A Note from Your People's Counsel
Almost a year ago, OPC released the first “Value of Solar Study” on the potential for wide deployment of solar energy in the District of Columbia. We also unveiled a companion report on solar for low-income residents. Our findings were positive and confirmed that the potential of rooftop solar can substantially meet the electricity needs of DC consumers at a cost-effective and affordable rate and at the same time improve quality of life. Recommendations called for reducing barriers such as the lack of suitable rooftop space to “unlock solar's value for low-income residents, give them access to energy that reduces their electricity costs...and close the solar divide."
One effort to close that divide is the Solar for All Program administered by the District Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE). OPC is a member of the Solar for All Task Force. The program’s goal is to provide the benefits of solar electricity to 100,000 low-income households, and to reduce their energy bills by 50 percent by 2032.
To this end, DOEE has issued nine grants for recipients to develop solutions to remove barriers to expansion. One of the grantees is Solar United Neighbors (DC SUN). DC SUN operates the “51st State Solar Co-op,” which helps DC residents of all incomes navigate acquiring solar. However, the Co-op has just announced a DOEE-funded program to provide free solar installation for about 200 single family households who meet lower income levels.An information session is scheduled for February 27 th. For details, go to: 51st State Solar Co-op.
With the interest in renewable energy growing, OPC supports efforts that “let the sun shine in” for consumers in all eight wards to learn about solar.
A path toward beginning the long-delayed District of Columbia Power Line Undergrounding Initiative (DC PLUG) has now been set.According to a filing made by Pepco and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) with the Public Service Commission on February 7, 2018, construction will begin in November of this year in Ward 3 with the undergrounding of power lines in the American University Park and Friendship Heights neighborhoods in Northwest. That construction is currently estimated to end in January 2020.
DC PLUG is the project designed to bury underground the District’s poorest performing overhead power lines in Wards 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8—which will significantly improve the resiliency of Pepco’s distribution system and prevent power outages during storms. OPC has worked tirelessly since 2012 with other District stakeholders to get the shovels in the ground.
Construction was originally scheduled to start in June 2015 but was delayed by a court challenge and other roadblocks.As a result of a 2017 amendment to the law authorizing DC PLUG, the last remaining impediment is out of the way and the project can finally get underway.
Except for customers receiving the Residential Aid Discount, ratepayers will cover Pepco and DDOT construction costs. The average consumer is expected to pay an extra $1.18 on their monthly electric bill. It’s not known yet when bills will go up.
Please visit www.opc-dc.gov where we will post more details on the DC PLUG construction plans as we get them.
We now have an idea of how Pepco and Washington Gas (WGL) customers may benefit from the new federal law that cut corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent. We told you in the last OPC Connection that this is your money and OPC would be working to ensure you get the full benefits of the lower taxes utilities will now be paying.
On January 23, 2018, the Public Service Commission opened a rate proceeding to determine the impact of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on Pepco and WGL current revenue and how that could translate into lower customer bills, effective as early as March of this year.
Based on Pepco’s filing made on February 6, a typical residential customer could see a $2.32 reduction in their monthly bill. WGL’s February 12 filing proposed a $2.11 a month decrease in the average bill. The PSC will decide if these reductions are what they should be based on input from OPC and other parties. The Office is actively participating in the proceedings and examining the utilities’ calculations and methodology to ensure consumers get every penny they deserve.
You’ve probably noticed high voltage transmission lines when traveling along the highway or by train. These lines crisscross the country, bringing electricity from power plants where it is generated to substations before moving to local lines that enter your home or business. Have you ever thought about the process that goes into planning and building these lines or the costs associated with them? Well, OPC has, and we want to ensure consumers are getting the most for their dollars.
Transmission costs, which you pay for the construction, operation, and maintenance of transmission lines, are the fastest growing portion of consumers’ wholesale electric bills. Independent analysis found that in 2017, transmission costs represented 18 percent of wholesale electric costs.Additionally, PJM, the transmission operator that serves the District, recently approved more than $1 billion in transmission upgrades. While many of these upgrades are necessary to ensure reliable service, OPC believes that projects must also be selected with consumers’ wallets in mind.
OPC is leading a discussion at PJM on cost containment proposals for transmission projects. Cost containment proposals shift the burden for unexpected costs, overruns, and future expenses from consumers to transmission owners, who are in the best position to control those costs. OPC believes PJM should evaluate not just construction-related cost containment proposals but proposals to contain operation, maintenance, and other costs over the lifetime of a project. Greater cost containment will help protect consumers from unexpected future costs and competition among cost containment proposals will lower consumers’ costs.
OPC is working for a grid that is developed and maintained so that it can provide reliable service while protecting consumers’ – your – investment.
Highlighting Feedback from Consumers
When a Ward 4 couple reached out to OPC, expressing frustration over a “smelly situation,” OPC’s Consumer Services Division stepped into action to help address their concerns about the relocation of a Washington Gas (WGL) meter.
“Ireally appreciate OPC coming here to check WGL’s work and help get this situation resolved,” said Betty Florence, in response to OPC’s advocacy work.
In late November, residents along Oglethorpe Street, NW in the Manor Park neighborhood smelled a gas odor and called WGL.A gas company crew found and subsequently repaired leaks in the gas lines servicing neighbors’ homes. WGL technicians then moved gas meters to the front of two homes affected by the leaks. However, Betty and John Florence were not happy because their meter was relocated without their consultation to a visible place at the front of their home that made it look unsightly.
OPC consumer services staff met with Mr. and Mrs. Florence at their home to learn more about their complaint against WGL. OPC scheduled a site visit with WGL and was joined by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie’s constituent services staff.
Following review of the service line repairs and assessment of the meter location, WGL offered other relocation options. OPC staff recommended WGL provide the Florences with a written description of the construction project for their review, and an opportunity to have all of their questions answered before any new work began.
This Consumer Corner case has a happy ending, as the homeowners and WGL were able to reach agreement on a new place for the meters.
*Have feedback or a story idea for the OPC Connection? Contact dmccoy@opc- dc.gov or tweet us @dcopc.
Attorney Travis R.Smith, Sr. is the Trial Supervisor in the OPC Litigation Services Division.A native of Binghamton New York, Travis is a graduate of Howard University and Vanderbilt University School of Law.
Following law school, Travis began his energy career at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, where he worked as an Attorney- Advisor in FERC’s Office of the General Counsel on matters related to interstate natural gas pipelines, electric utilities and regional transmission, among other issues.After FERC, Travis spent 10 years working in the energy practice groups of three large DC law firms, and appeared before FERC, various state and federal appellate courts, and Congress.
Since joining OPC in 2013, Travis has continued to put his federal experience into practice in protecting and advocating for District consumers. He has worked on numerous Pepco and Washington Gas proceedings before the DC Public Service Commission. In addition, you might have heard Travis’ voice on local radio stations as he is called upon to break down complicated utility cases for the listening audience.
In his spare time, Travis enjoys performing volunteer work, reading, rabidly supporting his New York Yankees, and watching westerns. For the extra curious among you, “Once Upon A Time in the West” recently overtook the original “The Magnificent Seven” as Travis’ all-time favorite cowboy flick.
RM9-2017-01-E - In the Matter of 15 DCMR Chapter 9 - Net Energy Metering & FC1130 - The Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery Structure for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS)
On January 2, 2018 OPC filed Initial Comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued November 3, 2017.
RM-21-2017-01 - In the Matter of 15 DCMR Chapter 21- Provisions for Construction of Electric Generating Facilities and Transmission Lines & FC1130 – MEDSIS
On January 2, OPC filed Initial Comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued November 3, 2017.
CC2017-9075225 - Joemah v. Pepco
On January 2, OPC filed on behalf of the consumer, an Application for Reconsideration regarding a service quality complaint, disputing the charges Pepco imposed for a temporary disconnection so that repairs could be conducted.
FC1115 - WGL's Request for Approval of a Revised Accelerated Pipeline Replacement Plan
On January 9, OPC filed a Response to WGL’s Application for Reconsideration of Order No. 19194.
FC1130 - The Investigation into MEDSIS
On January 17, OPC filed Reply Comments to Commission Order No. 19143, in opposition to Pepco’s proposal to eliminate a review period on its electric vehicle charging station plan.
RM27-2014-01 - The Commission's Investigation into the rules governing Local Exchange Carrier Quality of Service Standards for the District
On January 17, OPC filed Initial Comments in Response to the Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
FC1151 - WGL's Application for Approval of Reduction of Distribution Rates
On January 17, OPC filed a Motion in Opposition of WGL’s Expedited Hearing and Waiver of DCMR & DC Codes.
FC1150 - Pepco's $66 million Rate Increase Request
On January 22, OPC filed a Response to Pepco’s Motion to Waive the Commission’s procedural rule regarding the Issues List- the set of topics that will be reviewed in the case before the Commission.
FC1148 - The Investigation into the Establishment and Implementation of Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Programs Targeted Towards Both Affordable Multifamily Units and Mastered Metered Multifamily Buildings Which Include Low and Limited Income Residents in the District of Columbia
On January 24, OPC filed a Motion for Enlargement of Time to Submit Reply Comments Pursuant to Order No. 19193.(Amended motions were filed on January 26 and January 30.)
FC1142 - The Merger Application of AltaGas Ltd. and WGL Holdings, Inc.
On January 24, OPC filed Motion to Strike, Alternative Motion to Hold this Proceeding in Abeyance and Establish Additional Procedures, Motion to Extend the Briefing Schedule, and Request for Expedited Ruling.
Iona has been in existence since 1975, when a group of faith leaders joined together to create a social services center to serve older community members.
Named “Iona House” after a tiny Scottish island known for its dedication to fellowship and service, the program would eventually emerge as a force in the community that has benefited tens of thousands of older adults and caregivers in Washington, DC and beyond for more than 40 years.
Now known simply as "Iona," the organization provides a wide range of services from fitness and nutrition programs to financial management advice, and with the help of OPC, utility consumer information. They also maintain a community services resource guide that lists many useful programs and services available throughout the city.
More information can be found on Iona's website by clicking here.
Assistant People’s Counsel Erik Heinle and People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous- Frye at a PJM Interconnection meeting of state advocates and stakeholders.Erik is the OPC attorney who focuses on PJM, which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity into homes in the District and 13 states.
OPC Deputy People’s Counsel Karen Sistrunk (in red), DC Federation of Civic Associations President Graylin W.Presbury (center), DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (right), and OPC staff attend the DCFCA Scholarship Celebration where Tenants Advocacy Coalition Chairman Jim McGrath (unable to attend) is named the recipient of the OPC Lifetime Consumer Advocate Award.
Consumer Outreach Specialist Silvia Garrick (right) distributes useful materials to members of the Manna Home Buyers Club for Ward 8 residents at a workshop at THEARC. Like this consumer, you can sign up to receive the OPC Connection and other news at opc-dc.gov.
Community Outreach Specialist Denise Blackson (left) knows how to make a consumer smile by giving her an OPC bucket filled with energy efficiency goodies.
OPC staff members wear just the right color on National Wear Red Day, February 2, to raise awareness about heart disease.
OPC will be out at the following events:
ANC 1D Meeting
3160 16th St. NW
ANC 3C Meeting
2nd District Police Station
3320 Idaho Ave. NW
Energy Efficiency Workshop
Brown Elementary School
850 26 th St. NE
ANC 4B Meeting
4th District Police Station
6001 Georgia Ave. NW
City-wide Community Discussion on Environmental Issues
Ten Tigers Parlour
3813 Georgia Ave. NW