OPC Releases Value of Solar Study with Positive Outlook on the District's Solar Future


For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 12, 2017 

Contact: Doxie A. McCoy, Public Information Officer
                 (202) 450-7878; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Washington, DC-- People's Counsel for the District of Columbia Sandra Mattavous-Frye today released the first Value of Solar Study on the potential for wide deployment of solar energy in the District of Columbia. A companion report on solar for low-income residents also was unveiled at a press conference at the Florida Avenue Baptist Church, which is powered by solar energy, in Ward 1.  (See Studies at http://www.opc-dc.gov/news-events/news/publications/reports-papers)

Study authors stated: "If policymakers, utilities, solar installers, and residents continue to work toward solar deployment, there is no doubt that the District can achieve its ambitious goal of generating 5 percent of all its electricity needs with local, distributed solar energy."  

People's Counsel Mattavous-Frye said: "Given the seismic regulatory and environmental policy changes occurring in the District, and the growing interest in going solar among residential electric consumers, I determined that the District would benefit from having a comprehensive Value of Solar Study to specifically address the unique characteristics of the solar landscape in the nation's capital." 

"I am delighted to report that our findings are positive and confirm that the potential of rooftop solar can substantially meet the electricity needs of DC consumers at a cost-effective and affordable rate and at the same time provide quality of life benefits."   

OPC partnered with Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. to produce "Distributed Solar in the District of Columbia, Policy Options, Potential, Value of Solar and Cost-Shifting." This study addresses policy and rate design options, technical and economic potential for distributed generation; computes the value of solar using utility system costs and societal costs; and examines the issues related to who should bear the costs among solar and non-solar consumers. 

Synapse findings include:

  • Solar in the District has grown from almost nothing in 2009 to nearly 20 MW (megawatts) in 2016. 
  • The technical potential is vast: 85,000 small roofs and over 100 million square feet of usable space on large rooftops could generate an additional 1,700 MW. This potential represents 84 times more solar than the District currently has.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

"The Synapse report demonstrates that the value of solar to the utility system exceeds the cost, indicating that solar PV [Photovoltaic] is a cost-effective electricity resource that also provides health and environmental benefits to society. Washington D.C. has substantial unrealized solar PV potential, and the declining costs and expanding solar programs are bringing solar within reach of more and more residents. Washington D.C.'s ambitious solar goals are achievable," said Dr. Thomas Vitolo, Synapse Senior Associate.

Last year, the Council of the District of Columbia tasked OPC to "address emerging alternatives for energy choice for residential consumers." Therefore, Mattavous-Frye set out to create a vehicle that would help facilitate the delivery of distributed energy resources for the benefit of residents in all eight wards of the city.  As a result, there is now an analysis of emerging energy options for low-income consumers in the District.

The DC-based Jerome S. Paige & Associates, LLC conducted: "Solar Potential for Integration of Distributed Energy Resources in Low- and Medium-Income Communities". The Paige Study looks closely at DC-specific demographics, building types, existing programs, the impact solar may have on affordable housing, and suggests a wide range of recommendations to create value for those who adopt solar. 

Among the Paige findings:

  • Solar PV power plants mounted on rooftops in low-income areas have the potential to generate a significant amount of electricity that could meet a major part of the electricity use of low-income residents, allowing these households to reduce their electricity bills.
  • However, some rooftops cannot be used for solar PV due to their condition, lack of space, shading from other buildings, and other structural and zoning issues. Yet, residents in buildings with unsuitable rooftops can still participate in solar through PV systems in ground-mounted and other off-site community solar systems.

"It is important to reduce these rooftop and other barriers," said Dr. Paige. "Doing so," he emphasized further, "will unlock solar's value for low-income residents, give them access to energy that reduces or eliminates their monthly electricity costs, reduce their energy burden, reduce their need for on-going ratepayer and taxpayer subsidies to pay their electricity bills, and furthermore, close the ‘solar divide.'" 

"I appreciate that both the Paige and Synapse reports contain key recommendations that achieve my objective to provide policy makers, as well as consumers, with baseline tools for evaluating the District's current solar policies and the future goals for solar development, said Mattavous-Frye.  

The People's Counsel also praised Rev. Dr. Earl D. Trent, Senior Pastor of Florida Avenue Baptist, and his congregation for their forward-thinking. The church activated a 10 kilowatt system on its roof in 2011.   

"Florida Avenue Baptist is proud to have been the first African American church in the Washington area to go solar. We continue to believe this is a viable model for other churches to follow to reduce their electricity cost and carbon footprint. I am confident that what OPC has revealed today about the Value of Solar will spark other DC churches and community organizations to consider renewable energy," said Dr. Trent.