar panels on its roof at one time, and there is no reason we cannot ensure such projects include renewable sources as part of their energy use plan. Geothermal heat pumps as well, perhaps.

Perhaps we need to revise the city’s zoning ordinance to add more teeth to encourage such steps in cases of by-right redevelopment — in concert with our green building efforts and preservation of affordable housing. We should become a green city for economic reasons as well as reasons of global concern. Targets are well and good, but public policy requires great planning and reasonable regulation that incorporates economic, social and environmental values.

– Andrew Macdonald