D.C. shows support for historic Clean Energy DC Act at first hearing

By Zach Schalk on October 9, 2018

On Tuesday, October 9, a standing-room only crowd packed Room 500 at the John A. Wilson Building for the Committee on Transportation & the Environment hearing on the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018. The bill would help D.C. make history by committing to power the District with 100% renewable energy sources by 2032, including 5% from local solar.

Solar United Neighbors joined community members and advocates from around the District to support the legislation before committee Chairperson Mary Cheh (Ward 3), who also introduced the bill. You can watch video from the hearing, including the testimony from Solar United Neighbors D.C. Program Director Yesenia Rivera just after the 34 minute mark. Rivera testified in support of the bill while advocating to strengthen it by including long-term funding for the groundbreaking Solar for All program and other programs that help provide access to solar for low and moderate-income families. The bill is expected to be approved by the committee soon, the first step towards becoming a law.

While this first hearing was a great success and built significant momentum for the bill, there’s still a long way to go before the bill can be passed by the full Council. The Clean Energy DC Act must also be approved by the Committee on Business & Economic Development, which will hold its hearing on the bill on Monday, October 29. We need you to show up to the hearing to make sure the committee Chairperson Kenyon McDuffie (Ward 5) knows that the public supports this important piece of legislation!

You can contact your Councilmember today to let them know that you support 100% clean energy in D.C., and you can RSVP to support the bill at the October 29 hearing. If you’d like to testify as a public witness, let us know and we’ll sign you up to testify and provide support as you craft your testimony.

Read the full testimony from delivered by Solar United Neighbors D.C. Program Director Yesenia Rivera below

Testimony of Yesenia Rivera

D.C. Program Director Solar United Neighbors
DC Council Committee on Transportation and Environment
October 9, 2018

Thank you, Chairperson Cheh, and members of the committee, for holding this hearing today. My name is Yesenia Rivera, and I am representing Solar United Neighbors of D.C.

Solar United Neighbors has been advocating for solar and working with D.C. Council on solar-related issues since 2007.  We have helped over 545 District homeowners go solar by installing 3,071 kW.

We are testifying in support of the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Bill.  We believe that the bill is an important step in making the District a leader in the movement for a clean and affordable energy future.  We will also like to thank the Council for their continued leadership in expanding solar in the District. I am here today to advocate strengthening the bill by including long-term funding for the groundbreaking Solar for All program and other programs that help provide access to solar for low and moderate-income families.

In 2016, as part of the Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Act of 2016, the Council established the District’s Solar for All program.  The program will help 100,000 low to moderate-income families go solar at no cost to them while reducing their electric bill by 50%.  Solar United Neighbors was awarded one of the initial Solar for All grants.  Since then, we have been reaching out to low-income District homeowners to educate them about the benefits of Solar and helping them qualify for the program.   More than 90 homeowners express interest in the program, 60 of which have gone through the income-qualification process.  As of today, 48 participants have been approved, and 26 of them have signed contracts with the installer, with an average system size of 4.25kW. For the first round of participants the median age was 55, and their median income was $35,000 a year.  We are reaching households that would not have been able to go solar without Solar for All.

We believe that it is crucial that the Council address the current ACP schedule as part of the Clean Energy Bill to secure long-term funding for Solar for All. As part of the Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Act of 2016 electricity exemptions were introduced that weakened the District’s solar targets creating a market oversupply. SREC prices have fallen over 10% in the last two months and almost 20% in the previous ten months, creating a problem for solar developing and financing in the District.

It is critically important that the SREC market be made sustainable. SREC values play a crucial role in determining how many systems we can install under our grant and for ensuring that more District residents, no matter their incomes, can benefit from going solar.  MDV-SEIA has proposed, and we agree that the Council should consider increasing the bankability of solar credits from 3 to 5 years and increasing the solar carve-out by three years through 2029 to balance the market and minimize the likelihood of oversupply.

While the Clean Energy Bill takes steps to increase the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund and allocate the funds to help low-income residents, the District made a commitment to Solar for All in 2016, and that commitment must continue.  Solar for All is a visionary endeavor through which the District can achieve its clean energy goals while also ensuring that all District residents can benefit from those goals.  Solar plays a critical role in reducing utility cost burdens for low-income families and create jobs that pay livable wages while increasing investments across the District.

In closing, we firmly believe that the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Bill must include secure funding for essential energy equity programs like Solar for All so that all residents will benefit equally from the District’s historic commitment to clean energy.

Thank You,

Yesenia Rivera