Howard County, MD

This submission reflects this organization's contribution to the climate effort, representative of their current actions and commitments as well as the ways in which they intend to step up and collaborate with others.

Howard County, MD's Climate Action Contribution

About Howard County, MD's Climate Efforts

Howard County, Maryland has a long history of climate leadership. In 2007, Howard County became the second county in the country to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Under the Agreement, Howard County committed to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets and to urge Maryland state government and the federal government to meet or beat the target of seven percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012.

Howard County first developed a comprehensive greenhouse gas emission inventory and a Climate Action Plan in 2010. The inventory measured greenhouse gas emissions for both County government operations and the community. The reduction targets were met and in 2015, Howard County updated the Climate Action Plan and set new targets. Both Climate Action Plans are available at

Following the recommendations of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2018 report, Howard County set a new goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and to reach zero emissions by 2050.

To reach this greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal, and as part of its commitment as a Maryland Smart Energy Community, Howard County will achieve the following by 2024:
• Obtain 20 percent the power needed for local government operations from renewable sources.
• Reduce petroleum fuel consumption in the County’s fleet by 20 percent.
• Reduce energy use of County government facilities by 25 percent.

Howard County has already made great strides toward these goals and has plans for new projects to further reduce its carbon footprint.

Howard County currently has solar energy generation at seven facilities: Robinson Nature Center (rooftop), Miller Branch Library (rooftop), East Columbia Library (rooftop), New Cut Road retired landfill (2,000 ground mount solar panels that supply 90 percent of the power to Worthington Elementary School), George Howard Building (solar powered light poles for electric vehicle charging), District Court (rooftop), and Little Patuxent Water Reclamation Plant (solar canopies over the parking lot).
By 2024, Howard County will get 20 percent of its power for local government operations from renewable sources. In 2019, Howard County will conduct a feasibility study of all County owned buildings, parking lots, and lands to identify and appropriate sites for solar, with a goal to maximize solar energy production on public property.

Howard County currently employs three full-size electric buses in the Howard Transit fleet for the most heavily used bus lines in and around Columbia. The buses are powered by an inductive charger that provides energy to the bus batteries through electromagnetic induction, allowing the batteries to re-energize without having to be plugged in. In addition, Howard County’s administrative and public safety fleet includes 62 hybrid-electric and six all-electric vehicles (four sedans and two motorcycles).
By 2024, Howard County will reduce petroleum fuel consumption in its fleet by 20 percent. The County will accomplish this by improving the average fuel economy of its fleet, including through right-sizing vehicles for the functions performed and increasing the number of electric and hybrid electric vehicles in the fleet. By 2020, Howard County will add 44 new hybrid electric police vehicles to the fleet.

Howard County is committed to maximizing the efficiency of local government operations. Howard County has converted traffic lights at 85 intersections and approximately 2,000 streetlights to LED. Under an energy performance contract, Howard County implemented $13 million of energy-saving and comfort-enhancing capital improvements in more than 65 buildings without any capital investment by the County. The project is expected to reduce energy use in those buildings by 34 percent for a guaranteed cost savings of $900,000 each year. These annual savings are used to cover the costs of the improvements over fifteen years.

By 2024, Howard County will reduce energy use of County government operations by 25 percent. This will include converting nearly 8,000 streetlights to energy-efficient, long-lasting LED lighting. Streetlight conversion to LED is expected to reduce the County’s electricity use 3 percent, lowering greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking 420 cars off the road. In addition, the County will implement a routine, systematic, and detailed investigation of energy use at all County buildings to identify and address energy inefficiencies as they occur. This will be accomplished using state-of-the-art technology to track and analyze a combination of monthly billing data, continuous real-time energy use data, and individual heating and cooling component data in each building. Information will be used to fine tune smart building controls to optimize energy efficiency.

Howard County currently offers free electric vehicle charging at several County facilities. In addition, Howard County is actively pursuing installation of new electric vehicle charging stations on County facilities to enhance the existing EV infrastructure for County and personal vehicles. Our goal is to install more than 25 new electric vehicle charging stations at libraries, parks, community centers, senior centers, and County offices over the next five years.

Starting in January 2019, new home construction in Howard County is required to be “EV-Ready”, meaning that it will include infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles (EVs). Installing EV infrastructure during construction is much more cost-effective than adding it later, when new wiring is needed or the existing pavement might have to be dug up. Howard County is the first jurisdiction in Maryland and one of the first in the U.S. to require that new residential construction with driveways or garages have the electric wiring to enable EV charging. In an even more innovative move, the County required that multi-family residential buildings will be required to provide one EV charging station for every twenty-five residential units, allowing apartment, townhome, and condominium owners and renters the opportunity to charge EVs at home.

Howard County is committed to increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of public transportation services, walking, and bicycling in and around Howard County and to ensure that connectivity is front and center in land use planning and site development. The County provides fixed route bus and paratransit services through the Regional Transportation Authority. The County also is evaluating the implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit system. BikeHoward, the Howard County Bicycle Master Plan, provides guidance for improvements for transportation and recreational bicycling, including recommendations for infrastructure improvements, policy, and programs. The County's goal is to provide an integrated 48-mile network of bicycle infrastructure. A similar program, Walk Howard, works toward improving walkability in the County.

Howard County is a leader in green building. Under Howard County’s Green Building law, new publicly funded buildings that are larger than 10,000 square feet must attain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver rating. New privately funded buildings larger than 50,000 square feet must attain a LEED Certified rating. Several Howard County government buildings are LEED certified, including:
• Robinson Nature Center, LEED Platinum
• North Laurel Community Center, LEED Silver
• George Howard Building, LEED Silver
• Charles E. Miller Library, LEED Gold

Howard County also provides tax credits for High Performance Buildings. Qualifying commercial and residential buildings receive tax credits when the buildings are built to certain LEED and equivalent standards. In addition, Howard County’s unique and voluntary Green Neighborhood Program provides allocations for the design and construction of homes meeting specific environmentally-focused criteria. These developments can use this certification in marketing their communities and may also qualify for fast track plan processing.

Howard County’s Roving Radish program promotes healthy eating and supports local farms by buying produce and protein from local farms and using those ingredients to create low-cost meal kits for sale to the public. The meal kits are offered seasonally (May through November) at a discounted price to those in need. The County also promotes local farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), roadside farm stands, and pick-your-own farms. The County also provides a certification – HoCo Fresh – to local restaurants and other businesses that purchase locally-grown food. Howard County also offers residential curbside food scrap pick-up and composting to approximately 30,000 households.

Howard County understands the importance of natural and working lands for healthy human and wildlife populations, a resilient community, and carbon sequestration. Howard County preserves and enhances natural and working lands through numerous policies, incentive programs, education, community engagement, and restoration efforts. Since 1978, Howard County has been protecting farmland through the Agricultural Land Preservation Program by purchasing agricultural preservation easements and dedicating agricultural preservation parcels in the County’s zoning regulations. Using these tools, the County has preserved over 20,000 acres of farmland. Howard County’s Green Infrastructure Network maps the most ecologically valuable forests, wetlands, meadows, waterways, and other natural areas as well as the lands that connect them together. Howard County’s Green Infrastructure Network Plan enables planners to consider important natural resources when preparing planning documents, making decisions about zoning and development proposals, acquiring land for parks and public facilities, and obtaining agricultural, environmental and other land preservation easements. Howard County’s Stream ReLeaf and Turf to Trees programs provide trees and planting services to property owners, resulting in thousands of new trees planted. Howard County’s stormwater programs provide funding and technical assistance to property owners to install or retrofit stormwater management practices, which both filter water and sequester carbon.

Climate Action Commitments

Current Climate Actions Howard County, MD Is Taking:


Purchase renewable power or build on-site renewable electricity to run local government needs

Powering your own operations with renewable electricity or using local government buildings and land to site solar PV panels is within the decision-making authority of most localities and can be a model to your community.


Replace fleet vehicles and buses that run on fossil fuels with vehicles that run on electricity

Electric fleet vehicles, especially buses, have a range of benefits that make them an excellent investment for local government use. Cities are coming together to spur innovation amongst manufacturers and use their collective purchasing power to drive down cost.


Increase energy efficiency of local government operations, such as buildings, street lighting, and water or wastewater plants

Energy efficiency is the best way to save taxpayer money and cut climate pollution right now. The average building wastes about a third of the energy it uses. Consider implementing a strategic energy management plan for all major operations.


Work with energy utilities to increase renewable energy provided to residents and businesses

Going beyond the local government’s own operations to make renewable energy available to your community is a challenging, but critical step that means working with utilities, state government, and your residents. Clean, renewable bring with them better air, predictable, increasingly lower customer pricing, and local job deployment opportunities.


Adopt policies that accelerate the transition to electric vehicles for commercial fleets and personal vehicles

Electric vehicles for personal and commercial use are, along with automation, a major trend coming to scale quickly. The proper infrastructure to support EVs will be critical to capture their benefits. Consider partnership with the largest local commercial fleet operators to pilot new ideas.


Increase rates of walking, cycling and public transit through means accessible to all residents

In many communities, the transportation sector is the largest share of their pollution and getting people to use alternative modes of transit to the personal vehicle comes with a myriad of benefits, not only cutting greenhouse gases.


Adopt policies to reduce carbon footprint of new and/or existing buildings

Building electricity, heating, and cooling at the community-scale is, with transportation, the other major source of carbon emissions. Strategies will vary between single-family homes, multi-family residential housing, and commercial buildings. Conducting energy audits and using benchmarking is an excellent tool to drive efficiency. Incentive programs for energy upgrades can be done effectively the more buildings that participate.


Promote practices that reduce the carbon footprint of food procurement and consumption and prevent food waste

Food is often overlooked as a source of greenhouse gas pollution. What it takes to produce, how far is travels to get to consumers and what’s done with food that’s not eaten all lead to major carbon pollution. Producing more food locally, running programs with restaurants and institutions to reduce food waste, and cutting back on carbon intense foods such as meat and poultry are important steps.


Set a goal for emissions reduction equal to or greater than the US goal under the Paris Climate Agreement (26-28% by 2025)

We all know the best way to measure, and actually achieve success, is to set a goal. Making that goal inline with or stronger than the U.S. nationally determined contribution under Paris signals that local governments are doing their part. Hundreds of cities and counties across the U.S. see an emissions reduction target of this level ambitious but doable.


Commit to the Natural and Working Lands Challenge

The natural systems upon which we depend are essential to life and critical for reducing the impacts of climate change on our communities. These systems are also under threat from human activity and climate change. Maintaining the resilience of natural and working lands is an important part of any GHG emission reduction strategy. It is also important to securing the well-being of communities, economies and ecosystems. Actions that secure and enhance the “carbon base,” such as land conservation, restoration, and improved management, also support watersheds and food systems, improve air quality, protect against urban heat islands and sea level rise, and preserve the beauty and function of natural areas and parks. Those that accept the NWL Challenge should commit to securing natural and working lands as a resilient net sink of carbon. This will take different forms for different actors. For example, local, sub-national and national jurisdictions might take a broad approach like that of the U.S. Climate Alliance. Landowners and managers may wish to focus on restoration and implementing climate-smart practices on their own lands. Businesses may look at their supply chains and customers as potential partners, and incorporate natural and working goals into their own climate change commitments and strategies.

The U.S. Climate Alliance States commit to taking actions that will reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon sequestration in forests, farms, rangelands, wetlands and urban greenspace, and integrating these pathways into state GHG mitigation plans by 2020. The Natural and Working Lands Challenge calls on other states, cities, nations, tribes, businesses and others to make the same commitment within their organizations. Feel free to elaborate on your work towards this challenge, along with your other efforts, in the "Other Commitments" field below.

Climate Action Plan

New Climate Actions Howard County, MD Commits To Take:


Use strategies building resilience to threats of climate change in zoning, capital improvement, comprehensive planning, and hazard mitigation documents

One of the most important things local governments can do when it comes to addressing climate change is to prepare for its effects--severe storms, drought, flooding, heat waves and more. Local government is already pledged to provide for the health and safety of their residents from these hazards. Climate change will make them worse and understanding and accounting for what’s to come in existing official documents is part of that responsibility.

Areas For Collaboration

We are interested in collaborating on the following:

Efficient Buildings
  • Encouraging more aggressive state energy efficiency policies

Electric Vehicles
  • Aggregating demand for electric vehicles with other actors
  • Encouraging more aggressive state targets for electric vehicles and GHG standards
  • Promoting increased charging infrastructure

HFC Phase Down
  • Promoting greater participation in voluntary programs to phase out HFCs

Local Collaboration
  • Collaborate on climate and clean energy action, and to advocate for stronger climate policy at the local level

Natural Lands
  • Encouraging states to adopt incentive programs for forest management, tree cover expansion, and soil health

Utility Sector
  • Aggregating demand for renewable energy with other actors
  • Encouraging more aggressive state renewable energy policies
  • Supporting states, cities, and utilities in decarbonizing their energy supply

Organization details

Howard County is a successful melding of old and new, urban and rural, where the rolling green hills of the Piedmont meet the rocky fall line of the glaciers. From the small town flavor of historic mill towns to the thriving model city of Columbia, Howard County makes everyone feel at home. Conveniently located in the heart of central Maryland between Baltimore and Washington, Howard County offers the charm of a historic past mixed with the excitement of a cosmopolitan community. The County is continually ranked among the most affluent, advanced and educated communities in the United States. There is immediate access to leading educational and health care institutions, upscale retail, and outstanding recreation and entertainment. It is currently home to more than 110,000 households and boasts a thriving, vibrant economy and welcoming business environment, with proximity to 50 federal agencies, universities, Fortune 500 companies, technology, defence and health care companies.

With a total land area of 160,640 acres, Howard is the second smallest county in Maryland. According to the Maryland Extension Service, 90 percent of the county is in the Piedmont Plateau (gently rolling hills) and 10 percent is in the Atlantic Coastal Plain (sandy soils). Altitude ranges from 20 feet to 875 feet above sea level. Precipitation averages 43.4 inches per year.

Howard County has six regional parks, 24 community parks, five lakes, and over 200 miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails.
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