The OPC CONNECTION - July 2018

 

A Note from Your People's Counsel

On July 12th, I testified before the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment on a proposed bill that would give OPC the authority to advocate on behalf of DC Water customers. The Council is considering the “DC Water Consumer Protection Amendment Act of 2018” in an effort to allay consumers’ concerns about high water bills, aging meters and insufficient customer service. The bill would open the door for the Office to represent District residents with DC Water concerns. And there are many, as several public witnesses highlighted at the hearing. A majority of the people who testified were in favor of the bill. In my testimony, I stated that, for many years, consumers have called OPC to complain about their water bills; and because we do not have statutory authority over water issues, we refer these consumers to DC Water. That would change if the bill gets Council approval. For example, OPC would be able to advocate for individual consumers in water bill disputes, threatened disconnections and customer service complaints. OPC already has in place a comprehensive consumer complaint resolution process that is designed to ensure that ratepayers are adequately represented in their disputes with the utilities. Currently, OPC handles disputes involving electric, natural gas and local telephone services. I believe our work could be readily expanded to cover DC Water concerns. While there are limits on OPC’s role due to DC Water’s independent structure, I am confident OPC can perform an important service in assisting water customers. We’ll know more about the future of the bill when the Council returns from recess in September and will keep you updated. Read my full testimony here.

Introducing a new feature called: “The Solar Connection,” to shine the light on developments in solar energy. In this edition, we highlight “Solar Works DC,” a hands-on job training program teaching low-income District residents the nuts and bolts of solar installation. The program is operated by GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic and funded by the DC Department of Energy & Environment and the Department of Employment Services.

Solar Works DC participants train alongside GRID’s solar installation staff to ensure they pick up the key industry skills. Two 12-week cohorts operate in the fall and spring for District residents ages 18 and over. Participants complete GRID’s Installation Basics Training course and earn certifications by demonstrating competency in real-world solar installations. The participants also attend outreach and construction workshops. Residents 18 – 24 years of age can participate in a six-week summer program.

Since June 2017, 78 trainees have participated in one of the four sessions, averaging about 20 students per cohort. Within three months of graduating from the fall 2017 cohort, half the trainees were offered jobs in solar or a related industry. And within a week after the spring 2018 cohort, nine trainees had received job offers.

Solar Works DC supports the District’s overarching Solar for All Program, which aims to bring the benefits of solar energy to 100,000 low-income residents by 2032, while providing pathways for District residents to enter the solar industry.

The application process for the September 2018 cohort is now underway. To apply, visit: https://gridalternatives.org/regions/midatlantic/solar-works-dc. Kirsten Rumsey, Marketing and Communications Associate, with GRID Alternatives MidAtlantic, contributed to this article.​

Have you been to OPC's YouTube channel lately? If not, click here to subscribe to our channel, or click on the image below to view our new video illustrating the work OPC does in advocating, protecting and educating DC ratepayers! Be sure to share our video with all of your social media followers!

Have you recently undergone a renovation in your home or business and have an old dial thermostat? It is important to remember that these old devices contain mercury and must be disposed of properly. Luckily, you can find a safe recycling facility by following visiting https://www.thermostatrecycle.org/zipsearch

The program is sponsored by a coalition of manufacturers and has helped to collect over 2.4 million mercury-containing thermostats, or the equivalent of 11 tons of mercury, out of the environment.

The Office of the People’s Counsel has once again provided an enriching, paid summer internship to two rising thirdyear law students, as the Office has annually.

OPC’s Litigation Services Division welcomed Hamid Saahir and Ameilia Whiting for an 8-week session.

Their hands-on experiences included working with the legal team to conduct research on utility and energy regulation, drafting memos on utility bill increases, as well as troubleshooting customer service-related concerns on behalf of District ratepayers.

A student at the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, Hamid hails from Indianapolis, Indiana. He received his undergraduate degree from Indiana State University. While pursuing his law degree as an evening UDC student, Hamid also has a full-time job teaching graphic design and Microsoft Office at McKinley Tech High School. Hamid says he is planning to use the experience gained at OPC to effectively work to advocate for people needing help with their utility concerns.

Amelia, a New Jersey native, attends the University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law. She is a graduate of Penn State. Amelia has indicated a strong interest in pursuing legal work in the environmental and energy realm after law school.

Amelia and Hamid have been valuable additions to OPC this summer. Based on their contributions to the work product, we are confident that they will move on to do great things in the legal profession. OPC thanks both of them for their service to DC consumers and wishes them success in the remainder of law school and later in their careers.

Second or third-year rising law students interested in OPC internships next summer should visit the Career Opportunities page on our website at www.opc-dc.gov next spring. Also look for announcements on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:

Formal Case 1130 – The Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery Structure for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS)

The Commission established MEDSIS to identify technologies and policies to modernize the distribution energy delivery system in the District of Columbia. The MEDSIS proceeding utilizes working groups, and on June 1, 2018, OPC filed a Statement of Interest with the PSC to participate in all phases of the Stakeholder Engagement process either through technical conferences, working groups, and/or roundtable discussion.

Formal Case 1150: Pepco's Rate Application & Formal Case 1151: WGL's Application for Approval of Reduction of Distribution Rates

The parties to this rate case filed a Non-Unanimous Full Settlement Agreement and Stipulation with the Commission. On June 4, OPC filed Fully Conformed Stipulated Exhibits, which contained testimony in support of the settlement and supporting exhibits of its expert witness.

Consumer Complaint 9075234 – 9: David Roodman v. Pepco

A residential consumer is protesting Pepco’s denial of its interconnection application on the basis that the proposed system was sized to generate more than 100 percent of his home’s historical usage. On June 5, OPC filed an Initial Post Hearing Brief with the PSC, on the sole issue of whether the hearing officer has the authority to adjudicate the complaint.

Formal Case 1151: WGL's Application for Approval of Reduction of Distribution Rate

On June 18, OPC filed Direct Testimony of Ralph C. Smith in Support of the Settlement that was reached among OPC and other parties concerning the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 on Washington Gas Light Company's rates.

PEPACR2018-01-E: Pepco Annual Consolidated Report

The Pepco Annual Consolidated Report (ACR) provides statistics and planning documents related to the Company’s System Plan, Comprehensive Plan, Productivity Improvement Plan, and Manhole Event Report. On June 18, OPC filed Initial Comments with analysis and assessment of the 2018 ACR

OPC will be out at the following events:

Beat the Streets
Location:6200 Dix Street NE
Date: Wednesday, August 1st
Time:2:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Latino Leaders Luncheon Series
Location:1127 Connecticut Avenue NW
Date:Thursday, August 2nd
Time:11:30 am – 2:00 pm

Ridge Road Community Day
Location:800 Ridge Road SE
Date:Saturday, August 4th
Time:10:00 am – 3:00 pm

National Night Out
Location:Bruce Monroe Park, 3000 Georgia Avenue NW
Date:Tuesday, August 7th
Time:6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Career Connections & Project Empowerment
Location:DOES, 4058 Minnesota Ave. NE
Date:Thursday, August 9th
Time:9:30 am – 10:30 am