Dear City Councilors and County Supervisors: 

Thank you for taking up the important task of setting new community climate goals for the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and for recognizing the need to develop comprehensive Climate Action Plans to ensure we reach those goals.

As the leaders of local businesses, we share a common goal to protect the health and vitality of our community. The current climate action planning process presents the perfect opportunity to advance this common goal and establish the Charlottesville-Albemarle area as a leader in this 21st century challenge.

Ultimately, all community sectors must engage and partner on climate action if we are to be successful. Setting an ambitious greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction goal would be a catalyst for the level of community partnership needed, and as businesses, we know that we have an important role to play in reducing emissions.

The Charlottesville area business sector is concerned about climate leadership for a number of important reasons:

●      We are all in this together. The health and well-being of the greater Charlottesville area is of the utmost importance, and we want to be proud of the community we call home and make sure it is leading the way on a central issue of our time.

●      Climate leadership is vital to innovation and job creation. Innovation is fueling our local economy, and we must be on the leading edge of key issues to attract and retain entrepreneurs and the high-growth job creation engines that they build.

●      Clean energy and energy efficiency are stimulating an energy revolution driven by economics. These technologies reduce cost, mitigate cost variability risk, and increase energy independence. The strategies of climate leadership strengthen our businesses.

●      Our employees and customers care. There is a competitive advantage to be gained by embracing climate leadership.

We urge the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to do the following: 

  1. Establish a best-in-class climate goal of: (a) reducing our year 2010 baseline greenhouse gas emissions 45% by the year 2030; and (b) achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. This goal is aligned with the overarching goal in the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2018 report of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is what the world’s preeminent climate scientists tell us is needed to avoid the most harmful consequences of climate change.  Some key factors weighing in support of this goal include:

a.     The City and County’s current emissions reduction goals lag conspicuously behind our peer communities in the region and throughout the Commonwealth. By selecting a goal in line with the IPCC’s 2018 report, the City and County will embrace the mantle of leadership.

b.     There has already been a 21% reduction in the City’s climate emissions since 2011 — nearly halfway to the 45% reduction goal — through reductions in energy use and a lowering of the carbon intensity of electricity in our region.  

2.  Commit to conducting a greenhouse gas inventory every two years. Regular inventories are absolutely critical. Looking back, the City conducted inventories of 2000, 2011, and most recently, 2016. The County’s last inventory was of 2008 emissions. With eleven years to reach a 45% reduction goal, frequent and regular measurement is necessary to:

a.     Ensure we are pursuing effective, state-of-the art strategies;

b.     Keep the community, individual sectors, and City and County leadership apprised of our progress; and

c.     Maintain the community’s focus.

3.  Strongly consider the pro-clean energy and energy efficiency policies outlined below. As a commercial sector, we are already making strides in implementing energy efficiency and clean energy, and we want the business community to accelerate this progress, including extending the benefit of these technologies to low- and moderate-income businesses. Government has a role to play by implementing policies which enable businesses to implement more clean energy and energy efficiency sooner — thereby permanently reducing costs, improving air quality, and reducing GHG emissions. To this end, we encourage you to implement the following policy recommendations:

●      Jointly authorize and implement Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) in both the City and the County. C-PACE is a financial tool which has been shown to accelerate the implementation of clean energy and energy efficiency in the commercial sector, including non-profit organizations and multifamily dwellings. C-PACE enables the long-term repayment of loans through a property assessment which is tied to the property, not the business. The financing comes from private capital providers rather than the government. C-PACE is broadly applicable, as both new construction and existing buildings qualify. The majority of projects are cash-flow positive from “day one” because the energy savings from the upgrades cover the cost of the loan payments. Furthermore, it removes investment timing risk for property owners. Property owners can implement clean energy and energy efficiency, recoup benefits while they own the property, and transfers the loan to the new property owner if they sell the property before the loan is repaid. For the City and County, C-PACE would make clean energy and energy efficiency economically viable for a larger and broader segment of property owners. The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council estimates 927 and 607 properties qualify for C-PACE in the City and County, respectively.

C-PACE has been enabled by the Virginia General Assembly, and the program is currently available in Arlington and Fredericksburg. To be available locally, the City Council and the Board of Supervisors need to separately or jointly authorize it.  Subsequently, City and County staff would need to separately or jointly design a program and contract with an administrator.

Recommendation: We request the City Council and the Board of Supervisors pass a joint resolution by the summer of 2019 authorizing C-PACE locally and direct City and County staff to “fast track” the implementation of a joint program.

●      Expand the Clean Energy Loan Fund (CELF) in the City and expand it to the County. The Clean Energy Loan Fund is an existing program in the City of Charlottesville. Since being converted to an interest rate buy-down program, CELF was rapidly deployed, facilitating over $1.6 million in private investment in clean energy and energy efficiency within the City, including over 650 kW in solar capacity across seven projects. For every $1 invested by the City, private industry invested $5 in response. With the assistance of CELF, implementing energy efficiency and solar becomes feasible for low- and moderate-income businesses because the energy savings cover loan repayment. The carbon emissions impact has been significant as well; the solar enabled by CELF to date has reduced CO2 emissions by an amount equivalent to burning of 708,543 pounds of coal each year. The program has been an unmitigated success. Based upon the performance of the City’s CELF to date, we believe an expanded and joint City-County CELF has the potential to facilitate the deployment of 5.5 MW of solar in the City and County over the next five years.

Recommendation: We request that the City expand the fund to deploy up to $300,000 a year for five years with the goal of installing over 2.75 MW of solar in the City. Similarly, we request that the County implement CELF and deploy up to $300,000 a year for five years with the goal of installing over 2.75 MW of solar in the County.  Ideally, the programs would have a single “front door” for both City and County businesses to access.

Thank you again for recognizing the need to address this important issue. In summary, we encourage you to establish an aggressive community goal, require measurement every two years, and implement the policies outlined above to empower businesses to accelerate and expand clean energy and energy efficiency improvements. We are excited to work with City and County leaders to move our whole community forward.

Should you have questions please contact, Susan Kruse at the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative, 434-284-0870, or susan@cvilleclimate.org.

Sincerely, 

CC: Mike Murphy, City Manager, City of Charlottesville

      Jeff Richardson, County Executive, County of Albemarle