Emile C. Thompson, chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (DCPSC), says he’s proud of the District’s many accomplishments in the clean energy transition.
Thompson, along with other city leaders, help the District meet its aggressive climate policy goals, setting standards and ensuring that D.C.’s clean energy transition is equitable, affordable and creates climate resiliency.
Those goals are important because the District, like the rest of the U.S., is struggling with the effects of climate change, including flooding, intense storms and higher temperatures.
Thompson is especially proud of the District’s renewable portfolio standard that aims for D.C. utilities to produce power with 100% renewable energy by 2032. By 2041, 10% of electricity must come from solar energy sources.
“Our most important climate achievement is ensuring the utilities meet the District's clean energy goals,” said Thompson. “The District has some of the most ambitious clean energy goals in the nation and it’s important that our utilities do their part to help us achieve those goals.”
The utilities and other local companies working in the renewable energy field are responding to the DCPSC’s oversight. By the end of 2021, the District deployed 2,337 new solar energy systems, including 82 Community Renewable Energy Facilities (CREFs), which are larger solar facilities, often installed above parking garages, on warehouse roofs or in other open areas. They provide power to residents who are unable to put solar on their own roofs. Accessing power from these facilities can help reduce electric bills for Solar for All participants by up to 50% a year.
“Each year we have an increment that we're supposed to be meeting to get to that goal (of having 10% of electricity come from solar), and right now, we are ahead of that increment. We're actually almost two years ahead of that 2022 increment. We really hope to maintain and sustain that momentum going forward,” said Thompson.
Another District achievement: D.C. ranked sixth on the 2022 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which ranks states on their advancements in energy efficiency–an important source of clean energy.
The DCPSC is also leading by organizing a clean energy summit. The 2023 summit, the District’s second, will take place in person and be live-streamed from 12:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Jan. 18, 2023, at the DCPCS office in D.C. Speakers will include federal government officials, state and local regulators, renewable energy leaders and utility executives who will address their climate goals, achievements and challenges.
The summit aims to educate and promote collaboration among utility customers, utilities, policy makers and other groups. It will also be an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of stakeholders working together toward a common objective.
“I think a lot of people hear and know about the clean energy transition, but they don't know how they can participate, how they're a part of it or how some of the big topics that are discussed really apply to them,” said Thompson.
One topic that’s rarely discussed nationally is how to improve residential utility customers’ ability to interconnect their solar panels to the larger grid. The District leads nationally in efforts to address interconnection challenges for small-scale solar for residential applications, said Thompson. Across the U.S., solar panel installers and owners complain that the process of interconnecting is expensive and lengthy.
Three sessions during the summit aim to help people better understand issues associated with the clean energy transition. The panels will focus on federal clean energy legislation, workforce and supply chain development and clean energy affordability.
Featured speakers and moderators at the summit include Thompson, the DCPSC’s Commissioners Richard A. Beverly and Ted Trabue, plus the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Commissioner Willie L. Phillips.
“The first panel is on recent federal legislation that's going to really advance the clean energy transition,” said Thompson.
During that first panel, “The Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” national experts will explain how these two new federal measures will help spur climate action. The expert panelists will also focus on available tax credits, rebate programs and the regulator's role in supporting clean energy programs and their impact on utility customers. The panelists will address the measures’ impact on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The second panel, “Workforce and Supply Chain Development,” aims to help the DCPSC and other regulators nationally develop a diverse workforce and supply chain that moves clean energy goals forward while ensuring the energy infrastructure is reliable and affordable. Panelists will describe investment and economic opportunities in all communities, explaining how to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into clean energy research and deployment efforts. They’ll also look at jobs that are in demand right now, as well as energy jobs programs and how to build equitable clean energy manufacturing and supply chains.
A third panel, “Affordability,” will focus on questions related to the costs associated with the clean energy transition and how we can assure that no one is left behind in this transition
“I think [affordability is] the key component of the clean energy transition that maybe doesn't always get the same bandwidth that some of the other topics do,” said Thompson.
D.C. programs that address affordability include utility discount programs and Solar For All, under which qualifying low-income residents can obtain power from renewable energy facilities.
The District identifies who qualifies for the utility discount program on an annual basis and compares this to who signs up.
“There's always a great gap. And so we're always looking to close that delta because we want people to be able to take advantage of these programs,” said Thompson.
During the affordability session at the summit, panelists will discuss the costs of the transition, how the costs will be allocated and who will bear the costs and reap the benefits of the energy transition. The panel will examine utility payment arrearage programs and how to address rising customer rates. Panel discussions will include an analysis of the energy burden based on household income, the effects of local and federal legislation on energy expenditures and how rate changes are affecting District residents.
“These topics are critical because affordable electricity has become, to many, a basic necessity,” said Thompson.
To register for the summit and attend either in person or watch the livestream, visit www.dcpsc.org/ces.