dcCUB Active Power Newsletter March 2017

Utility Democracy and Justice for All

Water, power, light, heat and telecommunications are necessary resources that enable our families to live, prosper and thrive.

Hawaii’s NextEra/HECO Merger Fails:

Achieving RPS By Aligning Programs with Policy

Dear Friends, 

While in Hawaii, I visited Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee (D- District 51), who Chairs the Committee On Energy and Environmental Protection, in his office in the State Legislature.  A inspiring and persuasive young legislator, Lee’s constituency includes the communities of Kailua, Waimanolo, Lanikai and Keolu, at southeastern tip of Oahu’s North Shore.

Lee explained the Hawaii Public Utilities’ Commission’s rejection last year of Next Era’s (the holding company that owns Florida Power & Light) bid to acquire HECO (the Hawaiian Electric Company) as, “ . . . a straightforward takeover of one centralized Investor Owned Utility by another. HECO is not well-liked because its rates are the highest in the nation and their outreach to the public has been pretty dismal. But NextEra was seen as HECO on steroids.”

Rep. Lee described the public reception of their merger, “HECO was for it. Almost everyone else was against it: the State Consumer Advocate, the State, the Counties (Counties = islands) and the Legislature, even the union. HECO flipped the Union (IBEW Local 20) by promising ‘no layoffs’; they also reached out to their own board members who sit on other boards, and got Chamber of Commerce. And the Utility also got some support from organizations who recieved grant funds from HECO.” 

Representative Lee notes that NextEra failed to make a strong case. “You’ve seen it: a utility comes in from outside, all ready to take over, they file thousands of pages with the PUC. They make a lot of claims. Consumers will immediately receive $65 million in benefits from the deal. Total savings for consumers will exceed $1 billion. But there were no real commitments, and no plans. Our PUC was in hearings for two months (to determine if NextEra’s claims were supported) . . . but there was just very little there: they did commit to no layoffs for 2 years after the acquisition . . . But their plans for grid modernization . . . no commitment, no plans.  One NextEra executive claimed it would cost in excess of $30 billion to meet Hawaii’s RPS Standard of 100% production of energy from renewables by 2045— none of our estimates reflected anything close to this.”

Lee cited spending on advertising and PR efforts in support of the merger at about $22 million, saying “We knew that when the deal was announced its approval was polling at about 45%; I organized the statewide grass roots press conference that was the most diverse and widely attended event on the issue, with 40 state legislators, Chairs of County councils, and Neighborhood Boards. We announced that after 18 months and$22 million spent by the utilities, public support for the deal had fallen to 16%.” 

Recently, Lee introduced House Bill No. 1566 whose text adopts (the bill’s language appears in bold italics) a, “ ‘substantial net benefit’ as the standard for a transfer or assignment of an electric utility and specify certain guidelines to address when examining whether a “substantial net benefit” exists.” Or, as Lee puts it, “This forces anyone who wants to acquire a utility to show their cards up front. They’d better make a damn good case, because they must prove a substantial public benefit, as the price of admission.”  Lee is confident of the support of the State Consumer Advocate and the PUC for this bill. 

Two other bills by Representative Lee will resonate for DC’s consumers and ratepayers. Hawaii House BillNo. 1283, the “Ratepayer Protection Act” has a stated purpose of , (bill text in bold italics) “ . . . ensuring that the existing utility business and regulatory model is updated for the twenty-first century by requiring that . . . rates are derived from a performance-based model for determining utility revenues.”

Hawaii House Bill No. 1569’s purpose is to: “ . . . minimize conflicts of interest in the grid planning process by using appropriate data to establish a plan through an independent third party, which all stakeholders may review and comment on at public hearings.”

In answer to a question about the level of energy education among Hawaii’s elected officials, Representative Lee acknowledged, “I don’t think many of my colleagues are well educated about energy.” “So, how do get support for all of this energy legislation?” I countered. 

“Easy” he shot back. “One thing made it all possible.”

What?” I asked, innocently.

“Rooftop Solar. We have the highest electric rates in the US. My voters all have a neighbor (more than 1 residential home in 3 in Hawaii is solarized) with solar, they see him and think, ‘That guy with all the panels pays $17 a month, and I’m paying hundreds. But not any more, I’m going solar too.’ What legislator’s going to fight legislation that makes that possible for their constituents?”

Lee shared another series of insights I had not considered: first, he noted that while solar is well past grid parity in the Hawaiian islands, HECO’sdistribution and generation systems are fast becoming “stranded”. More importantly, government in Hawaii is rapidly aligining its policies and programs to achieve the state’s RPS goals (already saving Hawaiians over $250 million). Add to this, the fact that HECO’s #1 Customer — the US Military — is on track to become a net zero energy consumer. Its #2 Customer, the State Government has decreed its University system and its K through 12 schools are to become net zero by 2035.  Now the state’s big employers are doing the math and followng suit. (Apparently, the PUC is set to order time-of-use energy rates.) 

Representative Lee closed with a passionate summation that I can only try to do justice to: 

“Initially, when Rooftop Solar took offback in, like, 2011 - 2012, wealthier communities were the early adopters taking advantage of it, but a saturation point was quickly reached in those communities. Since then, it has been low- and middle-income communities that have benefited the most, and where we still see the most growth. And with respect to policies, when you talk about what’s coming next with storage and programmatic rate design, the Mantra is definitely a distrbuted network and behind-the-meter installations of power generation and storage. So, everyone benefits because we avoid building that “Power Peaker Plant” that costs hundreds of millions . . . We have a bill that’s alive in the legislature that would allow carve-outs for microgrids on education campuses. The Department of Education has 5 schools, and they have completed studies and analyses to create microgrids on those campuses and expand them to the surrounding communities. Because our schools also serve as disaster shelters and civil defense centers — it just makes so much sense! As for policies that explicitly focus on low and middle-income communities, we’re looking now at a tiered rebate for energy storage, so that if you are low-, or middle-income, you benefit more than someone who is not. We definitely want to get it right this time for everyone . . .  

It is an inspiration to see a community more diverse even than ours, one with fewer resources and more entrenched obstacles to energy self-sufficiency, producing leaders like Representative Chris Lee who are equal to the task. And how refreshing to see a government that is identifying strategies to make those policies work and implementing them.



Rob Robinson
Chair, DC Consumer Utility Board


Meet The CUB Board & Members



Robert Robinson, Chair

Robert Robinson came to DC after 18 months organizing elections in Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio for the the Jimmy Carter Presidential campaign. He hired onto the Marion Barry for Mayor campaign in 1977 and worked as an administrator for the Executive Office of the Mayor agencies. He managed successful Council campaigns and a council member’s staff. He and his wife Sherrill went solar with the Mt. Pleasant Solar Coop and became founding members of DC Solar United Neighborhoods. “You know,” said Robinson, “we’re the part of DC’s grass roots with a clear vision and a commitment to a sustainable future that produces cheaper, cleaner and safer energy, water-and-sewer, telecommunications,and broadband services for all. This is the future everyone in our community deserves. But we need elected officials and regulators who share this inclusive vision, and are willing to hold the utilities accountable to DC’s ratepayers and residents, and taxpayers.” 

Judi Jones, Vice President

 Judi Jones is a native Washingtonian with MBA’s in International Business and Computer Information Science Systems (CISS). Judi taught 20+ years as a high school classroom teacher in DC and Maryland. She reaches globally using study tours as an avenue to diverse cultures and business lectures. Judi acts locally by supporting her hometown serving 7 consecutive terms as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC). During her tenure as ANC, Judi has overseen the building of a new recreation center, expanded school choice in her single member district, supported single family home development, testified about the new Zoning Regulations, the Metro Legacy Memorial, the Pepco Exelon merger, and held monthly Single Member District (SMD) meetings throughout her tenure as ANC. She is a member of Consumer Utility Board (CUB), N4N.org and other civic and community organizations.

Larry Martin, Treasurer

Larry Martin has been a DC resident since 1986, now living with his wife and daughter in Ward 4.  He has pursued public service to advance his view that a sustainable and healthy city must minimally address four priorities – education, energy policy, transportation policy, and resource management.  In the late `80s and 1990 he worked on the staff of DC Council members Hilda Mason and Nadine Winter.  He has been active on various legislative initiatives over the years including MSW & recycling, Renewable Portfolio Standards, the Clean and Affordable Energy Act, and most recently the Community Renewable Energy Act.  From 2000-2006 he was the chair of the Environmental Planning Commission, appointed by the chair of the DC Council Committee on Public Works.  In 2008 he served as the chair of the Transportation Planning Board’s Citizen Advisory Commission, appointed by the D.C. Council & TPB Chair.  He served as the environmental theme lead for the 2006 Fenty mayoral campaign, and was appointed to the Sustainable Energy Utility Advisory Board by Mayor Fenty, and elected as vice chair in 2012. From 2009 to 2014 he served as the chair of the DC Sierra Club Energy Committee.  In 2014 he was a subcontractor on the development of the DC Comprehensive Energy Plan.  He was also a co-founder of Community Forklift and served as the chair of the Board of Sustainable Community Initiatives, the organizational home of Community Forklift, a  DC 501-C3, between 2008 and 2016.

Joyce Robinson-Paul, Second Vice President

Joyce Robinson-Paul matriculated at Howard University as a Sociology Major. Continuing student at UDC. Graduated from the George Washington University Neighborhood College. Served as a member of the Consumer Utility Board for over 30 years. Served 8 terms as an elected ANC Commissioner in Wards 2 and 5.  Testified at City Council and Public Service Commission for affordable utility rates for many years.  Before retiring served as a Program Director, Community Outreach Specialist and Community Organizer in the Shaw Urban Renewal Area.  Received numerous awards and certificates of Appreciation from PTSA, Civic and Community groups.  Served as a Community partner in building Dunbar Sr High School.

Andrea Molod, Secretary

Andrea Molod, Ph.D. has been a District resident for 30 years, and a homeowner for much of that time. In addition to being a member of the DC Consumer Utilities Board, she is currently the ANC3F05 representative, served as co-organizer of the Ward 3 group solar purchase, and is on the board of DC Solar United Neighborhoods (DC SUN).

Dr. Molod obtained her doctorate in atmospheric science at Johns Hopkins University, and has worked work for 30 years as a climate scientist with NASA. Her priorities and community activities include the education and training of young women in science and engineering, and ensuring energy sustainability for the future of DC residents.

Sherrill Berger, Member

Born in Uvalde, Texas, but raised in Washington, DC.  Sherrill studied classical ballet at the Jones-Haywood School and later danced as a principle soloist and taught with the well-acclaimed Capitol Ballet Company (CBC). 

While performing at CBC she joined the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History rising from secretary to the position of executive assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Science.

 Her facility in administration led her to be a educational tour guide with the Smithsonian Associate International Study Tours in Asia, and Europe.  As an Administrative Officer, she oversaw the administrative operations at the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology, Center for the Study of Man, Handbook of North American Indians, and Archives of American Art.

 Three years later, she joined the Carnegie Institution for Science,  Washington, DC. as a prospect researcher, fundraiser, and event planner. She was instrumental in establishing the Capital Science Lecture Series.  Thereafter, she directed several non-profit organizations - Saving the DC Public Libraries Renaissance Project, the Mount Pleasant, Brookland, and Bloomingdale neighborhood Main Streets.  

As a community activist she was a member of Neighbors Inc., Development Corporation of Columbia Heights, founding member of Mount Pleasant Solar Coop, DC Sun, PowerDC, Grid 2.0,  and co-founder of the re-established DC Consumer Utility Board

Michele A. Tingling-Clemmons, Member

Michele Tingling Clemmons, a New Yorker, Ward 7 resident, former ANC Commissioner and Council candidate, worked as Bureau Chief of the DC Department of Health's Community Health Administration’s Nutrition and Health programs. She has organized communities, designed and run programs, and advocated for empowerment through good health, nutrition, recreation and access to healthcare in DC since the '80s. She has served on numerous coordinating and advisory councils and written widely on these issues. Michele, husband Rick, and their brilliant and beautiful kids are the soul of Central Avenue, NE and its Civic Association. Michele has been working in a JD Program at the UDC School of Law; did graduate work in Education at CCNY and matriculated at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. 

Peter Espenschied, Member

Peter Espenschied has  been a civic activist in Ward 3 for 30 years, focused mainly on utility regulation, homelessness, and transportation. I served 3 terms on Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Cleveland Park. I have been an active member of the CUB for some 25 years, and served as its vice chairman and then as its acting chairman. I was directly involved in the successful opposition to Pepco’s attempt to enlarge its generation plant at River Terrace, and was part of CUB’s successful opposition to the merger of Pepco with Baltimore Gas and Electric (1995). 

I have recently moved to Deanwood, in Ward 7, where I am serving on committees of the ANC and the Deanwood Citizens Association.

Lenwood Johnson, Member

Lenwood Johnson, a DC native served Ward One for twenty years an ANC Commissioner from the Pleasant Plains neighborhood. After leaving the ANC is 2012, he continued to serve the community as Secretary of the Pleasant Plains Civic Association, and as a member of the DC Democratic State Committee. Johnson earned a BA degree in journalism from Howard University. "I wanted to serve on the CUB" Johnson notes, "because I saw the utilities asking for -- and getting -- rate hikes as customer service and reliability plummeted, while they divested its jobs and assets in DC. I want to stop utility costs becoming another tool for gentrification in DC.

John Macgregor, Member

John was an economist and planner for the World Bank from 1979 to 2004.  His work there involved policy analysis and assistance strategy, substantial economic and financial analysis of projects across many sectors, and econometric analysis of long-term trends including the effects of climate change.  After retiring from the World Bank, he worked pro bono on a number of energy-related initiatives and community service activities.  He has been a member of DC Climate Action since its inception in 2006 and through it worked on a wide variety of utility cases and clean energy-related legislation.  He was trained in Government/International Relations at Harvard College (BA), in International Agricultural Development at University of California, Davis (MS), and in Applied Economics at Stanford University (MA, ABD). 

Delvone Michael, Member

Delvone Michael, familiar to many as Director of DC Working Families, that works to improve living wage, labor and quality of life standards for US families, nationwide. He was a leader of PowerDC that fought the Exelon takeover of Pepco.  

A lawyer, with a Masters in Political Science from GWU, Delvone matriculated from Norfolk State, Delvone crisscrosses the US for Working Families advising candidates in local, state, and federal political campaigns, living wage, and other ballot initiatives. 

Jerome Paige, Member

Jerome S. Paige, a Ph.D. economist, has written papers and reports on policy issues in the District of Columbia: housing development, neighborhood revitalization, financial control boards, economic development, supermarket development, public utilities, energy, citizen participation, and political structures. He is a member of the advisory board of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. His past boards and commissions have included: D.C. Zoning Code Advisory Committee; D.C. Rental Accommodations Commission (Vice Chair); D.C. Education Licensure Commission; D.C. Citizens Energy Advisory Commission; D.C. Community Humanities Council (Co-Chair); D.C. Historical Society; D.C. Consumer Utility Board (First Vice Chair); D.C. Tax Revision Commission; Ward 4 Committeeman to the DC Democratic State Committee; the Civic League of North Portal Estates (Past-President). He has held academic and administrative positions at the University of the District of Columbia, the University of Baltimore, and the National Defense University. He is the principal in his economic consulting firm, Jerome S. Paige & Associates, LLC.

Jim Shulman, Member

Jim Schulman, AIA - active DC CUB member since the late '90's, well before the electrical utility restructuring that the recent Exelon takeover of Pepco has to some extent undone!

Jim serves as Treasurer of the Building Materials Re-use Association, a North American non-profit that promotes the salvage, reuse, and recycling of building materials for environmental, economic, and social reasons. He was the Founder of Community Forklift, a used building materials store in Prince George's County. He also represented a part of Northeast DC on Capitol Hill as a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. Jim is currently developing a co-op called the Alliance for Regional Cooperation to promote regional goods, services, & arts to regional businesses, institutions, and consumers.



Become a Member today!


Membership is free and helps us show that a massive number of people in DC want better service from utilities. To become a member, visit our membership page here www.dcconsumerutilityboard.org/become-a-member

We’re looking for a diverse, committed group of volunteersincluding those willing to attend public hearings and take notes, to plan and staff events, and to offer specialized skills (lawyers, tech, social media, and accountants). For more and to volunteer, go to this page www.dcconsumerutilityboard.org/volunteer

All Members of dcCUB are invited to share their concerns about and suggestions for improving utility costs and services, making regulatory reforms, or for dcCUB programs and activities, at our regular board meetings scheduled on the first Tuesday of each month from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm, held at the Grange Building, 1616 H Street, NW in the first floor Board Room.


Lastly, connect with us online and on social media and please share with your networks: www.dcconsumerutilityboard.org • Twitter @cub_dc • Facebook.com/dcconsumerutilityboard  • dccub@icloud.com • (202) 656-1387


Thank You

CUB Active Power Newsletter Jan/Feb Issues

King Kong superimposed



5 Years, 2 Distribution Rate Hikes,1 Merger and $Hundreds of Millions Later,
The Public Service Commission Keeps Ratepayers On Hold....
Yet on the Other End of the World, Hawaii is Already Producing 30% of its 100%  RSP Goal by 2045!

Dear Friends,

It's more likely King Kong (here's his skull in the Kualoa Valley, below) will rise from the ashes of his box office receipts, cross the Pacific and confront The Monster That Ate DC before the Public Service Commission grants ratepayers the right to participate in planning an electric distribution grid that meets their need.

Visiting Hawaii, I marvel how the US's most remote and most diverse state, is already producing 30% of its power from renewables (for a population more than twice DC's) and is on track to reach its RPS goal of producing 100% power from Renewables by 2045. 

 For DC residents who care about the environment and want to see more renewables, increased efficiency and distributed generation, Hawaii is a trailbrazer and model where DC could be by 2030.

For DC residents who care about the environment and want to see more renewables, increased efficiency and distributed generation, Hawaii is a trailbrazer and model where DC could be by 2030.

The Hawaiian Islands

The State of Hawaii's 1.4 million residents are spread across six main islands, (NW to SE) Kaua'i, O'ahu (home to Honolulu and Waikiki, Moloka'i, Lana'i, Maui, Kaho'olawe and Hawai'i (The Big Island).  The Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanos, and some remain acive today on the Island of Hawai'i.  Each Hawaiian Island has a distinct windward side--from which the prevailing winds typically blow --that is breezy, sunny & rainy, and lush; and a leeward side that is sunny and dry.

City-County Government


Hawaii resident are served by combined city/county (C&C) government structures. The Big Island of Hawaii and O'ahu are single-island C&C governments; the islands of Moloka'i, Lana'i and Maui are all part of Maui County; the tiny, privately-owned island of Ni'ihau,with only about 130 permanent residents, is part of Kaua'i County, and the island Kaho'olawe, formerly used as a military ordance range, is virtually uninhabited.

Recent Energy History

Due to  its temperate climate, the Hawaiian Islands have the fourth lowest per capital energy use in the US.   But, until 2013, 90% of its power was generated by imported pertroleum(1) . And, because  petroleum had to be shipped to the most remote island chain in the world, Hawaii residents pay the highest electricty costs in the US. For example, on the most poulous island's (o'ahu) residential rates average about 35 cents per kilowatt per hour today.  Legislative steps to make Hawaii energy self  go  back to Act 96,  enacted in 2006. That  legislation set in motion the public and private efforts to open access to cheaper and cleaner solar and renewable energy now embarached by residents on all eight islands. By 2014, interconnection and net metering programs had been established and renewables were providing 18% of Hawaii's electricity. That rose again in 2015 when 24% of the electricity sold was generated by rene).

In June of 2015, Hawaii's legislature adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard mandating 100% of the electricity sold by 2045 be produced by renewable energy source. 


We have not confirmed the current percentage of electricity produced by renewables in Hawaii, but many believe it has passed the 30% mark.  "one single family residential home in three is solar," stated Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee (D-51) Chair of the Committee on Energy.  He also noted solar has been embraced enthusiastically by low-and fixed income families and indicated he is considering legislation to provide these constituencies with greater access to solar.

In Hawaii, the principal renewable energy resources, in order of magnitude are: solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy, geothermal, thermal and wave energy (produced by the ocean), and hydrogen (produced from renewables). 17% of Hawai'i's renewables are produced by utiity scale geothermal power - one of only 7 states with this renewable resource.

Electric Utilities, Service Territories, and Competitors. 

The structure of Hawaii's commercial utilities is complex,reflecting the diffuse geographic nature of the islands themselves.  Each of the six main islands has its own electrical grid. Four utilities make up 'HECO Companies': 

  • the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) which serves the island of O'ahu (93% of the state's 1.4 million residents).
  • Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO), which serves the island of Hawai'i;
  • Maui Electric Company (MECO) which serves the islands of Lana'i, Mau'i and Moloka'i; and, 
  • Kauai Island Utility Corporation (KIUC) with 33,000 customers on the island of Kaua'i.   

Also, on the Island of Hawaii, 900+members make up the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HEIC), a Hawaii-registered and IRS-designated 421C onon-profit cooperative association. Both HEIC and KUIC are developing an investing not just in wind and solar projects but in wind and solar, battery storage, SmartGrid and. others.

The HECO Companies and HEIC are all regulated by the Hawaii Public utilities Commission.  The Hawaii PUC reviews and approves electricty rates, determines the allowable rate of earnings for utilites, and acts on request for the acquisition or sale of utility properties.  Last yuear, NextEra's (owner of Florida Power & Light) highly unpoular bit to acquire HECO was turned down by the Hawaii PUC.

Two Recent Regulatory Developments, for Better or for Worse...
In 2015 Hawaii's Public Utilities Commission issued an order to stop processing Net Metering Applications under the Interconnection and Net Metering program after October 12, 2015.  Instead the PUC substituted the Customer Grid Supply (CSC) and the Customer Self Supply (CSS) programs. This has produced a marked reduction in solar pemit applications in 2016.


Government Leadership for Energy Policy
In Hawaii, there is visible evidence that, unlike jurisdictions whose departments and agencies pay lip service to sustainability and istribured generation policy but demonstrate little leadership to implement them, Hawaiis Department of Education has publicly pledged (see attachment on artaicles on Hawaii's renewables) "to reduce its reliance on fossible feul-based energy by 90 percent by 2040, as directed by the Board of Education." Throughout the state of Hawaii solar arrays are found on all public schools.


Another conspicuously aggressive solar generator in Hawaii is the US Department of Defense, one of HECO's largest customer.  Their Net Zero policy for energy is movingin faster and further even than the state's.  A Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, large housing developments are 100% solorized.


Tough Policy Decisions Remain

A recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser article focused on above-anticipated rates at which bats are killed by wind farm turbines.  And, on the North Shore of O'ahu hand-painted signs advocating "NO MORE WIND-MILLS" demonstrate why state legislators are considering more culturally and environmentally enlightened policies around the siting of utility scale wind and solar.  I noticed with some dismay the wind turbines that doinated the view planes above the beautifully lush and culturally sacred Waimea Valley.


Solar Contributes Significantly to Farming, Ranching and Tourism


As solar advocates in DC have pointed our for years, solar generation benefits local communities by creating permanent businesses and jobs leading to higher employent, a more diversified business sector, and more tax dollars.  In Hawaii, where ranching and agriculture are essential, cultural and envionmental preservation is a high priority, and tourism is the #1 industry, solar is in evidence everywhere.  Solar panels are found on electric fences corralling catle at Kualoa Ranch; Kahuku Wind Frms' Turbines loom over a huge riding arena covered by a 4.8 Megawatt solar roof; Waimea Valley Preserve's roofs support solar; multiple solar arrays on Dole lands power a pineapple processing facility and the Dole Plantation Visitors Center; and, on the fabled North Shore of O'ahu you'll find solar-powered turtles recharging on many popular surfing beaches! And Hawaii's US military installataions are relentlessly pursluing Net Zero goals.

Me ke aloha pumehana, 

Robert Robinson, Chair
dcConsumer Utility Board

It's out! It finally happened. Full Credit rate for community solar for residential customers in DC!!



“CREF Credit Rate” means a credit rate applied to subscribers of community renewable energy facilities, which shall be equal to: (a) For residentialsubscribers, the full retail rate, which includes generation, transmission, and distribution charges for the standard offer service General Service Low Voltage Non-Demand Customer class or its successor, as determined by the Commission, based upon Section 118 of the CREA; and (b) For commercial subscribers, the standard offer service rate – including generation and transmission charges for the General Service Low Voltage Non-Demand Customer class or its successor, as determined by the Commission, based upon Section 118 of the CREA.


What is the Gestation Period for the Comprehensive Energy Plan?

In the summer of 2014 a DC-based contracting team provided the final draft of the Comprehensive Energy Plan to what was then called DDOE – the District Dept. of Environment.  The consultants asserted that the plan was in fact a report intended to be the basis for stakeholder discussion.  This was stressed as a key part of the planning process because unless all the players – the utilities, the SEU, the PSC, the commercial building owners and advocacy communities could come to agreement on coordinated next steps – then there was no plan.  The plan got caught up in the transition from the Gray to Bowser administration and was not released.  Instead, a new contract for a new plan was signed in 2015.  The new plan was released to a very limited “peer review” this past autumn.  I prepared CUB’s comments, stressing the need for a full public comment period before the document was delivered to the DC Council.

The new plan was delivered to what is now known as DOEE – The Department of Energy & Environment, and it was substantially different from the plan that had been delivered in 2014.  Among the most obvious change is the name – the Clean Energy DC.  When things take so long that names change during the process, it’s a sign that progress may be lacking in other more substantive areas. This was the concern we expressed in our comments, highlighting numerous points, many of which were addressed in the revised version now out for public comment. Several concerns, however, we feel remain valid.

1. The CEP appears to be an aspirational statement, and as such it does present a bold vision.  However, it arrives without any clarity on how it will be used to guide future actions, and the extent to which stakeholders will be involved in finalizing objectives and actions. A “living document” is not a meaningful phrase absent clarity about why, who, how and when it will be revised with what priorities. 

2. Greenhouse Gases (GHG) are important, but only a single driver of DC energy transition.

Climate change and greenhouse gases (GHG) are among many factors that are driving the opportunity for transition. Overall reduction of per-capita District energy consumption through greater consumer control, better provisions for renewable energy production, and other goals should also be in focus. It may simplify reporting to use a single goal as the driver for the plan, but it will limit the perspective and context.  For example, absent a goal to ensure ratepayer equity or protections, such features are not contained in the plan at all.  Energy policy cannot be exclusively considered a technical optimization problem.  

3 The plan does not include priorities or sequencing.  All actions appear to be equally valuable and ready to implement, regardless of cost or cost-effectiveness.  There is no indication of which actions should be prioritized, if sequencing among actions would optimize outcomes, or any suggestion of timing – near, medium or long term.  Key priorities are those that require the fullest attention by the DC Council and Mayor, and should be protected from diversion or dilution.  Such focus is also essential for building the public support required to transform the energy structure of the city.

4  The actions identified in the plan represent good municipal best practices and the identification of technical opportunities appropriate for DC.  Now, the challenge is to get from an aspirational statement to an implementable plan that can be embraced by the public, the government, home and building owners, and the utilities. We have to ask, at this rate, how long is that going to take?  The plan is available on the web for public comment - http://doee.dc.gov/cleanenergydc .




The PSC order creating MEDSIS, or as it’s known in the docket: Formal Case 1130, was published on June 12, 2015.  It cited as background for opening the case requests from Grid 2.0, the Sierra Club of the District of Columbia, DC Climate Action, and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D06 that the Commission “investigate new technologies that could improve Pepco’s grid with the incorporation of distributed generation including solar energy, and the exploration of micro-grid architecture opportunities, and other conservation and environmental quality issues…”  By opening FC 1130 the PSC appeared to be responsive to public demand that the antiquated Pepco grid be updated to meet the needs of the 21st century.  The PSC invited response to their preliminary scope for FC 1130.

The Grid 2.0 Working Group, joined by the DC Consumer Utility Board, DC Environmental Network, and DC Chapter of Sierra Club, submitted comments on the preliminary scope of MEDSIS on August 31, 2015.  Among many recommendations we asserted “that a basic premise for the case should be clearly articulated: Growth in energy demand is no longer the key dynamic around which grid planning should be built.”  Another point we emphasized was that solutions should be “technology neutral” – our comments favored improved energy efficiency and clean energy, but stated that the PSC shouldn’t favor any technology over another – rather they should emphasize performance. Following the initial comment period the PSC convened three full day workshops highlighting utility and “third party” technology vendors and other experts.  CUB and other public interest organizations were not consulted or asked to present their views on what would best serve the public interest, despite having been largely credited with originating the case.  This is when I first questioned what ends were going to be served by MEDSIS?

GRID2.0 renewed its requests for clarification on the proposed outcomes of FC 1130, the anticipated duration of the process, and other recommendations in an April 18, 2016 submission to the MEDSIS docket – a week before the third scheduled workshop.  Almost a year had passed and the PSC had yet to respond to initial comments on the scope of the case.  Everything that was presented initially as “preliminary” remained unresolved.  Rob Robinson and I met with PSC staff to discuss next steps for MEDSIS and were assured that a PSC staff report or its equivalent would be issued to address our concerns in early Fall 2016.   

The CUB joined another submission to the MEDSIS docket on July 25, 2016.  We articulated eleven “Principles, Goals and Performance Measures for MEDSIS;” identified nine “Pilot Projects within the Grid of the Future MEDSIS Proceedings” to explore how tools like distributed energy resources, demand management, energy efficiency, and alternative tariff and rate design can contribute toward a grid that optimizes clearly defined goals; and recommended “Launching a Smart MEDSIS Process” to design and implement a system that considers the full range of alternatives for meeting our energy distribution system needs, and selects the optimum choices.

Now, with Halloween `16 behind us, I wonder more than ever the actual purpose of FC 1130.  Will it become the strategic plan for DC’s smartgrid that I’d hoped, or is it a time sponge to occupy activists for utility reform with promises, and workshops?  The PSC deposited tens of millions of dollars from the Exelon Merger deal into a dedicated account for FC 1130 to conduct pilots and defray other expenses anticipated with Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability, so all indications are that the PSC plans to do something.  But more than a year into it, we’ve yet to even see the scope of the case finalized.  That is a problem.  With every rate case Pepco is allowed to charge ratepayers higher rates for their business as usual.  If we’re going to be billed for our grid, we want a say in its design, and we don’t want to be put on hold.

Larry Martin,  Treasurer

DC Consumer Utility Board



Notice of Public Hearing Wash Gas Light Company Rate Application #1137

Notice of Community Hearings, published August 19, 2016, DCR Volume 63-No. 35, Pages 010676 through 010677. The Commission will convene four (4) community hearings at the following locations on the specified dates: 1) Tuesday, September 20, 2016, University of the District of Columbia (Ward 6), 801 North Capital St. NE, Washington 20002 6:00 - 8:000 p.m.; 2) Wednesday, September 21, 2016, Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (Ward 2), 1325 G St., NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C., 20005, Directly following the Commission's 11:00 a.m. Open Meeting; 3) Wednesday, October 5, 2016, Southwest Public Library (Ward 8), 900 Wesley Place, SW Washington, D.C., 20024, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.; and 4) Saturday, October 15, 2016, Thurgood Marshall Public Charter School (Ward 8), 2427 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Those who wish to testify at the community hearings should contact the Commission Secretary by 5:00 p.m. three (3) business days prior to the date of the hearing by calling (202) 626-5150. Representatives of organizations and individuals shall be permitted a maximum of five (5) minutes for oral presentations. If an organization or an individual is unable to offer comments at the community hearings, written statements may be submitted to Brinda Westbrook-Sedgwick, Commission Secretary, Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, 1325 G Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C., 20005; or by email to Psc-commissionsecretary@psc.dc.gov. Any person who is deaf or hearing-impaired, and cannot readily understand or communicate in spoken English, and persons with disabilities who need special accommodations in order to participate in the hearing, must contact the Commission Secretary by 5:00 p.m. seven (7) business days prior to the date of the hearing, using the information above. Persons who wish to testify in Spanish, Chinese, Amharic, or Korean must also contact the Commission Secretary by 5:00 p.m. three (3) business days before the date of the hearing, using the information above. The number to call to request special accommodations and interpretation services is (202) 626-5150.

Testimony of Robert Robinson, Chair, DC Consumer Utility Board before the Committee on Business, Consumer & Regulatory Affairs

Vincent Orange, Chair
July 13, 2016, 2:00 p.m.

My name is Robert Robinson, I chair the DC Consumer Utility Board, an organization founded in 1978 that had been inactive for a number of years, but is now reorganized; and I was an intervenor in Formal Case No. 1119 — the proposed Pepco-Exelon merger.

The CUB’s mission to educate and inform residents and ratepayers about the performance of its utilities and regulatory bodies and to organize and mobilize consumers to assure their voices are heard and their needs met.  

I would like to express my particular thanks to some of the members of the Council and to the Joint Applicants, but I would like to make some observations on the need for a significant reform first.

The DC Public Service Commission utterly failed to manage this process in the public interest.

Here’s why: in approving this merger (after twice finding that the Joint Applicants had failed to prove the transaction was in the public interest), the two members of the Commission who voted to approve it nowhere demonstrated how their revised settlement agreement offset the risks and harms detailed in the PSC staff’s excellently presented Findings of Fact and Conclusions in Order No. 17947.

Nor did they indicate how that settlement would prevent Exelon, once it owned PHI, from using its ownership and control of the new corporate structure to maximize their profits and block the ratepayers from receiving the benefits of competition. 

We need the Council’s help in crafting and enacting a fully articulated, statutory merger policy and reforms to make the regulatory processes serve the interests of ratepayers. Even the process by which the Executive conducts its search for nominees to the Public Service Commission lacks transparency. And, the Council’s recent practices in vetting those nominees is to excludes the public from participation its hearings. 

Now that Pepco/Exelon has announced its first $85.5 million rate hike, how can we be sure that we do not wind up paying some or all of the hundreds of millions spent on this deal? There is no requirement for the Joint Applicants to account to the PSC for their spending on the merger in the first place. How likely is it the PSC will be able to put that together after the fact?

The Council members won’t be able to ignore the impact of all this on DCs tax and ratepayers. Electric and Water utilities’ costs are increasing at twice and three times the rate of cost-of-living increases. DC Water assesses 10% late fees on their bills and places liens on homes and property for arrearages. We paid and keep paying for SmartMeters but keep doing estimated billing. The promised services to ratepayers never materialized.

Key services, such as broadband are largely unaffordable for families with children. And while DC spent millions to make it available to families in Wards 7 & 8 — the city reneged on that promise. 

Additionally, utility bills are packed with “surcharges” and other fees — if you look at your water bill for example, you may pay $20 for water services on any given month, but there will be another $100 in surcharges. 

And, let’s be clear, surcharges of this type are the most regressive form of tax there is, because it requires those with the least income to pay a far larger proportion of their meager finances for basic necessities of life. The District government seems to be shifting its own risk for financing infrastructure programs onto ratepayers.

DC government is going after the wealth families have accrued in their homes, with astronomical property assessment increases. Now they’ve sent a message to the utilities that the ratepayers are fair game for them, too. Is arbitraging the tax base DC’s newest budget policy?

But I must express my sincere thanks to this committee and some members of the Council and the Executive: because of the egregious conflicts of interest by those promoting this merger and because residents’ backs are up against the wall so hard, we have three new members of the Council. And another election is quickly approaching. 

And to Exelon and Pepco, whose strategy to "buy" this merger is paying off at last: congratulations, a new concept is uppermost on the public mind and lips --   municipalization. 

Likewise, more and more ratepayers are clamoring for access to locally-produced Renewables and Energy Efficiency, and a grid built around distributed generation. 

Thank you very much.

Robert Robinson

This Way of Delivering Electricity is Changing

Most of the electricity we use is generated remotely and brought by high voltage transmission lines to population centers. From here it is distributed to customers.  Each element of this electrical grid is centralized. This limits choice and participation by us, the consumers.

As the grid developed and expanded across the country in twentieth-century, centralization was essential to bringing down the cost of service. This way of delivering electricity is changing. Distributed solar energy, wind energy, and electrical storage are pushing changes to electrical grids and the rules that manage them. Together, these technologies, new markets, and new rules will become the Grid of the Future (GOTF).

Corey Ramsden
Community Power Network
April 28, 2016

The Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed Bill 21-650

What Does This Mean?

This legislation means the District has increased its target for year 2032 such that 50% of its total consumption will be from renewables, of which 5% shall be targeted for solar. Accordingly, the energy suppliers who supply energy to Pepco for DC must maintain energy portfolios from 2032 that contain at least 50% renewables, 5% of which is solar. 

The bill also increases the financial penalties to the suppliers who fail to maintain that percentage of renewables and solar in their energy portfolios. Suppliers whose portfolios don’t meet those standards can purchase renewable energy credits, or RECs, to avoid paying the penalties. That will increase the value of the RECs generated by rooftop solar systems in DC! This bolsters the health of the local market for SRECs, that means that the local SREC market should remain healthy for the foreseeable future and remain a significant source of financing solar arrays for DC residents, businesses and nonprofits.

The Consumer Utility Board Receives Sparkplug Grant

On June 15, 2016, the Sparkplug Foundation of New York announced that the DC Consumer Utility Board (the “”CUB”) received a startup grant. The grant will be used to help the organization design and develop a working web site and organize a series of informational workshops throughout the city’s eight wards so DC residents can understand how to demand that their regulators hold the utilities they fund accountable.

For over a decade, local grassroots  in DC have organized and enacted legislation to open access to the use of Conservation, Efficiency and Renewables to conserve and provide power and water locally ,” noted CUB Chair Robert Robinson, “with this grant, the CUB begins educating and informing resident that they have better choices. They do not have to accept utility and regulatory models that boil down to larger and more frequent rate hikes, poor service delivery and zero competition for essential technologies such as broadband that have been promised for over a decade. Offering DC residents a utility future that is unaffordable is unsustainable.