November 23, 2018
The DC Council is currently considering the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018 which, if enacted, would make substantial changes to energy policy in the District. On November 13, 2018 the CCA held a special meeting to learn more about the proposed legislation and provide neighbors an opportunity to ask questions. Our guest was Barbara Briggs, a long time human rights and environmental campaign organizer.
Some of the information we learned at the November meeting is provided below.
Q: What does the bill do?
A: There are four main parts of the bill: (i) a commitment to 100% renewable electricity in DC by 2032; (ii) funding for the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF); (iii) sustainability standards for large buildings, and (iv) certain transit rules.
Q: Will my bills go up?
A: There are two types of utility costs to consider: (i) fees, and (ii) rates for usage. As for fees, the funding for the SETF includes increased fees for electricity, natural gas, and fuel oil. (Renewable energy is exempt from these fees.) In total, these extra fees are expected to cost the average DC household an extra $3-4 per month.
As for rates, advocates of the bill anticipate that it will not impact rates for electricity consumption. However, even amongst supporters of the bill, there is some uncertainty about this prediction.
Q: What happens with the revenue raised by the extra fees?
A: Twenty percent of the revenue is earmarked to assist low-income households through rate assistance (i.e., paying the bills), job training, upgrading affordable housing, and other means. The remainder of the revenue will be used to fund the newly-formed Green Bank which will finance building upgrades, rooftop solar projects, and other local green initiatives.
Q: Will the bill help to create jobs in DC?
A: Yes. The projects that will be financed by the SETF revenue as well as the new building standards are highly likely to create jobs in rooftop solar, building efficiency, and other green industries.
Q: Will the bill improve the environment in our region?
A: Probably. In order to meet the commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2032, Pepco will buy credits from renewable energy creators to account for the electricity it sells in DC. Those credits can only come from within our electric grid which is known as the PJM grid (and covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland). This limitation means that more renewable energy projects will come online in our region, hopefully replacing current polluting energy providers which have a negative impact on our environment. However, keep in mind that compared to our neighbors, DC has a very small population and relatively low levels of energy consumption.
Q: What is the current state of renewable energy in DC?
A: Under current law, DC is committed to 50% renewable energy by 2032. As of today, the percentage of renewables in our electricity portfolio is surprisingly small: about 3.1% from wind, 0.2% from solar, and a small amount of renewable energy credits (which can be purchased from anywhere in the country, not from within our region). We currently consume a substantial amount of nuclear energy.
Q: What is the status of the bill?
A: As of November 21, 2018, the bill is awaiting a vote before the full DC Council. It was unanimously advanced out of both the Committee on Transportation and the Environment and the Committee on Economic and Business Development.