A Note from Your People's Counsel
It’s Electric! Sliding into 2020 with EVs
As we edge closer to the end of 2019, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank the many consumers and lay advocates who have contributed to OPC’s accomplishments over the past year. We simply could not represent ratepayers as we do without your input.
Now, in the closing days of December, OPC is focused on an issue that will impact all consumers in the coming year: DC Council Bill 230193, the “Electric Vehicle Readiness Amendment Act of 2019,” currently under committee review following a hearing on the bill on December 9.
Electric vehicles or “EVs” are now part of the transportation landscape and are expected to rapidly transform the vehicle marketplace in the coming years. Key to the DC Council’s consideration of steps it may take to support and speed EV adoption is that the projected reduction in carbon emitting vehicles will help the District meet environmental air quality goals. The Council is reviewing how to develop “EV ready” infrastructure which would likely include an array of charging stations spread throughout the city.
OPC is highly supportive of EV adoption and achieving Renewable Portfolio Standards. OPC is already participating in two electric vehicle cases before the DC Public Service Commission and is on schedule to submit recommendations in January 2020 to address how electrification for transportation may be achieved, including how a partially-approved plan submitted by Pepco may be incorporated. I am hopeful that the Council will allow the process before the Commission to develop fully before Councilmembers make difficult choices related to ratepayer or taxpayer funding to frame EV adoption.
Thus, in my testimony to the Council on the bill, I have taken particular care to point out the importance of finding the proper balance to achieve carbon reduction goals, grid optimization, reach under-served communities, and foster competition. I am asking the Council to ascertain whether its initiative places DC utility ratepayers in an untenable financial situation, whether measurable and equitable benefits are included for all residents and whether the cost associated with implementing the legislation may prove discriminatory to certain consumers. Read my full testimony here.
So even as the District is on the right path, we must continue to choose each step carefully. Stay tuned, 2020 is already shaping up to present exciting challenges!
The Office of the People's Counsel is aware of recent conversations among neighbors about utility scams that raise their ugly head periodically. We think it’s a good time to send a reminder to be on guard.
Consumers say these scams come in different forms, including doorto-door salespersons masquerading as utility workers, robotic phone calls offering consumers reduced utility rates, and offers of "coupons or special energy rates" for seniors.
No matter what the pitch, never give your utility account information, Social Security Number, other personal information, or payment to someone in person or over the phone before verifying that you are speaking directly to a utility company representative. Unless there is a public safety emergency, Pepco and Washington Gas rarely visit your home, randomly stop you on the street, or make rate offers by telephone.
OPC Shares These Tips:
- Always request identification from a utility company worker knocking on your door.
- Beware of anyone who says they are "from the electric or gas company."
- Before making any decisions about your utility service, check with your energy supplier for your current account balance to ensure that your service is not going to be disconnected.
- Request to see any rate offers in writing and do not be pressured to sign any documents or limited time payment plans until you have had time to review.
If you suspect you have been duped by a scammer or have concerns or questions about utility services, rates, contract offers, or utility construction in your neighborhood, contact an OPC consumer outreach specialist at (202) 727-3071.
Consumers who would like technical assistance with their testimony can call OPC at (202) 727-3071. For more information, see OPC's DC PLUG Fact Sheet here.
*Photo of OPC Supervisory Attorney Travis Smith, People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye, and Regulatory Finance Director Naunihal Singh Gumer at the DC PLUG groundbreaking ceremony in Ward 3 in June 2019.
Protect your Pipes from Winter Freeze
Did You Know?
A frozen pipe can burst and result in more than $5,000 in water damage. Keep that big cash in your pocket by spending as little as 50¢ per linear foot on pipe insulation and invest in pipe sleeves to prevent freezing. Here's a winter weatherization check list:
- Locate your main water supply valve now and learn how to shut it off in the event of a leak or line burst
- The most vulnerable pipes when exposed to severe cold include water sprinkler lines and pipes in unheated basements, attics, crawl spaces and areas where pipes are on exterior walls
- Disconnect garden hoses, drain and store away. Shut off valve and insulate outdoor faucets. Clean drain and rainwater cistern spouts of leaves and debris
- Keep a stream of running water in a few faucets during a deep freeze
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to circulate warmer air around plumbing
- Seal cracks, caulk around holes and openings. Install weather stripping at windows, doors, air conditioners, mail chutes and other openings
- Set thermometer temperature at least 65 degrees
- Speak to your insurance agent about coverage for damages due to extreme weather
Did You Know?
- The District of Columbia recorded 80.87 megawatts/MW of solar installations through the 3rd quarter of 2019…enough to power almost 11,000 homes
- DC solar installation is expected to grow to 186 MW over the next five years
- The District has a national ranking of 41st for solar installations
- The District has 1,092 solar jobs
- There are 232 solar companies in the city, including manufacturers, installers, developers, and associated entities
- The solar industry has invested almost $209.5 million in the District, including $42 million in 2018.
- Over the last 5 years, solar installation prices have fallen by 36% in the District
- Solar plus-battery storage installations are rising, to create an expanding solar/battery market with lower prices
- Solar is getting cheaper by the megawatt-hour with an expected low cost of $14/MWh
- Corporations are fueling the solar renewable market with a nearly 15% growth in solar installations
*Data through 3rd quarter of 2019 unless noted
The Office of the People’s Counsel, in partnership with the Office of the Secretary of the District of Columbia, hosted its first DC One Fund Fair in an effort to put a face on the beneficiaries of the annual DC government workplace charitable giving campaign.
OPC welcomed guest speakers: Jeff Fraley, Vice President of Corporate Engagement, United Way of the National Capital Area; Lyn Dyson, President of Multi-Media Training Institute; and Jonathan Tate, Founder of Food on the Stove. Each spoke about how their organization serves District residents and invited OPC staff to consider supporting their programs.
OPC staff members provided testimonials of their commitment to giving to the their favorite charities. A highlight of the fair was recognition for OPC's Dwayne Houston, Cheryl Morse, and Aaron Ward for being "Fair Share Givers." They received certificates of appreciation from the Office of the Secretary for giving 1% of their salaries. They are pictured above with People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye, other staff participants, and guest speakers.
In 2018, OPC was among 33 agencies that met its fundraising goal. Not only did the Office meet its goal, but far exceeded the goal by 200% with a total contribution of $11,866.88 from 14 donors.
2019 numbers are still being tallied, but thus far, OPC has reached this year's goal!
The Office of the People’s Counsel values its longstanding relationship with faith-based institutions. OPC has hosted town hall meetings at houses of worship and has partnered with them to stage numerous outreach events and energy efficiency workshops. Partnerships help OPC obtain direct links to neighborhoods across the city and consumer feedback on utility-related issues and concerns. The partnership with the faith-based community was bolstered last year with the hiring of Rev. George Gilbert, Jr.
Rev. Gilbert joined our Consumer Services Division to give OPC more access to small businesses and nonprofit organizations, as well as churches, to better serve the utility and energy needs of all three groups. As a lifelong resident of the Hillcrest community in Southeast Washington, and graduate of Eastern Senior High School, Rev. Gilbert is quite familiar with the neighborhood landscape and wellpositioned to spread OPC’s messages about our service to DC residents.
Rev. Gilbert is proud of the key role he played prior to his OPC days in helping to create and gain DC Council passage of the “New First Source Law” in 2011. It requires companies on DC-funded projects to hire District residents before they consider hiring from other jurisdictions.
In his spare time, George enjoys live band music and does his share of performing live, playing a variety of instruments. He’s an avid fan of 80’s and 90’s contemporary R&B music. It’s “music” to his OPC colleagues when George’s connections help the Office accomplish its mission of advocating, educating and protecting DC consumers in and outside of the faith-based community.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
Formal Case No. 1148: The Investigation into The Establishment and Implementation of Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Programs Targeted Towards Both Affordable Multifamily Units and Master Metered Multifamily Buildings which Include Low-and Limited-Income Residents
On November 14, 2019, OPC designated Assistant People's Counsel Adrienne Mouton-Henderson as the Office's representative to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Task Force formed by the Public Service Commission to address the above investigation.
Formal Case No. 1142: The Merger Application of AltaGas Ltd. and WGL Holdings, Inc.
On November 15, OPC filed a Motion for Leave to Submit Comments on WGL’s Root Cause Analysis and Action Plan.
Formal Case No. 1137: WGL’s Application for Authority to Increase Existing Rates and Charges for Gas Service and to Revise Terms and Conditions Related to Gas Service
On November 21, OPC filed a Unanimous Motion for Enlargement of Time to file comments on WGL’s 2019 Depreciation Study.
Formal Case No. 1159: Pepco’s Application for Approval of the Second Biennial Underground Infrastructure Improvement Plan (DC PLUG)
On December 10, OPC filed comments in this matter. The Public Service Commission will hold a hearing to take comments from the community on the application on January 8, 2020.
Matters Before the DC Water Board of Directors:
DC Water Rulemaking to decrease CRIAC (Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge) and to increase rates for sewer services
On October 9, 2019, OPC filed supplemental comments. DC Water sent a November 21 letter accepting several of the recommendations in the OPC Supplemental Comments. The November 21 DC Water letter represents an important initial step toward improving the transparency of DC Water's rate-setting process.
DC Water Rulemaking to extend the Customer Assistance Program II (CAP2) through Fiscal Year 2020
OPC presented testimony at the public hearing on August 14, 2019 and filed detailed post-testimony comments on August 19 supporting the extension of CAP2 through FY 2020.
Case No. 19-467234, DC Water Administrative Hearing
OPC prevailed in its representation of a customer at an Administrative Hearing on August 7, 2019. In filings in October and November, OPC continues to defend the victory as DC Water requested rehearing of the Administrative Hearing Decision.
OPC's Stephen Marencic and Deputy People's Counsel Karen Sistrunk (far left) welcome Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) team members & their utility industry guests to OPC's new "Energy Affordability Lab." OPC looks forward to more visits from industry partners, consumers and DC Public School students in the coming year, as we educate various constituents about energy efficiency.
OPC's Denise Blackson, with the help of "Lisa the Lighting Bug," teaches these cute pre-K students at Center City Public Charter School Shaw Campus in Ward 6 simple energy efficiency tips to help their families save money on utility bills.
In their reindeer antlers, OPC's Valca Valentine and Jean Gross-Bethel share consumer information along with good times with seniors at Mayor Muriel Bowser's Annual Senior Holiday Celebration at the D.C. Armory.
OPC's Doxie McCoy and Dionne Johnson Calhoun (2nd and 3rd from right) enjoy fellowship at the Ward 4 Mini-Commission on Aging holiday meet & greet.
People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye and OPC staff wish one and all Happy Holidays!