City Desk

Spam Goes Green

In early September, my wife and I applied for one of the D.C. government's Renewable Energy Incentive Program grants to install solar panels on our house in Petworth. At the time, the District was justifiably proud of its program, which used dedicated taxes on energy companies to provide money for homeowners who went solar—an incentive that made it possible for an otherwise impossibly expensive solar panel system to pay for itself within five or six years, making solar energy an option for people who can't afford to lose money on green technology just because it's green.

That program is basically kaput now, a victim of the District's budget crisis. Some people who were told they'd get the grant installed solar panels only to find out they weren't actually getting the money. (Luckily, we decided to wait until the grant came through before we went ahead with the installation, which we now probably won't do.) But it's still frustrating that a program that existed when we applied has effectively been killed while our application was pending, without ever getting much in the way of a response from the District Department of the Environment, which administers the grants. As Washington Business Journal's Michael Neibauer notes, the Gray administration has found the $700,000 or so needed to pay back the people whose checks were promised, but never delivered. But because of the budget crunch, far fewer people in the District will be going solar, which is a setback for renewable energy.

So I was not particularly thrilled to receive a self-congratulatory e-mail newsletter from DDOE today in my personal Gmail, an address the department has because I used it to apply for the grant.

DDOE Sends E-Newsletter About Green Buildings

Titled "Foliage," the newsletter includes a blurb from Mayor Vince Gray, boasting about all the green things D.C. is doing:

The District is already an environmental leader on a number of fronts, and we’re excited to do more. We lead the country in the number of green buildings per capita. We have reduced disposable bag use by more than 60% in just one year and now see our residents toting reusable bags all across town. And, 50% of the electric power used in District Government facilities comes from renewable sources, making us the 3rd largest municipal consumer of renewable power in the US EPA Green Power Partners program.

E-mail obviously doesn't cost much to send out, but still—maybe the city shouldn't be bragging about how green it is, right after it killed one of the centerpieces of its environmental policy?

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