The OPC CONNECTION – June, 2022
A Note from Your People’s Counsel
Honoring Shared Passion and Commitment to Consumers
As the advocate for DC utility consumers, OPC accomplishes its work with the support of numerous community partners, both individuals and organizations. We cannot achieve our goals without the support of lay advocates who make up the civic associations across the eight wards.
On June 18, I was pleased to recognize the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations for decades of tireless dedication and unwavering advocacy for District (DCFCA) residents at its 100th anniversary celebration. Since its inception, the Federation has promoted community empowerment and championed diversity, equity, and inclusion long before it became popular to do so.
Federation members have fought for clean and healthy neighborhoods and opposed polluting power plants and building large construction projects, instead of neighborhood parks. Most importantly, DCFCA gave voice to countless lay advocates who wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of their neighbors.
OPC has had the privilege of working with the Federation for more than 30 years. The common connector is a shared passion and commitment to public service. At its annual celebration, the Federation gives OPC the opportunity to recognize an outstanding community member–someone who has been in the trenches working to support DC residents; and to keep the utilities, and District government agencies, like OPC, focused on our obligation to serve the public interest.
I was pleased to presentDennis L. Chestnut, pictured above, with the 2022 “OPC Consumer Advocate Award.” The Ward 7 resident is an environmental activist whose important work has focused on District waterways and green spaces. Now retired as the founding Executive Director of Groundwork Anacostia River DC, Mr. Chestnut continues to advise community, business and government leaders on ecology and environmental justice. In October 2021, he served as a panelist for OPC’s virtual community conversation on climate change and environmental injustice.
I thank Mr. Chestnut and the civic associations for working together with OPC to uplift District consumers, build better communities, and sustain our environment.
From left, Aniyah Gaffney, DCFCA scholarship recipient; Robert Brannum, Anniversary Chairman; WUSA TV Anchor Lorenzo Hall; Dr. Mary Gaffney, DCFCA President; People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye; OPC Consumer Advocate Award Recipient Dennis Chestnut; Rev. William Lamar IV, Pastor, Metropolitan AME Church; Dr. Samuel McCoy, Ward 4 Aging Mini-Commission.
From left, OPC staff: Doxie McCoy, Linda Jefferson, and Cheryl Morse; Dennis Chestnut, OPC Consumer Advocate Award Recipient, People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye; OPC staff: Alya Solomon and Jean Gross-Bethel
OPC Efforts Lead to Favorable Outcome for Consumer Seeking Solar
OPC fights unduly burdensome interconnection fees clearing the way for consumers to install solar on their homes and contribute to the District’s clean energy and climate goals.
Eager to join the clean energy movement and lower their electric bills, the Kinnaird family signed up for a residential solar system that would connect to Pepco’s electric gird. The Ward 4 residents anticipated that the system would receive permission to connect to the grid without fees due to the size of their system. Many neighbors with similar systems didn’t have to pay fees. However, Pepco wanted the Kinnairds to pay over $5,000 to connect, a fee too much for them to handle.
Desperate to get their system operational in December 2021, the Kinnairds reached out to OPC for help. Because informal negotiations with Pepco were not successful, OPC assisted the Kinnairds with their formal complaint with the Public Service Commissions in January 2022. To the Kinnairds’ relief, Pepco ultimately gave the green light to connect without any costs to the family. On June 6, the company shared that: “With the continued high volume of [solar] applications, some of which require upgrades, the company has been actively analyzing how to minimize or eliminate costs related to customer interconnections and we have as part of a cycle review of our practices determined that your system no longer requires distribution system upgrades to safely and reliably interconnect to Pepco’s system.”
“We are absolutely thrilled to finally reach the end of this journey. We are grateful for OPC’s support and guidance through this process,” the Kinnairds state.”
The Office is assisting several consumers with similar complaints about high interconnection fees. It was anticipated that small residential systems would be exempt from connection fees and evaluated under a less complex and faster process. In addition to ensuring consumers have access to small residential solar, earlier this year, OPC filed a petition with the Public Service Commission seeking an investigation into Pepco’s practices that consumers also have complained about related to offsite community solar generation known as Community Renewable Energy Facilities. CREFs provide an avenue for equitable access to solar by allowing residents and businesses to subscribe to a CREF and earn credits that reduce their electric bills.
Ensuring that consumers don’t hit roadblocks on their path to solar is important to OPC. If you believe Pepco is charging unduly burdensome fees to connect to the grid, you can file a complaint with OPC here or call (202) 727-3071.
OPC Radio Connect is back on the air with a new podcast! This month we introduce you to the first in a series of interviews with women and leaders of color in the energy, climate, and sustainability fields who are helping to shape the District’s utility future. People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye talks with Dr. Donna Cooper, Pepco Region President, and utility Attorney Adrienne Claire of Thompson Coburn LLP about the routes they have taken to career success and advice for those beginning careers in public utilities. Check out this podcast and other OPC Radio Connect segments here.
OPC Water Services Division Joins National Clean Water Gathering
Staff from OPC’s Water Services Division (WSD) met leading environmentalists and discussed key water conservation issues at the River Rally National Water Conference in Washington in early June.
Highlighting the 50 th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the conference focused on urgent policy issues impacting water now and in the future. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and DC Department of Energy and Environment were among agencies that led workshops designed to help today’s water professionals set goals and construct strategies. WSD’s partnerships with federal and District agencies contribute to the city being ahead of the curve in fostering water sustainability.
Conference participants included conservationists, academics, and politicians who discussed ways to make progress toward an equitable and sustainable water future. Among the key speakers was U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D) Michigan who gave a passionate presentation on the impact climate change has had in her hometown. In addition, Colette Pichon Battle, climate justice activist and founder of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy in Louisiana, sounded the call for everyone to elevate water sustainability for the future by learning from the mistakes and missteps of the past.
The River Network’s mission is to empower and unite communities to protect and restore rivers and other waters that sustain life and is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Advocating for access to clean and affordable water is a critical mission for OPC’s Water Services Division. Connecting with other advocates on a national platform strengthens OPC’s work in this arena.
People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye recently discussed what equity means for utility consumers in an interview airing on the DC TV channels of the Office Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment. The People’s Counsel’s feature is part of the “Voice of the People” series supporting the work of the Mayor’s Office of Racial Equity. The agency is responsible for collaborating with District agencies, residents, and external stakeholders to make meaningful progress toward a more racially equitable city. See People’s Counsel Mattavous-Frye’s comments here.
Did you know that the cost of transmission, or moving electricity from where it is generated to local utilities and your homes, has increased dramatically in the last several years? Much of this increase is driven by the need for new transmission equipment to meet increasing customer usage or to replace older outdated equipment. However, some of these costs could be avoided with new technology that takes better advantage of the transmission system we already have.
Dynamic line ratings (DLRs) is a cost-saving option. DLRs use sensors to provide real-time information on transmission capacity, or the amount of electricity that can flow across a line. This is important because capacity over powerlines is influenced on a minute-to-minute basis by environmental factors such as changes in air temperature, high winds, and even the intensity of the sun.
DLRs can detect these changes and provide instant feedback to grid operators and utilities to help better manage the flow of electricity across transmission lines, often over many states and utility systems. This real time management can potentially avoid the need for costly new facilities.
To ensure that this technology is used to provide the maximum benefit to consumers, OPC along with consumer advocates from Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey recommend that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopt DLR standards.
Among OPC’s recommendations, utilities alone should not have the final say on the use of DLR technology. Instead, input from a wide variety of stakeholders, especially consumers, should be considered. Second, DLR implementation should focus on areas where there is congestion on the transmission system, just as highway improvements are focused on areas with traffic congestion. Third, DLR implementation should consider both technical and cost issues.
Finally, OPC recommends that the use of DLRs become part of transmission planning so that costly transmission projects may be avoided. OPC will continue to advocate the interests of DC consumers on this issue as FERC looks to develop rules for DLR implementation later this year.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
CC-9075259: Hillbrand & Stip v. Pepco (Consumer Complaint)
On May 20, OPC filed a Confidential Statement Regarding the Evidentiary Hearing in this matter.
Formal Case No. 1017: Development and Designation of Standard Offer Service
On May 23, OPC sent a letter to the PSC Regarding the Status of Negotiations of the Power Purchase Agreement. OPC shared concerns about the process.
Formal Case No. 1154: Washington Gas Light’s Application for Approval of Project Pipes 2 Plan
On May 27, OPC filed a Letter of Clarity for the Record because PSC issued a Conference Report in the Advance Leaks Detection Pilot Program without soliciting comments from the participants in the conference.
Formal Case No. 1156: Pepco’s Application for Authority to Implement a Multiyear Rate Plan for Electric Distribution Service
On June 14, OPC filed Comments to Pepco’s Annual Filing for 2021 and submitted recommendations for the PSC to consider.
Formal Case No. 1167: Implementation of Electric and Natural Gas Climate Change Proposals
On June 17, OPC filed Comments on Pepco’s Combined Filings. This filing deals with Pepco’s plan to address climate change.
OPC looks forward to seeing you in-person. We welcome the opportunity to speak at your Advisory Neighborhood Commission, civic association or community group meeting onsite or virtually. We can give updates on utility issues, trends, and outline how we serve. Call (202) 727-3071 if your group would like our staff to stop by or “Zoom in.” Contact the organizations listed below if you would like links to attend the meetings we’ll be visiting virtually.
Department of Aging and Community Living 11th Annual Senior Symposium
Location:Ballou Senior High School 3401 4th Street SE
Time:9 am – 3 pm
ANC 7D Meeting
Time:6:30 – 7:30 pm
Federal City Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 15th Annual Community Day
Location:Ballou Senior High School 3401 4th Street SE
Time:11 am – 3 pm
OPC’s Regulatory Finance Director Naunihal Singh Gumer and Deputy People’s Counsel Karen Sistrunk participate in the Clean Energy States Alliance National Membership Meeting to discuss priorities, opportunities, and efforts to advance clean energy goals and mandates in an affordable, equitable, inclusive, and effective manner. Topics included solar options, energy storage, electric vehicle implementation, and environmental justice.
OPC’s Jean Gross-Bethel (far left), Valca Valentine (red shirt), and Linda Jefferson (far right) visit Plaza West Apartment residents to discuss utility discount programs and tips for reducing their bills.
OPC attorney Erik Heinle, second from left, participates in a panel on utility transmission planning at the 2022 Transmission and Interconnection Summit. Photo credit: RTO Insider
OPC Program Support Specialist CharQuia Barringtine distributes information on OPC services and toys for the kids at the Sibley Plaza Townhomes Community Safety Block Party in Northwest.
OPC Consumer Outreach Specialist Jean Gross-Bethel shares OPC gift bags filled with utility assistance program information and energy-saving items at the Ward 7 Washington Senior Wellness C
OPC Consumer Outreach Specialist Valca Valentine encourages residents visiting the Ward 7 Washington Senior Wellness Center to contact OPC to learn how to reduce their water bill.