Green DC: Mt. Pleasant Solar Co-Op vs. Pepco

The Washington City Paper is reporting on a Mount Pleasant Co-Op that has successfully brought together 200 people in 70 households to form a solar energy coalition. A mother/son team worked with a father/son team to build this group of homeowners who are willing to shell out upwards of $20,000 to outfit their homes with solar panels. The group has worked with attorneys and accountants and has identified tax breaks, discounts and renewable energy credits to help bring down the cost of installing the panels.

In spite of all their hard work and ingenuity, the Co-Op has run into a snag with energy provider Pepco. The conflict between the two parties is a piece of legislation filed by Mary Cheh of the DC council that would create an independent utility dedicated exclusively to the management of renewable energy sources in DC. In addition, under the legislation Pepco would be "strongly encouraged" to purchase energy from renewable energy sources like the Mount Pleasant Co-Op to help reduce the cost of installing expensive solar panels.

Pepco is unhappy with the legislation and feels it limits their choices with regard to renewable energy projects. After the legislation was filed and a Washington Business Journal article was published about it, Pepco backed away from negotiations with the Co-Op and hasn't spoken to them since.

On June 2nd, the legislation passed the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs by a 5-0 vote. The next stop for the legislation is the DC Council. Pepco has spend a lot of money and time lobbying against the legislation. Their main argument is that some provisions in the legislation would reduce funding for low-income energy programs. Pepco claims that if the bill passes, $2.2 million in low-income energy cost assistance would disappear.

There is a dispute between Council Member Cheh and Pepco over this low-income energy cost claim. What isn't in dispute is how the new legislation would operate in the District. If it passes, the law would create a new energy entity owned by the DC government and funded with $7.5 million in tax money, going up to $20 million by the fourth year of operations. There would be a bidding period during which Pepco and other energy companies could bid for the contract to operate the new entity.

Pepco has submitted plans for its own renewable energy operations that are currently on hold until this legislation's fate is decided. Their argument is that they shouldn't be forced to bid on a project in an area where they already operate and affects customers they already service. The other side's argument is that Pepco is using its presence in the area to control who can generate electricity and how they can sell it. In their minds the only way to be protected from Pepco is by having the government create an independent entity that protects their interests.

While they wait for decisions to be made, the Mount Pleasant Co-Op works to hold together the fragile program they've managed to create in a world where such groups are still very unusual.

Read the full Washington City Paper article HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment