D.C. attorney general files complaint against utility for overcharging community solar customers

The DC Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) and the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) jointly filed a complaint and petition requesting that the Public Service Commission (PSC or Commission) investigate Pepco’s repeated failure to comply with District law governing Community Renewable Energy Facilities (CREF). Through CREF, residents and businesses are able to subscribe to receive shares of electricity generated by a solar facility not on their property and earn credits that reduce their electric bills. This linkage contributes to the District’s efforts to meet its clean energy and climate goals.

“CREFs and the District’s Solar for All program are vital environmental and energy justice initiatives because they help ensure that all District consumers — regardless of income, property ownership, or property condition — can benefit from the District’s transition to renewable energy,” said People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye. “Pepco, as the District’s sole electric distribution service provider, has a fundamental role in ensuring the success of these initiatives, but the company is falling down on the job to the detriment of consumers and the District’s long-term decarbonization goals.”

The District Department of Energy and Environment and OPC have received numerous complaints about Pepco’s CREF practices, especially from households and businesses with CREF subscriptions who are not receiving timely and accurate bill credits. Currently, almost 5,000 participants, 72% of all CREF subscribers, maintain their subscription through the Solar for All program, which is open to households with an income of 80% or less of Area Median Income (for example, less than $103,200 for a household or four).

The DC government agencies have met with Pepco for nearly two years in an effort to resolve these issues, but the problems persist.

“Enough is enough. We have heard from numerous DC residents who are rightly fed up with Pepco’s seeming inability, intentional or otherwise, to allow for consumer choice and transition to clean energy, as required by law. What’s more, Pepco deprived low-income residents of assistance with their electric bills,” said Attorney General Karl Racine. “We’re taking action now to uncover the true extent of Pepco’s mishandling of these programs—and to force the company to uphold its legal obligations so residents can receive the discounts they are entitled to and the District can continue to build a more sustainable and equitable future.”

“The District government has been working tirelessly to resolve the issues that are plaguing CREFs, to no avail,” said Mattavous-Frye. “Pepco’s practices are harming the long-term success of the District’s climate policies as consumers are reporting that they are unwilling to recommend the program to others due to the confusion around CREF crediting and billing. In addition, the developers, who build these projects, and subscriber organizations, who manage these projects, are stymied by the roadblocks Pepco is putting in place. Pepco has not demonstrated an interest in fixing the problems.

“OPC and OAG are asking the PSC to exercise its regulatory powers to bring the utility into compliance with the law and protect consumers from further losses. CREF and Solar for All programs are critical parts of the District’s climate change toolbox as we collectively strive to build a clean energy future. It is imperative that the Commission act now to enforce compliance, so consumers find the programs reliable, save money, and support the city’s ambitious climate goals,” the People’s Counsel said.

News item from the Office of the People’s Counsel

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