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The Decarbonization Race

Apr 17, 2023

When it comes to decarbonization, local governments have a twofold role to play: reducing the impacts of their own operations, which can be broader than one thinks depending on the footprint of county services; then in supporting the ecosystem of public, private and stakeholder groups like NGOs in growing impacts within the region.

In this episode, Lincoln is joined by Lisa Lin, who currently serves as the Director of Sustainability for Harris County, Texas, the third-largest county in the United States and home to Houston. Lisa discusses the role of driving behavior change in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, how the county is pursuing renewable energy and energy storage to create jobs and add resilience as much as curb emissions, how the county is growing its “solar-ready” status through the SolSmart program, and how her team is collaborating with both private companies and other local governments to enhance sustainability efforts.

With a background in architecture and a passion for green building, Lisa has played a crucial role in shaping sustainability initiatives for local governments across central Texas for the last 12 years. Her journey began assisting the city of Houston with its Green Office Challenge, and eventually led her to leading sustainability programs for three local governments (San Antonio, Houston and now Harris County) and Rice University. As Harris County’s first Director of Sustainability for Harris County, Lisa has been instrumental in crafting Harris County’s first Climate Action Plan, which includes energy conservation measures, renewable energy projects, and transportation demand management programs.


Key Takeaways:

  1. A key goal for Harris County is to reduce reliance on grid power through two targets: securing a 50-100 megawatt power purchase agreement and developing up to 20 megawatts of solar and 10 megawatt-hours of battery storage projects at county facilities. The county plans to site these projects to support community centers or other facilities that can serve as “resilience hubs,” protecting critical services and providing powered shelter in case of extreme weather.
  2. The Inflation Reduction Act tax credits have created a range of opportunities for counties and cities to invest more heavily in renewable energy, electric vehicle deployment or clean fuel projects. The county recently conducted a series of community meetings with its precincts to see what critical assets or sites should be prioritized so they can work to leverage the new federal funding and incentives.
  3. Harris County recently achieved the Silver designation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s SolSmart program - a free series of trainings and resources available to towns, cities, MPOs, and regional organizations to break down barriers to solar adoption.