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Pepco treats solar projects “systematically wrong,” says DC Attorney General

Pepco committed a “pattern of systemic violations” in handling solar projects in DC and may have billed more than 6,000 customers, according to the DC Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the People’s Counsel. The two offices jointly filed a complaint today, detailing the allegations and saying the utility’s actions are undermining progress toward the district’s clean energy and climate goals.

“Complaints from developers, consumers and employees of the District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment demonstrate that Pepco has repeatedly violated its legal requirements,” it said filing.

The alleged violations have to do with community solar installations in the district, where residents who may not have a roof to put up their own solar panels, or who cannot make the investment, can subscribe to a larger solar project. In return, subscribers will receive credits on their Pepco bills, reducing electricity costs based on how much electricity their share of the community solar project has generated during a given billing period.

“Pepco’s actions have resulted in higher monthly household electricity bills than subscribers should be paying,” the filing reads.

Of the city’s 6,200 Community Solar subscribers, 5,000 are enrolled for free through the Solar For All program, which is paid for by the District Department of Energy and Environment. The program is available to all residents earning less than 80% of the area’s median income and promises to halve subscribers’ electricity bills for 15 years.

“This program, Solar For All, was designed to ensure that more DC residents, particularly those on low incomes or without real estate for solar panels, can get involved in the district’s efforts to ensure it meets its goals for clean energy achieved in the future,” said Kathleen Konopka, assistant attorney general who heads the OAG’s public advocacy division.

The complaint was filed with the DC Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the city. According to the complaint, Pepco has botched its handling of municipal solar projects in multiple ways. The utility undercounts solar power generation at community solar projects, according to the filing, and “systematically fails” to provide customers with accurate and timely solar credits.

Jamie Caswell, a spokesman for Pepco, said it was premature to comment on the complaint because the company hasn’t had time to fully investigate it. “We are committed to helping the district meet its leading climate goals and continue to support our customers to connect their local solar system to the local energy grid and connect our customers to community solar projects,” Caswell said in an email DCist.

The filing lists numerous solar arrays where Pepco has installed its own meters to monitor power generation; In a few months, Pepco has reported that no electricity is being generated from plants, even though plant owners have reported continuous generation. These discrepancies, the filing says, suggest Pepco undercounts solar production and underpays solar subscribers.

According to the filing, Pepco undercounted solar power generation in the DOEE Solar For All program by 5,000 megawatt hours between January 2020 and September 2021 equivalent on the energy needed to power around 500 households for a year.

At the same time, according to the filing, Pepco has failed to make payments owed to community solar system owners, including the district Department of Energy and Environment. System owners should be compensated for unsubscribed solar loans.

“It wouldn’t be right to say it’s a mistake here or there,” Konopka said. “I don’t think we would make a complaint on that basis.”

Pepco’s actions are a setback to DC’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to clean energy and ensure low-income residents benefit from solar power, the filing says. Under DC law, 100% of the electricity sold in the city must come from clean sources by 2032, including 10% from locally generated solar power. Also the district has a goal Reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2032 and be carbon neutral by 2050. To meet those goals, the district is aiming to enroll 100,000 homes in the Solar For All program by 2032 — a goal that could be at risk, according to the company, if local residents lose faith in the program.

“If these violations continue, they could seriously impact the district’s ability to meet its goals to expand clean energy use, increase consumer access to renewable energy generation, and reduce energy bills,” the filing said.

Recently, Pepco was also criticized for this charge fees an average of nearly $10,000 for residents installing solar panels on their rooftops and for stalling solar projects by being slow to connect them to the grid.

According to the complaint, both the attorney general’s office and the People’s Counsel Office, an independent agency that advocates for utility fee payers, have tried unsuccessfully for the past two years to get Pepco to address issues with its handling of municipal solar systems.

“After a long working relationship with Pepco, we brought this case to ask the Public Service Commission to open an investigation into this behavior,” Konopka says.

In addition to calling for an investigation, the complaint also calls for the commission to force Pepco to pay back customers and facility owners who have fallen short. The filing also calls for the commission to fine Pepco for “repeated violations of district law.”

This story has been updated to add a comment from Pepco.

The post Pepco treats solar projects “systematically wrong,” says DC Attorney General appeared first DCist.

https://dcist.com/story/22/03/23/pepco-systematically-mishandling-solar-projects-ag-racine/ Pepco treats solar projects “systematically wrong,” says DC Attorney General

DUSTIN JONES

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