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How the District of Columbia Is Taking the Lead to Address Climate Change

The mantra of “reduce, reuse and recycle” has been around for decades, but only more recently have individuals – and cities – taken stronger action to prevent the effects of climate change. The District of Columbia became a national leader around climate action with the passage of the Clean Energy Omnibus Amendment Act, spearheaded by Mayor Bowser and the Council of DC, in 2018. The legislation represents one of the most aggressive clean energy policies in the nation. One of the major facets of the Act was to significantly increase the amount of renewable energy residents produce and use, setting the city on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2032, a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2032, and 100% carbon neutrality by 2050.

As the local utility regulator, the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (DCPSC) plays an integral role in meeting those goals. The Commission has updated its mission to take into account the District’s climate policy commitments when making its policy decisions. The DCPSC commissioners consider climate change and the Clean Energy Act when ruling in every proceeding put before the Commission.

Those decisions, which have the force of law, have created, expanded, or enhanced several climate initiatives. Since December 2020, the DCPSC has certified more than 7,900 solar facilities and 137 Community Renewable Energy Facilities (CREFs) that produce a total of more than 130 MW of power.

The District is also becoming the first jurisdiction in the Mid-Atlantic to acquire a portion of electricity used in the default service for Pepco customers through a long-term renewable energy power purchase agreement. In short, new and existing customers who get the “default” service from the utility will soon have a portion of their power come from renewable sources like solar or wind.

When it comes to innovative, forward-thinking initiatives to help address climate change, the DCPSC is relying on its PowerPath DC Pilot Projects Governance Board to recommend pilot projects that will tackle the crisis in new ways. The board was created as a result of the Pepco Holdings, Inc.-Exelon merger approved by the Commission and has more than $21 million at its disposal to fund projects that will modernize the District’s energy delivery systems.

While many of the initiatives the DCPSC spearheads may be at the policy level, it also has created DC Power Connect, a centralized resource for residents and local business to compare and choose their electric supplier. Suppliers upload offers into an easily searchable database and customers can select a new supplier to reduce their carbon footprint or find a plan with a fixed price.

Successfully addressing climate change requires participation across the board. One other initiative in the works at the DCPSC is an energy efficiency and energy conservation program that will assist multifamily building owners with energy efficiency financing to retrofit their buildings. The program also helps owners identify other energy programs that could minimize their buildings’ energy usage. Reducing energy use in large, multifamily buildings is critical to meeting the Clean Energy Act’s energy standards and helps ensure that equity and affordability are central considerations when putting climate policies into action.

It’s an exciting time to be a District resident and the city’s work to achieve carbon neutrality is ongoing. Stay up-to-date by visiting http://dcpsc.org/cleanenergy.

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