A Note from Your People's Counsel
You might be familiar with the quote: "Repetition is the mother of skill." The writer makes the point that by constantly doing a task, function or exercise over and over again, the ability to master that skill or behavior becomes self-regulating. What does that have to do with your utilities?
Well, ever since we began staying at home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I and OPC staff have been exercising some repetition. We’ve been reminding consumers to exercise energy and water conservation, without compromising health and safety, to keep utility bills down. We call it “bill shock,” when consumers are not conserving and get an unpleasant surprise when the bills come in. We’ve been repeating simple tips like turning off lights when not in a room, unplugging appliances not in use and turning off the faucet during the 20 second hand scrubbing. It’s also worth repeating that consumers should try to pay as much as possible on utility bills to avoid uncontrollable balances.
During the public health emergency, utilities have instituted moratoriums on disconnections, are waiving late fees, and restoring service despite arrears. Moreover, the DC Council on May 19 approved legislation OPC helped to write that requires utilities to offer payment plans extending for at least one year to eligible customers upon request; they are prohibited from reporting delinquencies to credit agencies; and cannot require a lump-sum payment under plans. The effective date of these provisions is pending.
Payment plans are critical for consumers who are not earning a paycheck, are using more utilities and will have a hard time paying higher bills.
No Time to Slack up
Proper hand washing can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. Protect yourself and those around you with these tips:
How to Wash Hands:
- Wet hands with running or bottled water. Apply soap.
- Wash hands front and back, up to your wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
- Water can be warm or cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Take at least 20 seconds to wash hands, or sing two choruses of “Happy Birthday.”
- Dry hands with disposable paper towels or air dry.
When to Wash Hands:
- Food preparation
- Upon return home
- After coughing or sneezing
- After using the restroom or changing a diaper
- After handling dirty laundry
- Using the phone
Emergency Funding to Help Residents Pay Past Due Water Bills During the Crisis
DC Water is offering financial assistance through several programs. District residents can apply by submitting copies or pictures of the following to the Department of Energy and Environment:
- Recent DC Water bill
- Recent proof of income, termination or unemployment
- Government-issued photo ID
*Resources: DC Water and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
OPC is releasing today a new analysis of the feasibility of solar deployment in the city. In “The Future of Solar Study for the District of Columbia,” the findings reveal the differences in solar potential on a ward level, and the suitability of particular options for generating solar power across the wards. The Future of Solar Study shows clear differences. For example, Wards 2, 3, 5, and 6 appear to have greater potential for private rooftop installations while shared community solar projects, developed for large building rooftops or parking lot canopy, would be the best option for Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8. The study also found that Wards 2 and 3 are falling far short on what is technically and economically possible. Compared to other wards, Wards 4, 7 and 8 have shown better progress toward reducing the gap between their potential and actual solar deployment.
This latest analysis builds on OPC’s “Value of Solar Study,” which in 2017, focused on the potential for deploying solar and other distributed energy resources District-wide
The 2020 findings indicated that the District could achieve its mandated goal of generating 100% of electricity through renewable energy by 2032. The study found this goal is technically feasible to achieve and development of rooftop and parking lot solar systems is a critical element. However, generating 10% retail electricity consumption from DC-specific solar deployment by 2041 requires substantial ongoing investment and engagement by the District government, stakeholders, and developers.
The study is available here.
Solar for All for More
The District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) has updated the income eligibility guidelines for its Solar for All (SFA) program. As a result, more DC residents will qualify. SFA provides solar energy credits, generated from solar systems installed though SFA, to reduce the utility bills of 100,000 District of Columbia low-income residents. The two-year-old SFA program is considered one of the most progressive in the United States. The new guidelines became effective April 1 and are based on the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) income limits. Below is a list of the updated Income guidelines for SFA participants
“Last December, I had a water leak and a $1,000 a month DC Water bill...Very long, stressful story short, they came, dug up front hill, found leak, discovered lead pipes [on public land, not on private property]....Finally, 5 months later, bills are resolved. I do not owe any money. I am sure this would not have ended happily without the help I received. Three cheers. and thank you.”
A Ward 5 homeowner posted the above commentapplauding OPC's advocacy on her behalf on a Nextdoor neighborhood list serv.
To be an administrative assistant, you must be a person who is proactive, comprehend direction and wear many hats. Quaneisha Glover is no stranger to all three tasks. Quaneisha says she received “a life changing opportunity,” when she was offered a position at OPC in March of 2019.
Quaneisha gained an interest in public service at an early age as she endeavored to follow in her mother’s footsteps. At the age of 19, Lisa Glover was employed by the Prince George’s County Housing Authority and began bringing Quaneisha to work with her when her daughter was just a toddler. Quaneisha became the Authority’s “perfect little assistant," and was offered a spot in the agency’s summer intern program at the age of 16.
With the advantage of understanding what the Housing Authority agency does, Quaneisha excelled as an intern and was recognized for participating in outreach activities for the 1 st Time Homebuyers Program. Quaneisha also enjoyed assisting senior residents and became the most requested summer intern in the Senior Property Program. Later, she was promoted from intern to administrative assistant.
In carrying out her duties as Administrative Assistant to OPC management, Quaneisha says: “I’m super excited to work side-by-side with so many successful people and I look forward to learning as much as I can from my superiors and colleagues. I have learned a lot already in my first year with OPC and I’m grateful to have such supportive leadership.”
Around the Office, Quaneisha is known for her cheerful demeanor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, shopping, watching crime TV shows, music, and she loves to write. The Takoma Park, MD native is now writing a web series for an independent entertainment company. We are excited that Quaneisha recently joined the OPC Connection writing team!
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
RM23-2020-01-G: In the Matter of 15 DC MR Chapter 23 – Natural Gas Notice Proposed Rulemaking
On April 20, OPC filed comments, requesting that the Commission retain rules that promote transparency into Commission decision-making processes and preserve the rights of a party to seek reconsideration of Commission decisions.
Formal Case No. 1115: Washington Gas Light Company’s Request for Approval of a Revised Accelerated Pipe Replacement Program
Formal Case No. 1142: The Merger of AltaGas Ltd. and WGL
Formal Case No. 1154: Washington Gas Light Company’s Application for Approval of PROJECTpipes 2 Plan
Formal Case No. 1162: Washington Gas Light Company’s Application for Authority to Increase Existing Rates and Charges for Gas Service
On April 27, OPC filed a Motion for Clarification and Application for Reconsideration of Order No. 20314. OPC proposes that the Commission reconsider whether billing mechanisms proposed by WGL are reasonable and beneficial to customers, if it should take certain climate-related issues into account when adjudicating the case
Formal Case No. 1157: Investigation into Washington Gas Light Company’s Compliance with the Recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board
Following a 2016 building explosion in Maryland, the NTSB provided safety recommendations to WGL, and the Commission required WGL to submit an implementation plan as to how it would implement the NTSB recommendations. On April 30, OPC filed a Motion for Leave and Limited Reply. OPC submits that WGL’s plan is lacking critical components, and proposes that the Commission direct WGL to further refine its plan.
Formal Case No. 1164: An Inquiry into the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on District Utilities and Consumers
On May 4, OPC filed an emergency petition requesting that the Commission initiate a proceeding to explore the options to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 that may be available to public utility ratepayers and consumers here in the District following the lifting of the current public health emergency. On May 28, the PSC announced it will convene a technical conference to examine the merits of OPC’s request.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) and civic associations are holding meetings virtually. We thank community groups for inviting OPC to give updates on utility issues and tell how we are continuing to serve during the pandemic. Call (202) 727-3071 if your group would like our staff to "zoom in."
Above, People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye and staff present to the Utility Consumer Advisory Network. UCAN members represent a variety of neighborhoods, industries, and civic groups. The People's Counsel formed UCAN to keep OPC abreast of community concerns. At a meeting on May 4, OPC staff gave updates on the status of the Pepco, Washington Gas and DC Water rate cases, and our COVID-19 Task Force, among other topics.
Clockwise from top left, Marchim Willaims attends the ANC 5C meeting; Denise Blackson is ready to connect with ANC 7B; and Stephen Marencic (red shirt) joins the Crestwood Citizens Association annual meeting.