New authority would gather data on how and when energy is used and create marketplace for renewably-sourced energy to add to DC’s grid, creating jobs for DC residents with DC dollars while lowering rates for DC residents
Today, Councilmembers Charles Allen (Ward 6) and Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced the Distributed Energy Resources Authority Act of 2018, which would modernize the District of Columbia’s energy grid by collecting real-time energy use data in one location and opening the door for DC businesses and residents to contribute renewable energy toward the total capacity of the District’s energy supply.
“Given the urgency of climate change, along with improvements in technology, now is the time to modernize how we power our city,” said Councilmember Allen. “Right now District residents annually send $1.8 billion outside of the District to purchase fossil fuels. By having real transparency into our energy needs, we will better understand how to meet those energy needs in a sustainable way. And that makes it possible to create a marketplace for District businesses to add solar, wind, and other renewable energy to help power our grid. It keeps our money here and it creates new jobs.”
Councilmember Allen continued: “This bill would help the District understand how much energy is being used with much greater clarity, which will help us purchase energy much more efficiently. And it creates a marketplace mechanism that will allow much more renewable energy to be generated, and purchased, right here in the District by District businesses,” said Councilmember Allen. “This would create hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in renewable infrastructure all across the city.”
Managed under the newly created Distributed Energy Resources Authority, District power suppliers, businesses and residents would have a much more transparent picture of how and when energy is consumed through a database tracking energy usage. District residents would have access to real-time data usage in their homes, allowing them to learn, for example, what appliances are costing them the most money.
The Authority would also prioritize the use of renewable, “non-wires” energy sources anytime the electric utility identifies infrastructure needs with a cost of $25 million or more. The Authority would seek bids to build non-wires alternatives, like solar and battery storage. Those bids, which Pepco could compete for alongside District residents, would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in renewable infrastructure right here in the District.
Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, who co-introduced the bill, added, “As the District moves towards its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, more and more of our buildings will be producing their own energy, though they remain interconnected with the electric grid to ensure stability. To ensure that this interconnection takes place in an efficient, fair way, without undue costs to ratepayers, the District needs an entity that can act as a neutral third party in managing interconnection and providing access to data about our grid's capacity and energy needs. The Distributed Energy Resources Authority can fulfill that role.”
Councilmember Cheh continued: “It is exciting to have reached this point in time, where efficiency and distributed renewable energy is beginning to be more cost-effective than building traditional electric infrastructure, and I believe this bill is the start of a conversation that will result in a sea change in how we all view and understand the role of sustainable energy in the District.”
A little more detail about the function of the Distributed Energy Resources Authority:
First, it would be a repository for energy data. This would allow consumers to have access to their own data in real time, protected via encryption. It would also give Pepco better visibility into interconnections on the grid, allowing them to forecast energy needs much more accurately – right now, it is estimated that Pepco often purchases as much as 20 percent more energy than needed. And it would make it much easier for folks to interconnect to the grid.
Second, using that newly transparent data, the Authority would conduct a non-wires alternative analysis anytime Pepco requests to build anything over $25 million to see if there is a wind, solar, or other renewable option that could meet the same need.
This analysis would determine whether things like additional solar and batter storage could meet the capacity needs Pepco has identified and do it for a lower cost. This means a modern electric grid and jobs and economic development here in DC. In the past, the Department of Energy and the Environment has tried to do a non-wires analysis, but they haven’t had the correct data set to work from. If the analysis shows that non-wires is a viable option, the Authority would issue an RFP for companies to build the non-wires infrastructure – Pepco could still compete to carry out that project. The bill requires CBE participation and hiring of District residents. But this could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for renewable energy projects in DC.