On December 18, DC’s City Council will take its final vote on the DC Clean Energy Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018. Among its many notable provisions are to adopt a 100% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for the District of Columbia by 2032 – doubling the District’s renewable energy goals. That means that all of the energy used in the District of Columbia will come from renewable sources within the next 15 years. With this commitment, DC will join two states (Hawaii and California) and more than 90 cities and counties across the United States who’ve stated unequivocally that they want their community to be powered by clean, renewable energy. Renewable energy is abundant, resilient, and local – and we’re grateful for the DC City Council’s leadership.
Importantly, and thanks to the leadership of Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie who is Chair of the Committed on Business and Economic Development, the legislation also clarifies that Pepco and Washington Gas are authorized to offer energy efficiency programs to customers, including low and moderate-income members of our community.
Why is this so important? In DC as in most every city in our nation, the poorest families pay the most for electricity because their homes and apartments are older and less efficient. As any of us who’ve lived week to week know from experience, you don’t buy a new Energy Star refrigerator or a high-efficiency air conditioner because it’s better and less costly to operate than the old one – you keep stuff until it breaks and you don’t have a choice but to replace it.
Back in 2016, Groundswell took a deeper dive into energy and economic equity and found that 1 in 14 of our DC neighbors struggling with poverty were paying $200 per month or more for electricity – vastly more than their affluent neighbors who could afford the comfort of an energy efficient home. That’s grocery money, rent money, school supply money, money for doctor’s visits and medicine. And that’s the kind of utility bill that undermines your financial security and quality of life.
Making sure that DC’s utility companies – Pepco and Washington Gas – are part of bringing the benefits of energy efficiency to all Washingtonians is an important step forward. And it’s a step that many other states have already made. Some states require that utilities meet a minimum percentage of electricity demand with energy efficiency, while others set specific performance targets. In each case, setting goals and measuring performance not only holds the utility accountable for making a positive impact, it also enables policy makers to make certain that programs offered by public utilities are equitably benefiting the public.
If you can find a few minutes and you live or work in Washington DC, I’d encourage you to make time to say “thank you” to the DC City Council for not only making sure that the District is moving forward with other leading states by setting a 100% renewable portfolio standard, but also for making certain that our local utilities come to the table as partners in delivering energy efficiency for all.