While Trump works to drive the nation backwards by proposing a requirement for utilities to generate electricity by burning coal, California recently required all new homes to have solar power. Here in Montgomery County, progress on the goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions could be accelerated if Marc Elrich is elected. Elrich is committed to reducing local carbon emissions (and air pollution) in three ways.
1. Solar Power for New Homes
Elrich wants to require homebuilders to offer a solar option on all new construction of single-family homes and townhouses. Buyers of new homes and townhouses could opt to have all the electricity in their new home or townhouse generated by roof-top solar panels. The installation of solar panels can add to the cost of a new house in the beginning, but during the life of the structure, the cost of electricity is greatly reduced. The reduction in monthly electric bills compensates for the up-front cost of solar installation. And, most importantly, solar generation reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution.
2. Energy-Friendly Roofs
Elrich plans to propose a requirement that commercial structures choose either reflective roofs, green roofs, or solar roofs. Reflective roofs reflect light and energy back into the atmosphere; this reduces energy use (and energy bills) by decreasing the use of air conditioning. They also improve indoor comfort for spaces that might not be air-conditioned, and they can decrease roof temperature, which may extend the life of a roof.
Green roofs reduce energy consumption by providing more insulation than a conventional roof. They can also absorb storm water, potentially lessening the need for complex and expensive drainage systems. On a wider scale, green roofs improve air quality and help reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect, a condition in which city and suburban developments absorb and trap heat, raising local temperatures. Again, requiring commercial structures to install these roofs would reduce greenhouse emissions, air pollution and possibly limit storm water runoff, which pollutes our natural waterways.
3. Expanding Solar Power Options
Elrich wants County government to encourage the use of solar by residents in existing buildings. One option for converting existing structures to solar is a residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. A PACE program allows residents essentially to borrow the money for initial solar installation and then pay the loan back monthly, e.g. as part of their property taxes.
The homeowner is not personally liable for the loan, rather the obligation stays with the house. If the owner who originally installs solar sells the house, the new owner continues the payments. The cost of solar installation is compensated by the reduction in monthly energy utility payments because the home is not using electricity from the grid, e.g. Pepco. Again, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution are reduced, and a homeowner might even save money on monthly utility bills.
Bringing Environmental Change to Montgomery County
Other jurisdictions around the nation have tried all of these options, so there is plenty of experience with these solutions to inform Montgomery County's efforts. Check out the Chicago City Hall's green roof; it helps cool the structure, minimizes water run-off and provides a beautiful, refreshing green space for Chicagoans to enjoy. Let's do it here too.
Marc Elrich is the endorsed candidate for the County Council Executive by Progressive Maryland. PMD Montgomery is a chapter of Progressive Maryland.