The OPC CONNECTION – May 2018
A Note from Your People’s Counsel
Lack of trust…Unfamiliarity… Assumptions that it’s a difficult contracting process-Those are some of the concerns that consumers in underserved DC communities have expressed that get in the way of them considering solar power as an energy option. Solar providers and advocates cited the concerns at a “Fireside Chat” OPC hosted on May 9, 2018 to exchange ideas on expanding access to solar to communities not yet ready to let the sun shine in.
There are currently more than 3,400 certified solar energy systems in the District, spanning every ward and providers estimate that there are more than 85,000 rooftops that could be used to install solar in DC. Wards 4, 6 and 5 have the highest number of systems and Ward 2 has the lowest number. Solar providers & OPC agree that consumer education is key to removing District residents’ uneasiness and disinterest in exploring whether solar-generated electricity could lower their utility bill.
Chatting with solar providers is not the only way OPC is facilitating dialogue on solar. We’ve just published “A DC Consumer’s Guide to Going Solar,” in conjunction with the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), a national nonprofit coalition of public and private agencies working together to advance clean energy. Click on the cover to get answers to some of your burning questions about going solar.
People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye and Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced on May 8, 2018 that the DC government, the Office of the People’s Counsel, AltaGas and WGL Holdings, which owns Washington Gas, reached a settlement agreement in the two companies’ application to merge. Critical to Washington Gas ratepayers, is the agreement OPC pushed to include tens of millions of dollars in benefits to District consumers that were not offered in the original proposal. The merger and the settlement proposal are subject to approval by the Public Service Commission.
The proposal includes almost $26 million in total credits for residential and nonresidential ratepayers, resulting in a one-time credit of $150 for residential ratepayers; a two-year freeze on rate increases for all ratepayers; A $6 million commitment to the District to support job training for District residents, with specific outreach in wards with the highest unemployment rates as well as returning citizens from the justice system; $4.2 million for energy efficiency and conservation initiatives, focused on assisting lower-income residents living in affordable multifamily units; the development of 10 megawatts of electric grid energy storage or tier-one renewable resources in the District; and a commitment by AltaGas to preserve union protections for at least 90 percent of Washington Gas’ contract work force.
In a separate matter, OPC obtained an agreement from Washington Gas that it will not seek recovery of any costs beyond a previously-agreed-upon cap of $28 million in the replacement of obsolete infrastructure. The agreement ensures that ratepayers won’t be responsible for cost overruns associated with the project.
There are rate reductions on the horizon for Pepco and Washington Gas residential customers because of OPC’s aggressive advocacy.
On April 17, 2018, OPC, Pepco, the District of Columbia government, the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, LiUNA union, and other parties filed with the Public Service Commission a settlement agreement that, if approved, will reduce consumer rates to the historic tune of a whopping $24 million.
The agreement combines all issues related to Formal Case No. 1150, Pepco’s 2017 application to increase rates by $66 million; and Formal Case No. 1151, which assessed the impact of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 on Pepco’s distribution rates.
The agreement also extends the Customer Base Rate Credit, the rate freeze that OPC pushed in the Pepco-Exelon merger. The Commission has scheduled a June 4th hearing on the Pepco agreement.
Separately, OPC also negotiated a settlement agreement with Washington Gas to reduce its distribution rates by $8.2 million to reflect the reduction in the federal corporate taxes. No word yet on a hearing for this agreement.
The typical natural gas and electric monthly bills are expected to go down by more than $2 if the Commission approves the settlement agreements.
OPC’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget is making its way through the DC Council. In testimony before the Committee on Business and Economic Development on April 19, 2018, People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye said the $8.9 million request is “tailored to the anticipated utility service demands of the District, which are growing both in terms of population and diversity…to fulfill our mandate to advocate, educate and protect ratepayers; and to steward ratepayer resources to produce tangible and lasting benefits for DC consumers at the lowest possible cost.”
Here’s what consumers had to say about the budget in public testimony:
“OPC’s advocacy has helped the District’s utility consumers save millions of dollars in rates and fees. My neighbors and constituents are especially grateful for OPC’s role in keeping the utilities portion of our cost of living at a manageable level…I urge the committee to approve OPC’s budget to allow the agency to continue and even expand its advocacy on behalf of DC’s utility consumers.” -Karrye Y. Braxton, Ward 4 resident /ANC4A06 Commissioner
“LiUNA has interacted with the agency on numerous occasions, and each time the experience has been positive. OPC staff is very helpful and willing to share their knowledge. This is important to LiUNA because many of our members are District ratepayers directly impacted by the cost of heat and electricity…OPC is a tremendous resource and does a great job representing the District’s residential ratepayers. I am pleased to support the proposed budget submitted by the Mayor.” -Victoria Leonard, Laborers’ International Union of North AmericaBaltimore Washington Council
The Committee approved the OPC budget request. It also has received preliminary approval by the full Council, which is expected to give final passage in June.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
DCC2018-02-E-5: AOBA’s Petition for Review. Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington vs. D.C. Public Service Commission & FC1145: Applications for approval of Power Line Underground Projects Plans
In late 2017, the Commission issued a final order on the merits which, among other things, granted the Joint Application for Approval of the Biennial Plan and Financing Order. On January 18, 2018, the Commission denied AOBA’s Application for Reconsideration. On March 14, AOBA filed a Petition for Review before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to challenge several of the Commission’s Orders.
On April 12, OPC filed a Notice of Intention to Intervene in the proceeding.
RM3-2014-01: Public Service Commission’s Intent to Adopt Chapter 3, “Consumer Rights and Responsibilities,” of Title 15 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR)
On March 28, the Commission provided public notice that it intends to update the Consumer Bill of Rights (CBOR) regarding the Use of Customer Information, Privacy Protections Policies, Grounds for Disconnection, the Publication of Consumer Pamphlets, Formal Hearing Procedures, and Decisions and Appeals.
OPC proposes the Commission address two main areas of CBOR: for telephone and door-to-door solicitations, the three-day right of rescission should begin after the consumer has received a copy of the contract from the third-party supplier; and that energy suppliers should be required to post on its website an electronic version of their solicitation for natural gas or electricity supply.
RM3-2018-01-M: Public Service Commission’s Rules Governing Energy Meter Locations
On March 9, the Commission provided public notice that it intends to update the section of the Consumer Rights and Responsibilities which sets forth standards for energy meter locations.
On April 9, WGL filed Comments on the proposed revised regulations, and on April 23, OPC filed Comments in response to WGL’s Comments.
CC2017-9075227: Alma Cureton v. Pepco
On April 30, OPC filed an Initial Post-Hearing Brief related to the consumer complainant’s high bill dispute.
RM27-2017-01: The Commission’s Investigation into the Rules Governing Local Exchange Carrier Quality of Service Standards for the District
On April 30, 2018, OPC filed Reply Comments urging the Commission to reject Verizon’s comments opposing the PSC’s proposed rules that would require Verizon and other telephone providers to provide more detailed information about the geographic location of outages to assist OPC and the PSC in keeping consumers informed. OPC concluded Verizon’s reasons for opposing the proposed changes are without merit, and the Company provided no new evidence to support its previously asserted claims.
For more than 40 years, AARP’s Legal Counsel for the Elderly has championed the dignity and rights of Washington, D.C. elders by providing free legal and social work services to those in need — empowering, defending and protecting.
LCE’s staff and volunteers assist more than 6,000 elders each year with monetary benefits totaling over $16 million. More than 800 LCE volunteers, interns and fellows contribute more than 20,000 hours of pro bono service annually. OPC works with LCE to resolve elderly consumers’ billing disputes with utilities.
Legal Counsel for the Elderly
601 E St. NW Washington, DC 20049
Learn more at https://www.aarp.org/legal-counsel-for-elderly/
OPC staff gets ready for a wellness walk as part of the DC Department of Human Resources Employee Wellness Program.
People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye presents Jim McGrath, Chairman of the DC Tenants Advocacy Coalition (TENAC), with the OPC Lifetime Consumer Advocate Award.
OPC’s Denise Blackson joins representatives of H Street Mainstreet, DC Sustainable Energy Utility, Department of Health and the Public Service Commission, including Commissioner Willie Phillips (second from right), on a walk along H Street NE.
OPC’s Cheryl Morse celebrates Older Americans Month at an event at Chevy Chase Community Center sponsored by the US Attorney’s Office and the YMCA.
OPC’s Erica Jones with visitors to a Department of Human Resources fair.
OPC will be out at the following events:
OPC In Your Neighborhood
Location:Dorothy I. Height/Benning Library 3935 Benning Road NE
Date:Tuesday, May 29th
Time: 3:00-5:00 pm
OPC In Your Neighborhood – Farmer’s Market
Location: Columbia Heights 1400 Park Road NW
Date: Wednesday, May 30th
Location: 1400 7th Street NW
Date:Saturday, June 2nd
Time:10:00 am-2:00 pm
OPC In Your Neighborhood – Farmer’s Market
Location:3924 Minnesota Avenue NE
Date: Saturday, June 2nd
Time: 10:00 am–12:00 pm
Location:6500 Piney Branch Road NW
Date: Wednesday, June 6th
Time:10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Are you hosting an event and would like us to participate? Drop us a line! OPC attends dozens of events across all eight wards each year. Whether at a neighborhood block party extravaganza, or small gathering at the dog park, OPC goes anywhere to provide consumers with valuable information regarding their utilities.