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One word often comes to mind when I speak about the District of Columbia’s many accomplishments in the clean energy transition: proud.
I’m proud of the work that District leadership and agencies, including the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (DCPSC), have done to help the city reach its aggressive climate policy goals. I’m proud that the District leads the way in setting renewable energy standards. And I’m especially proud that the city is ensuring that our clean energy transition is equitable, affordable, and creates climate resiliency.
These important goals were the main topics at the recent 2023 District of Columbia Clean Energy Summit hosted by the DCPSC. As the District, like the rest of the nation, struggles with the effects of climate change, including flooding, intense storms, and higher temperatures, it’s more important than ever that we identify and overcome the challenges to a clean energy future.
Acting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman and former DCPSC Chairman Willie L. Phillips opened the summit with a keynote address, charging us all with “committing to act urgently on equity and climate change,” a sentiment echoed by At-large D.C. Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie, who highlighted the Clean Energy DC Act, environmental justice, and the need to create opportunities for small minority-owned businesses in the District.
On a panel discussing the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Joint Office of Energy and Transportation Policy Advisor Richard Ezike also touched on environmental justice, noting that it’s a “top priority” for his office. “Many communities of color, especially black and brown, have been negatively impacted by the way our states were planned, and many of those impacts still exist today,” he added.
The summit also tackled workforce and supply chain development issues related to clean energy. I think many people hear and know about the clean energy transition, but they don’t know how they can participate, how they’re a part of it, or how some of the big topics that are discussed really apply to them. One clear way is through employment — building equitable clean energy manufacturing and supply chains creates quality, in-demand jobs and programs. At the summit, American Council on Renewable Energy Senior Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Constance Thompson explained that “this is an awesome opportunity for wealth creation for people of color, by providing funding services for small businesses to create clean energy.”
Another key component of the clean energy transition that may not always get the same bandwidth as some other topics do is affordability. What will the transition cost? How will those costs be allocated among individuals and businesses? Regulatory Assistance Project Managing Principal Damali Harding raised similar concerns at the summit, stressing the need for equity in all clean energy policies. “If we don’t have equity in policies that are specific, definitive, and measurable, that means we can’t go back and hold ourselves accountable for moving the affordability needle,” she remarked.
To many, affordable electricity has become a basic necessity. As the local utility regulator, the DCPSC has an important and integral role in meeting that need. The District’s renewable portfolio standard mandates that local utilities produce power with 100% renewable energy by 2032, with 10% of that electricity coming from solar sources by 2041.
I’m proud of the federal, state, local, and industry leaders who’ve put in the hard work to get us this far, and I hope they’ll stay the course and push for more aggressive renewable energy goals here in the District and across the county.
Watch a full recording of the 2023 District of Columbia Clean Energy Summit.