Learn more about the different ways OPC-DC Advocates for the community.
Advocacy before the PSC
Formal Case No. 1172 Update
At OPC’s request, the Commission has expanded oversight of utility applications to obtain federal funding for “greening the grid” or adopting more forms of renewable carbon-free energy and creating more reliable services. On September 14, 2022, OPC filed a motion to modify reporting requirements under Order No. 21176 to include information related to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. The IRA contains over $300 billion for clean-energy and climate programs that could benefit the District of Columbia. Pepco and WGL have the opportunity to acquire financial resources at no cost to ratepayers to fund projects that can assist the city in meeting its climate goals and improving the local energy infrastructure.
Due to OPC’s effective advocacy, the Commission has mandated Pepco and WGL to include in their monthly reports any efforts they undertake to pursue federal funds available under the Inflation Reduction Act.
Specifically, the utility companies reports are required to tell the Commission :(1) about funding for which Pepco and WGL have applied, noting the applicable section of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act;(2) indicate the purposes for which the funding is intended to be used and its connection to achieving the District’s climate commitments and the utility’s capital investment plan;
(3) the status of funding applications;
(4) the conditions that must be met to obtain the funding;
(5) information on whether a particular planned project has funding implications with respect to future rate cases;
(6) the balance of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law-regulatory asset; and
(7) the balance of the Inflation Reduction Act-regulatory asset.
OPC will review and comment on the reports and continue to inform the public of efforts towards meeting its climate goals and improving the energy infrastructure.
Advocacy before FCC
OPC advocates on behalf of District consumers before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in telecom matters as a member of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee on behalf of the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates. OPC representatives have led or participated in FCC working groups to develop recommendations to the FCC and Congress on mitigating robocalls, illegal text blocking, consumer broadband labeling, and 9-1-1 fee diversion.
Advocacy on Climate
OPC’s Climate Action Section spearheads advocacy on behalf of District gas, electric and water consumers to combat climate change and become resilient to it.
OPC educates and empowers consumers regarding climate change issues facing the District. OPC supports achieving the District’s ambitious goals of reducing carbon emissions—climate change pollution—50% by 2032 and 100% by 2050 in a just, affordable, and resilient manner. Climate change is already harming District residents bringing hotter summers, increased flooding, and more severe storms.
As the statutory representative of District ratepayers OPC advocates for consumer-focused climate change solutions before governmental and private-sector organizations including the District, the Public Service Commission, DC Water, PJM Interconnection LLC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), the federal government, neighboring states, and regional entities.
Advocacy Regarding DC Water
Pursuant to the DC Water Consumer Protection Amendment Act of 2018, OPC is the statutory representative of water utility ratepayers and consumers in rulemaking proceedings before the DC Water Board of Directors, DC Water administrative hearings, the local and federal regulatory agencies and courts, and the DC Council. In all matters, OPC advocates for the equitable provision of safe, reliable, and clean water and sewer services at affordable rates in all eight wards of the District. In this regard, over the last few years, OPC has advocated for greater transparency of DC Water operations and decision making, stronger consumer protection rules, enhanced customer assistance programs, minimum or no rate increases, and robust consumer education and outreach.
Advocacy Before PJM/FERC/Courts
OPC represents District ratepayers at the federal government and in stakeholder processes impacting the wholesale electric markets and regional transmission planning, advocating for just and reasonable rates and a cost-effective and reliable transition to a low carbon energy future.
OPC is a member of “PJM Interconnection, LLC” (PJM), the grid operator for the Mid-Atlantic, and actively participates in PJM stakeholder meetings, and votes on behalf of District ratepayer’s interests. OPC is also a member of Consumer Advocates of the PJM States, Inc., an organization of consumer advocate offices in the PJM footprint which helps coordinate and leverage consumer representation in the PJM stakeholder process.
OPC regularly litigates before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the nation’s wholesale electric markets and PJM’s regulator. In addition to formal proceedings before FERC, OPC frequently meets with FERC Commissioners and staff and participates in FERC technical conferences which allows OPC to highlight the policy implications of FERC orders and rulemakings.
OPC has an active appellate process, representing the interests of District ratepayers before various U.S. Courts of Appeal.
DC Court of Appeals Pepco Update
During FY 21 and 22, OPC actively litigated a rate case that examined a proposal from Pepco that would change the way in which rate are established and two cost recovery proposals – the environmental cost of the Benning Road facility and cost recovery for two energy efficiency programs.
The Commission approved Pepco’s new ratemaking proposal on a trial basis and approved the two cost recovery projects. The Office sought reconsideration of all three issues. The Commission denied OPC’s request for reconsideration. OPC then appealed the two cost recovery proposals to the DC Court of Appeals.
The DC Court of Appeals ruled in favor of OPC on the two cost recovery projects. The Court of Appeals agreed with OPC that there was a longstanding agreement in place to prohibit Pepco from recovering the costs for environmental damage at Pepco’s Benning Road facility.The Court of Appeals also agreed with OPC that Pepco did not meet the legal requirements to recover the costs of a number of energy efficiency programs. The Court’s decision required the Commission to correct the agency’s order.This win at the Court of Appeals was significant for OPC and consumers because it made it clear to the Commission that it must adhere to the law before allowing costs to be recovered from consumers.
OPC at the US Court of Appeals
One of the fastest rising parts of any consumer’s electric bill is the cost of transmission, that is the cost of moving power from where it is generated to where it is used, including homes and businesses in the District. One reason for those increased costs is the need to replace older transmission facilities that have reached the end of their service life.On November 8th, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard a case regarding how planning for replacement projects should occur, and OPC was one of the principal parties arguing for more regional, cost-effective planning. Back in 2020 a group of stakeholders including OPC, other consumer advocates, state commissions, public power entities and merchant transmission developers developed a process in which PJM, the regional grid planner, would decide what replacement, if any, should be built when a facility is retired. OPC believes that PJM, as the regional planner, is in the best position to determine what replacement facilities should be built, ensure that costs are fairly allocated, and employ a competitive planning process to help ensure that the right project is built for the right price.The transmission owners offered a competing proposal that would continue to allow them to self-approve the building of replacement projects. This means that individual transmission owners would get to determine what they build (and at what cost) and the regional planner, as well as consumer voices, would be absent from the review of these projects. Unfortunately, when these two competing visions of transmission planning were brought to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the federal regulator chose the transmission owner proposal. OPC believes that this decision was based on neither the facts nor the law and, along with other parties, appealed it. A decision from the court is expected early next year.