A Note from Your People's Counsel
This year has been remarkably empowering for women across the country. Recently, I served on a panel entitled, “The Year of the Woman,” with fellow women leaders in the energy sector. Subsequently, I was excited to grace the cover of Public Utilities Fortnightly Magazine with powerful female consumer advocates.
The setting was the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) Mid-Year Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When initially asked to serve on the panel, I knew exactly what my focus would be for the captive audience: to speak to the energy burden on low-income consumers, particularly women of color who are heads of households.
Statistics show that the District of Columbia is an anomaly, “a tale of two cities,” in that it ranks #1 in the nation in median income for women at $65,000 per year. However, the District also ranks third from the bottom (48th) for its high percentage of women living in poverty.
Approximately 27,000 District households live with income at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level. The energy burden on these households is high. As the People’s Counsel, I’ve made it a top priority to help alleviate the energy burden on low-income consumers. Educating all consumers about simple ways to save energy to lower their utility bills is key. We know that energy efficiency continues to offer the fastest, and often, the most affordable return on investment for most consumers. In communities with large apartment complexes, encouraging owners to make building improvements allows for renewable energy options to flow to tenants. In addition, exploring innovative technology options with government and community partners can lower costs.
Through OPC in Your Neighborhood and other consumer outreach initiatives, OPC is raising awareness about the money-saving benefits of energy efficiency. There is still work to be done to change the path of the utility industry, however, we are making valuable strides for the benefit of DC consumers.
We’ve kept you up-to-date on the developments related to Pepco’s latest rate cases affecting your monthly electric bill and here’s another update. On August 9, 2018, the Public Service Commission issued an order approving a settlement that addresses both Pepco’s December 2017 request for a $65.7 million rate increase and the impact of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that reduced taxes on corporations, including DC utilities. OPC, in vigorous defense of ratepayers’ rights, worked with Pepco and other parties to craft a joint settlement that, among other things, provides for a $24.1 million reduction in Pepco’s distribution rates and a moratorium on new rate case applications until May 2019.
The good news is that new rates went into effect on August 13. Under the settlement, ratepayers will be credited for Pepco’s tax savings based on the new law that took effect in January of this year. The credit for residential customers will be added to the Consumer Base Rate Credit that has been in effect since OPC won the moratorium for ratepayers in the Pepco/Exelon merger.
September 30, 2018, is the deadline for applying for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help pay utility bills. Consumers who meet income requirements may receive up to $1,500 as a one-time benefit. You do not have to be behind on your bills but emergency assistance also is available. Apply for LIHEAP and find more information on the website of the District Department of Energy & Environment at https://doee.dc.gov/liheap or call 311.
This month’s employee spotlight is on one of OPC’s newest employees, Cherry Belle. Cherry began working at OPC on June 25th as OPC’s Administrative Officer, replacing longtime OPC AO Frank Scott who retired. Cherry now oversees day-to-day procurement, training and travel scheduling, fleet management, and risk management. She often jokes that she is “the new Frank Scott,” while seriously acknowledging her predecessor's service. Cherry may be new to OPC, however, she is definitely not new to the District government as she is currently in her 24th year as a DC government employee.
Cherry is a native Washingtonian and graduate of HD Woodson Senior High School. When asked what she likes to do in her spare time, Cherry is eager to say that she is a faithful member of Bladensburg SDA Church and enjoys performing as an actress in various church productions. She also enjoys writing poetry and plays, and spending quality time with her husband and children. Cherry insists that it is through faith and the support of family that she is here working with us today. We also think that Cherry’s dedicated public service over two decades might have had something to do with her coming on board! We welcome Cherry as a new member of the OPC Team.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
Formal Case No. 1145 18-AA-0275: AOBA v. PSC
The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington filed a petition before the DC Court of Appeals for review of several orders issued by the Public Service Commission related to the Commission’s approval of the Joint Applicants' (Pepco and the District Department of Transportation) first DC Powerline Undergrounding (DC PLUG) Initiative Biennial Plan Application and Financing Order. OPC is a party to this proceeding, and on July 11, OPC filed a Statement in Lieu of a Brief in front of the DC Court of Appeals to confirm that it will not be filing a brief in this proceeding.
Formal Case No. 1119: The Merger of Exelon Corporation, Pepco Holdings, Inc., Potomac Electric Power Company, Exelon Energy Delivery Company, LLC, and New Special Purpose Entity, LLC
Commitment No. 24 of the Pepco/Exelon merger requires Pepco to establish in conjunction with interested stakeholders a mutually agreeable Arrearage Management Program (AMP). On July 20, OPC filed comments with the PSC regarding Pepco’s AMP to state that OPC does not oppose Pepco' s proposal for forgiving consumers' distribution cost debt, including surcharges and taxes, and supply cost arrearages.
ER18-905-000 PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.
On July 30, OPC filed Reply Comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This proceeding addresses wholesale transmission rate rebates Pepco/Exelon owes to ratepayers as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts. OPC filed comments on July 30 in response to Pepco/Exelon's answer to the Commission's Deficiency Letter. OPC's comments echoed previous comments made in this proceeding that while OPC supported certain aspects of Pepco/Exelon's proposed Early Rebate that would provide ratepayers with the quickest form of relief, the Commission should undertake additional scrutiny and analysis concerning proposed revisions to Pepco/Exelon's formulate rate plan.
EL18-178-00 PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.
On July 30, OPC filed a Request for Rehearing or Extension of Time at FERC. On June 29, the Commission rejected PJM's proposed changes to its capacity market but found that PJM's existing tariff is unjust and unreasonable. OPC filed a rehearing request joined by consumer advocate offices in Illinois, Maryland, and Kentucky. The advocates argued that the Commission erred in its finding that the existing tariff is unjust and unreasonable, and that the Commission's order impermissibly intruded on the states' responsibility to develop their own policies on generation. The advocates further argued that the time frame provided in the order for capacity market reforms was arbitrary and capricious and would not allow adequate time for stakeholders to develop and review proposed reforms or states to implement any necessary changes before the next capacity auction in May 2019.
Serving older District residents and their families for more than 40 years, Iona Senior Services offers a comprehensive array of community-based services to help DC seniors live well as they age. Programs address the needs of isolated seniors, or those struggling to find affordable housing. Iona also facilitates “positive aging” by offering arts workshops and art therapy. Iona health services help seniors stay active and healthy by getting them to focus on the basics: eating well, exercising, and taking care of mind and spirit.
OPC partners with Iona by presenting information on energy efficiency, conducting its “Utilities 101 Workshop,” and providing updates on utility projects. The agency is located in the Tenleytown neighborhood in Ward 3.
People's Counsel MattavousFrye and Deputy People's Counsel Sistrunk are pictured in
These youngsters at the Department of Human Services Family Day at RFK Skate Park are ready to get back to school with OPC backpacks.
OPC's Denise Blackson joins Metropolitan Police and other first responders at National Night Out at Potomac Gardens in Ward 6.
Georgetown University freshman join National Night Out on their campus and learn how OPC can help college students.
OPC partners with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation to teach summer campers like these kids at Fort Stanton Recreation Center in Ward 8 simple tips to save energy.
These are happy campers with energy saver stickers at Kennedy Recreation Center in Ward 6.
OPC will be out at the following events:
Langston Community Day
Location:Langston Terrace, 21st and G Streets NE
Date:Saturday, August 25, 2018
Time:10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Location:Department of Employment Services, 4058 Minnesota Avenue NE
Date:Thursday, August 30
Time:9:30 am - 10:15 am
PARK (ing) Day
Location:2000 14th Street NW and 2100 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE
Date:Friday, September 21
Time:9:00 am - 4:00 pm
DC State Fair
Location:Waterfront Metro Station, 375 and 425 M Street SW
Date:Sunday, September 23
Time:10:00 am – 3:00 pm