The OPC CONNECTION – May, 2022

A Note from ​​Your People’s Counsel

Sandra Mattavous-Frye

Rate Hike Request at the Top of OPC’s Radar

Over the last two years, District of Columbia consumers have seen sharp increases in prices for consumer goods and utility rates. These turbulent economic times have caused many residents and businesses to carefully watch and keep track of how each dollar is spent. As the utility consumer advocate, OPC does the same, carefully examining any proposed increase in utility rates to ensure that rates are affordable and consumers get the high quality and reliable service they expect and deserve.

OPC vigorously holds the District’s utilities to their obligation to provide safe and reliable service at just rates, while also assessing their short and long term plans to address climate change. This is the prism through which we will analyze Washington Gas Light’s (WGL) request to increase its rates by $53 million filed with the Public Service Commission on April 4, 2022.

The PSC has not yet released a timetable for its consideration and decision. In the meantime, here are some facts you need to know about the latest WGL proposal linked.

Many energy analysts and economists say the Russian invasion of Ukraine has contributed to an increasing surge in natural gas prices. The price of natural gas has steadily been on the rise since December 2021, due initially to cold winter temperatures, the lingering negative impacts of the global pandemic, as well inflation. However, it’s now reported that natural gas prices have sharply increased largely because of a spike in global oil prices that are attributed to upheaval in Ukraine. Many experts expect natural gas prices will remain high through the end of the year.

For May 2022, prices are showing a 150% increase compared to those in December 2021. For your household, the residential gas customer’s “commodity cost” generally accounts for about half of the average monthly utility bill. Therefore, estimates are that the increase in commodity costs could result in a 45% increase in monthly Washington Gas bills in the coming months (separate from a proposed rate increase).

Although warmer weather is upon us, the significant price increase in the region’s natural gas tally does not appear to be decreasing anytime soon. That means, unfortunately, DC consumers who use natural gas for water heating, cooking, and other purposes will be feeling the pinch from continuing global mayhem.

ACT NOW! DC Government Promotes Energy Efficiency & Discounts through Healthy Homes Partnership

Use A Single Application To Receive Benefits from 5 Programs!

The DC Partnership for Healthy Homes Program is working to help residents free their homes of harmful conditions. The program aims to connect consumers to energy-saving discounts, emergency benefits, and energy efficient home upgrades.

Can you benefit from a monthly discount on your utility bills? How about a onetime payment of up to $2,000 to assist with outstanding utility and water service bills?

Do you think you might need new windows, lead pipe replacement, energy efficient appliances, or roofing repairs? If eligible, you may be able to acquire free or reduced energy upgrades. You must Act Now to qualify for the DC Partnership for Healthy Homes Program. The DC Department of Energy and Environment is easing steps to apply for these benefits. A combined application provided by DOEE will get you started.

A NEW one-stop-shop application allows you to apply for five programs at once! You can apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Utility Discount Program (UDP), Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), Emergency Mechanical System (EMS), and Lead Reduction Program (LRP) with just one application!

OPC welcomes the Healthy Homes approach to benefit consumers and their utility needs. We know from conversations with consumers who call OPC for help with household expenses that having streamlined access to resources will be useful.

To apply, download the application and email it with required documentation to:
Mail your application to: DOEE Utility Affordability & Safe Home Assistance Programs
Attn: LaWanda Jones
1200 First Street NE, 5th Floor
Washington DC, 20002
If you have questions, contact DOEE at (202) 299-3316 or email:
OPC consumer outreach specialists also are here to help
at (202) 727-3071

Electrification Matters

There is growing interest in electrification locally and nationally. What is electrification and how does it relate to you? Simply put, electrification is the act or process of shifting to electric power, “greening” the electric system, and moving away from fossil fuel dependency for your heating, cooling, cooking, transportation, and other energy needs. Why does electrification matter? Amid warnings of an alarming global climate crisis, hotter and colder temperatures, melting ice caps, and increasing extreme weather events, electrification can help minimize future catastrophic results.

Many experts say electrification matters because it enables clean energy generation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions that result in harmful effects on the air we breathe, quality of life, and the environment. In addition, electrification can pave a path toward new and improved technologies with broader renewable and distributed energy applications that incorporate customer preferences, electric vehicle initiatives, wider industrial uses, and more.

The bottom line– electrification is considered to be a key part of addressing climate change woes. OPC is doing its part to educate DC consumers about electrification so that they will understand why it matters.

Sources: Energy Sage and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

In case you missed it, OPC recently alerted consumers that a Third Party (energy) Supplier (TPS) is using deceptive tactics to sign up customers. Consumers tell OPC that an individual believed to be a representative of SunSea Energy has knocked on doors claiming to be from STAY DC, offering payment assistance for utility bills. No longer taking applications, though, STAY DC was the pandemic relief program that provided rental and utility bill assistance.

If you are aware of questionable practices by an energy supplier or suspect you have been scammed, call OPC at (202) 727-3071 and we will investigate. Go to this link to find tips to protect yourself. The People’s Counsel also offers advice in an interview with WJLA ABC 7 News.

Meet OPC’s Front Desk Clerical Receptionist Geraldine Featherson

One of the most important persons within a company is the first individual that a consumer interacts with via phone or in person at the front desk. That person at OPC is Geraldine Featherson, who has been with the Office since 2017, when she first came on board as a temporary employee.

Affectionately called “Ms. Gerri,” by OPC staff, Featherson’s duties include engaging callers and visitors to assess their needs, logging their information into OPC’s database system, and turning them over to the appropriate staffer for further assistance.

Ms. Gerri was born and raised in North Carolina with seven sisters and seven brothers. She majored in Business Administration at Fayetteville State University. In 1976, Featherson and her family moved to the District. Prior to working with OPC, she supervised a dozen receptionists at Aetna US Healthcare.

Married for more than 40 years, Mrs. Featherson is the proud mother of two sons, and the grandmother of five granddaughters and four grandsons. Among her favorite activities, Geraldine looks forward to the annual family camping trip. She loves gardening, cooking, dancing, water aerobics, and shopping. One of her most enjoyable hobbies is shopping at consignment stores to find vintage antiques and unique jewelry.

Ms. Gerri considers herself a “Southern Belle,” and we appreciate the southern comfort and warmth she shares with consumers and staff.

OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:

Formal Case No. 1168: Pepco’s Application for Approval of the Third Biennial Underground Infrastructure Improvement Projects Plan

On April 11, OPC filed a Notice of Appearance to be a party in this matter.

Formal Case No. 977: The Investigation into the Quality of Service of Washington Gas Light Company;

Formal Case No. 1142: The Merger of AltaGas, Ltd. and Washington Gas Holdings, Inc

On May 2, OPC filed a Motion for Clarification of PSC Order No. 221142. This order grants WGL permission to start disconnecting consumers with outstanding bills. OPC asked the PSC to require the utilities to provide more detail on their disconnection roll-out plans.

Formal Case No. 1169: The Application of Washington Gas Light Company for Authority to Increase Existing Rates and Charges for Gas Service

On May 5, OPC filed a Motion to Reject WGL’s Request for a Condensed Procedural Schedule. WGL wants the PSC to set an expedited Procedural Schedule without hearings. OPC and other parties in this matter are against this. On May 18, OPC filed a Letter in Support of AOBA’s Motion to the Commission to either reject or hold in abeyance WGL’s application for a rate increase.

Formal Case No. 1167: The Implementation of Electric and Natural Gas Climate Change Proposals

On May 10, OPC filed comments to the Sierra Club Electrification Study. The comments addressed alternative funding options that might mitigate the rate impact on ratepayers.

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.

Date:Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Time:6:30 PM – 7:00 PM

Energy Efficiency Workshop Patterson Elementary School
Location:4399 South Capitol Terrace SW
Date:Friday, June 3
Time:8:00 AM – 1:30 PM

ANC 6E Meeting
Date:Tuesday, June 7
Time:6:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Ward 4 CARE Day – Barnaby Woods & Hawthorne Lafayette-Pointer Recreation Center
Location:5900 33rd Street NW
Date:Thursday, June 9
Time:4:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Ward 4 CARE Day- Lamond Lamond Recreation Center
Location:20 Tuckerman Street NE
Date:Thursday, June 23
Time:4:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Do you have feedback or an idea for an article that could be featured in an upcoming edition of the OPC Connection? We want to hear from you! Just drop our editorial team an email @ in**@op****.gov or tweet us @DCOPC.