A Note from Your People's Counsel
I am excited to announce the completion of the “OPC Energy Affordability Lab.” In 2018, we set out to create a new tool to engage and educate District consumers on energy efficiency right inside our offices, located at 1133 15th Street NW. That tool is now a reality in the form of a model of a small onebedroom home. Ensuring that all District residents have access to clean and affordable energy is a priority for me and my staff, and the Energy Affordability Lab is just one example of how we are practicing what we preach.
The Lab houses tips and exhibits on how consumers can use energy efficient appliances, smart devices and distributed energy resources like solar to reduce their energy use and save on utility bills. The Lab is designed to empower consumers to use clean energy right at home. We plan to offer educational classes, seminars and demonstrations to individuals and groups.
OPC is helping to design a roadmap for modernizing the grid and improving the customer experience by focusing on new technologies and simple solutions. As the District’s consumer utility advocate, the Office of the People’s Counsel continues to strive to bring innovative educational tools and programs to residents in all eight wards.
We expect to open the doors to the Lab to the public this summer. Follow OPC on social media and visit www.opc-dc.gov to get the latest on a “house warming.” In the meantime, here is a peak inside.
By the way, there are some new occupants "in da house." A warm welcome to the new OPC Water Services Division! They are ready to assist DC Water consumers with billing and service issues.
Seated from left: Water Services Division Manager Chandler Crumlin; People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye; Deputy People’s Counsel Karen Sistrunk; Water staff standing from left: Community Outreach Specialists Rusheeda Boyd and Valca Valentine; Assistant People’s Counsel Grace Soderberg; Community Outreach Specialists Kiana Blackstone and Marchim Williams. Learn how OPC is now serving water consumers here.
OPC wants you to know DC Water has announced it’s holding a series of town hall meetings to give its customers an opportunity to learn about and comment on the water authority’s proposed rates and fees for the fiscal year that begins October 1. All meetings begin at 6:30 pm. Find more information here.
Monday, June 3
Emery Heights Community Center-5701 Georgia Avenue NW
Tuesday, June 4
Trinidad Recreation Center-1310 Childress Street NE
Wednesday, June 5
Kennedy Recreation Center-1401 7th Street NW
Thursday, June 6
Deanwood Recreation Center-1350 49th Street NE
Monday, June 10
Bald Eagle Recreation Center-185 Joliet Street SW
OPC has been a leader in a variety of proceedings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates the wholesale energy market. Wholesale prices affect about 60% of District ratepayers’ electric bills.
Fighting for Additional Refunds Tied to the Federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act
Just as the Office helped ensure that DC ratepayers received the full benefit of the lowered corporate tax rates paid by Pepco and Washington Gas in DC Public Service Commission proceedings, we also are working to secure ratepayer refunds in wholesale transmission rates at FERC. Settlement discussions in this proceeding are beginning and OPC will definitely be a part of the conversation to ensure that any additional tax savings are returned to DC consumers as soon as possible.
Opposing PJM Reserve Pricing Proposal
On May 15, OPC joined several consumer advocates, state commissions, public power entities, and other customer sectors to protest a proposal by PJM Interconnection (PJM), the regional grid operator for the District and 13 other states. PJM proposes to increase the amount of energy reserves it purchases. Energy reserves are the additional energy generators produce to ensure that enough electricity is available, particularly during peak use periods. While we all want to make sure the lights stay on, OPC believes that PJM’s proposal is unnecessary because PJM already has more reserves than independent standards require, and that purchasing additional reserves will raise energy prices without noticeably increasing reliability. Additionally, OPC and fellow advocates believe there are other, more cost-effective ways to ensure reliability. PJM has asked FERC for a decision on its proposal by the end of the year.
Supporting Energy Storage Participation
FERC Order No. 841 requires grid operators to more fully integrate energy storage resources, like batteries, into their operations. The operators must develop a “participation model” that eliminates barriers to energy storage by the end of this year. Energy storage resources will play an important role in helping the District meet its clean energy goals and OPC is working to make sure PJM’s plans meet FERC’s goals. Of particular concern to OPC is PJM’s proposed requirement that storage resources have a minimum “run-time,” when they are capable of being on, that is much longer than other grid operators. This requirement could limit the participation of some resources while raising the costs of participation for others. Neither of these outcomes is in the best interest of DC ratepayers or the city's clean energy goals.
OPC is pleased to announce that the 2017 OPC Annual Report: “Protecting Consumers, Easing the Energy Burden, and Promoting a Safe and Sustainable Environment” has been honored with a “2019 Hermes Creative Gold Award” by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals. The Association’s awards competition receives thousands of entries from around the world and recognizes excellence in the concept, writing and design of publications and other media. This is the second year in a row OPC’s annual report has been recognized by the Association. OPC staff worked with LINK Strategic Partners to put the award-winning publications together. We thank LINK for being an OPC partner.
The Solar Connection is a feature designed to "shine the light" on developments in solar power and educate consumers about the energy option.
If you are a commercial building owner in the District of Columbia and want to go solar, the DC Property Assessed Clean Energy (DC PACE) Program may be able to help. DC PACE is a program of the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) that finances projects such as solar installations, roof upgrades, energy efficient HVAC systems, insulation, LED lighting, and other green improvements. Most commercial buildings in the District are eligible, including office, retail, multifamily residential, mixed-use, nonprofit owned buildings and houses of worship.
DC PACE lets property owners access financing for up to 100% of project costs. That means you can directly own your solar with no money down at closing. Because property owners repay financing through a special tax assessment over a period of time—typically 15 or 20 years—the assessment is offset by the money they save from reducing energy bills, so many property owners start seeing benefits on day one. In this way, you can use savings from solar to fund your building upgrade, and start realizing benefits immediately. Because DC PACE is tied to the property, not the borrower, it also doesn’t require corporate guarantees or rely on personal credit. With DC PACE, you also own your own solar array and can keep and use the valuable Investment Tax Credits and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) associated with going solar in the District.
Renowned educator, Booker T. Washington, states in his 1901 autobiography Up from Slavery: “Those who are the happiest are those that do the most for others.” That’s a statement indicative of OPC’s Deputy People’s Counsel, Karen Sistrunk. May’s Employee Spotlight features an individual who epitomizes OPC’s mission of working tirelessly in service to others, and all done with a cheerful and supportive spirit.
Karen began her current tenure at OPC 13 years ago as Director of the Consumer Services Division. She was responsible for the development of consumer education and outreach policies, strategies and community events, as well as the hiring and training of outreach staff. Six years later, when then-Deputy People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye became People’s Counsel, Sistrunk became her deputy. In this role, Karen serves as the primary policy advisor to the People’s Counsel and assists in the management of all OPC divisions.
“Her work ethic was unparalleled, and I knew that I could trust in her counsel to do what was best for not only the agency, but DC ratepayers as well. That’s why I wanted her by my side. I couldn’t imagine doing this job without Karen,” said People’s Counsel Mattavous-Frye.
Off the job, Karen loves traveling with her family. Together, they have been to Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bermuda, Peru, and Spain. Growing up with a father in the military, she is no stranger to world travel, including living in Germany and Italy. Karen also expresses a deep passion for holistic health and wellness and its impact on quality of life and longevity. She enjoys hiking and taking photos of nature, along the way. With Karen being OPC’s Employee Wellness Coordinator, it’s safe to say the office is in good hands in more ways than one.
OPC is advocating for consumers in the following cases:
PEPACR2019-01-E, Pepco's 2019 Annual Consolidated Report
On April 17, OPC filed an Unopposed Motion for Enlargement of Time to submit comments on Pepco’s Annual Consolidated Report.
Formal Case No. 1115, Washington Gas Light Company’s Request for Approval of a Revised Accelerated Pipeline Replacement Plan
On April 22, OPC filed an Objection to Washington Gas’s Application for Approval of the Year Five Annual Project List. OPC requests the Commission reject the revisions made by Washington Gas or amend the deficiencies listed by OPC.
Students at W.B. Patterson Elementary School in Ward 8 signal “V for victory” after OPC’s Rusheeda Boyd and Denise Blackson (red shirts) present a winning workshop on energy efficiency for kids.
A visitor to OPC’s Bike to Work Day 2019 table gives a thumbs up to OPC’s Stephen Marencic (left) as Stephen explains how OPC advocates for utility consumers.
OPC’s Silvia Garrick participates in an event at the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Americans.
Consumer Outreach Specialist Cheryl Morse tells shoppers at the Uptown Farmers Market in Ward 4 how OPC, as a result of a new DC law, can now help families, individuals and small businesses resolve complaints related to their water services and billing.
OPC will be out at the following events:
Community Health and Resource Fair
Location:2201 Savannah Street SE
Date: Thursday, May 30
Time:11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Uptown Farmers Market
Location:14th and Kennedy Streets NW
Date: Saturday, June 1
Time:10:00 AM-12:00 PM
Community Presentation to Nineteenth Street Baptist Church Senior Ministry
Location:4606 16th Street NW
Date: Friday, June 7
Time:1:00 - 3:00 PM
Constituent Services Day John A. Wilson Building
Location:1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Date: Wednesday, June 19
Time:9:15 AM - 2:15 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