The OPC Connection - June 2019

 

A Note from ​​Your People's Counsel

Sandra Mattavous-Frye

The Office of the People’s Counsel has long-been supportive of thoughtful efforts to improve the reliability and resiliency of the energy delivery system in the District of Columbia. At the same time, OPC has played an integral role in shaping the city’s clean energy policies. Thus, OPC enthusiastically participated in the Public Service Commission’s MEDSIS initiative. Launched in 2015, MEDSIS stands for “Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability.” The Commission will issue a report on this phase of the proceeding by July 31, 2019 to guide the path forward.

Following the submission of the PSC Staff Report which set forth the PSC's goals, the Commission established six working groups to address the issues. OPC participated in all six working groups of more than 200 stakeholders engaged in robust conversations on the pros and cons of modernizing the electric grid. Ultimately, the groups made recommendations to the Commission in areas such as rate design, pilot projects and information access.

OPC believes the MEDSIS Initiative is timely and critical to meeting the needs of the changing landscape of the District’s energy and environmental future. Equally important is our belief that consumers must be at the table in the discussions. OPC’s objective has been to ensure that any recommendations result in benefits that will be equitably distributed to all consumers in all eight wards of the city.

In testifying at the Commission’s MEDSIS town hall on June 13, OPC recommended that the Commission seriously consider the impact of the costs of modernization on all District ratepayers, particularly lower income consumers.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission and stakeholders to take MEDSIS to the next phase.

OPC has been thoroughly analyzing Pepco’s request to increase rates by $162 million over the next three years since the utility filed an application with the DC Public Service Commission on May 30. As part of the request, Pepco also seeks to change its ratemaking design from asking the Commission each time it wants to increase rates, to a multi-year rate plan in which rates would increase automatically each year of the plan.

People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye says the size of the proposed rate increase is excessive. If approved, Pepco estimates average monthly residential customer rates would increase by $8.57 after May 2020, an additional $3.69 in 2021, and $3.19 by 2022. OPC is closely examining the proposal to ensure that Pepco is only authorized to collect from its customers those costs that are necessary for the delivery of safe, reliable, resilient, affordable, and environmentally sustainable service, and any change in the ratemaking process benefits consumers. OPC will continue to keep consumers up-to-date throughout the proceedings. We welcome opportunities to brief Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and community groups about Pepco’s plans. You can contact the Office at (202) 7273071 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please also see a fact sheet we’ve prepared to explain what’s on the table.

On May 31, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an Order heeding a joint call from OPC and the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel to further examine Pepco’s proposed changes to its Formula Transmission Rate, which sets Pepco’s wholesale electricity rate.

Pepco’s unilateral changes would result in electric rate increases because transmission rates make up a portion of the consumer’s retail electricity bill covering the cost to bring electricity to the District and are not regulated by the Public Service Commission. The changes would make it more difficult for consumers, OPC and other advocates to challenge Pepco on its data and calculations before FERC.

Although FERC set the matter for public hearing, it first asked the parties, which include Pepco, OPC-DC, Maryland OPC, and the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative to undergo settlement proceedings, which will require Pepco to provide key answers to questions about its proposed changes.

OPC will fight to ensure stability in any proposed rate changes, more transparency, and that no undue risks are unfairly shifted to ratepayers.

In case you missed it, OPC is now assisting DC Water consumers following passage of a new law that made OPC the statutory representative of water ratepayers as of April 11, 2019. The new law also charged OPC with scrutinizing and commenting on proposed rate increases.

A June 12th public hearing before the DC Water Board of Directors on the water authority’s proposed rulemaking to increase residential sewer rates and decrease the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge (CRIAC) was OPC’s first formal outing as the advocate for water consumers. Diving into this new role, OPC calls on the Board to reject the new rate structure and direct the water authority to supply evidence to support its rate changes.

DC Water says its plan is designed to provide relief for costly CRIAC fees. However, it would shift the CRIAC burden from one customer group to another. OPC understands there is a need to reduce high water bills paid by large faithbased institutions and similar entities that provide vital services to residents. However, DC Water’s remedy will result in higher bills for vulnerable residential households. “A plan that will create financial inequities is not the solution,” said People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye.

The new rates are proposed to take effect October 1st of this year if approved by the DC Water Board of Directors. Instead, OPC encourages consideration of other strategies for addressing rising CRIAC costs.

The Solar Connection is a feature designed to "shine the light" on developments in solar power and educate consumers about the energy option.

OPC Energy Efficiency Outreach Specialist Pamela Nelson speaks at Groundswell’s Solar for All event.

OPC joined Groundswell on June 17th for its DC faith-based Solar for All Kick Off at St. Luke Baptist Church, located at 1415 Gallatin Street NW. OPC was instrumental in getting St. Luke to participate in a solar installation project under the DC Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) Solar for All program, as a result of the Office’s ongoing relationships with faith-based institutions.

Groundswell is a nonprofit organization that has received a DOEE grant under the Solar for All program to increase access to solar energy among faith-based and other nonprofit entities in the District.

Under Groundswell’s initiative, houses of worship agree to have solar equipment installed on their roofs free of charge. St. Luke, for example, will receive an annual rental payment and additional benefits to allow the solar credits generated from its solar panels to be shared with eligible low-income consumers for savings on their electric bills.

​OPC supports Groundswell’s efforts to give DC consumers opportunities to consider going solar as a way to save on energy bills, and to meet the District’s clean energy goals. We also applaud St. Luke for its commitment to help lower the energy bills of vulnerable consumers who struggle with utility bills to survive.

Faith-based institutions, nonprofits, apartment buildings, and small businesses interested in going solar can call Pamela Nelson at OPC at (202) 727-3071 for more information. Also visit Groundswell or DOEE.

If you’ve picked up OPC handouts at our many outreach events, you may have seen reflected: “OPC is Your Utility Lawyer.” The catchphrase captures the work of OPC’s Litigation Services Division (LSD), which is comprised of a top-notch team of attorneys who represent DC utility consumers in legal proceedings. Working hard behind the scenes to support the team is Paralegal Dwayne Houston.

Dwayne has been with OPC for more than two years. Among his responsibilities is managing the extensive LSD calendar. The OPC Connection appreciates that Dwayne helps to keep the newsletter’s editorial team updated on LSD cases before the Public Service Commission so that readers can be in-the-know. Colleagues say Dwayne carries out his duties with a calm, cool, and collected demeanor.

Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Dwyane moved to New York when he was 10 years old, only to relocate back to North Carolina to attend North Carolina Central University. In 1994, Dwayne traveled north again to make the District his new home. However, he keeps a “North Carolina state of mind,” by serving as a National Committee Chairman with the NCCU Alumni Association. He also previously served as national vice president of the association and president of the D.C. Young Democrats.

When he is not in a “legal state of mind,” Dwyane enjoys spending time with his daughter and traveling. He also is a self-proclaimed history buff, and admittedly, well-versed in 80’s music trivia.

OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:

Formal Case No. 1130, The Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery Structure for Increased Sustainability, and Formal Case No. 1155, Potomac Electric Power Company’s Application for Approval of its Transportation Electrification Program.

On May 20, OPC filed Reply Comments on Pepco’s Application for Reconsideration of Order No. 19898 to allow Pepco to own and operate Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.

The Commission denied Pepco’s application in part, and the Company asked the Commission to reconsider several aspects of Order No. 19898 to allow the Company “to own, operate, and deploy public [electric vehicle charging stations (EVCS)] alongside other market participants. OPC requests that the Commission deny Pepco’s Reconsideration Application.

Formal Case No. 1154, The Application of WGL for Approval of PROJECTpipes2 Plan

On May 10, 2019 the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) submitted a Petition to Intervene in this proceeding with the Commission. WGL filed an opposition to EDF’s intervention. OPC believes the Commission, WGL, intervenors, and the Company's District ratepayers would benefit greatly from EDF's participation in this proceeding, and on May 21, filed a Motion Requesting Leave to Respond to Washington Gas’s Opposition to the EDF Petition to Intervene.

Formal Case No. 1115, Washington Gas Light Company’s Request for Approval of a Revised Accelerated Pipeline Replacement Plan

FC No. 1115 concerns the first 5-year phase of WGL PROJECTpipes plan. WGL filed requests to revise certain aspects of the plan. On May 23, OPC filed Objections to Washington Gas’s Application for Approval of Revision to Year Five Annual Project List.

Liberty Consulting Group was selected to perform annual audits for the first phase of PROJECTpipes. On April 19, 2019, Liberty issued its Final Report Management Audit.

On May 29, OPC filed an Unopposed Motion for Enlargement to Liberty Consulting Group’s Management Audit Report. On May 30, OPC filed Initial Comments Regarding Washington Gas’s Year 4 Completed Projects Reconciliation Report. On May 31, OPC filed an Amended Motion for Enlargement of Time to Liberty Consulting Group’s Management Audit Report. The previous Motion on May 29 misstated the position of several of the parties’ in the previous Motion.

Formal Case No. 1154, The Application of WGL for Approval of PROJECTpipes2 Plan

On June 3, OPC filed Application for Reconsideration of Order No. 19919, Request for Stay, and Request for Expedited Consideration. In Order No. 19919, the Commission adopted a Procedural Schedule for this case and issued several directives regarding development of a Joint Prehearing Statement and Joint Stipulation.

OPC's Application for Reconsideration identifies revisions to Order No. 19919 which are necessary to ensure to develop a full record and ensure the parties are able to exercise their due process rights

OPC will be out at the following events:

Examining the Role of Emergency Savings/Liquid Assets and Long-Term Savings in Poverty Alleviation and Wealth Creation in Washington, DC True Reformer Building
Location:1200 U Street, NW
Date: Thursday, June 27th
Time:10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Far Southeast Collaborative Event
Location:1800 Good Hope Road, SE
Date: Thursday, June 27th
Time:5:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Outreach Event with Feed My Sheep
Location:601 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Date: Saturday June 29th
Time:8:00 am- 4:00 pm

Department of Aging' Health, Fun, and Resource Fair for the Amazing Grand Parents at Plaza West
Location:1035 4th Street, NW
Date: Saturday, June 29th
Time:11:00 am - 3:30 pm