DC Renewable Energy Standard Passes

Power provided to one of the most politically charged geographic entities in the United States is going to be partly supplied with energy from renewable sources. The District Council of the District of Columbia (DC), where a majority of the national political action is based, has joined the state-based march toward mandatory use of renewable energy.

The ruling will require DC utilities to obtain 11 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2022. The District’s Public Service Commission will establish a renewable energy credits (REC) trading program. RECs can be traded with other states in the PJM transmission region – which is Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. In 2005, suppliers will receive 120 percent credit for each MWh of solar or wind energy obtained; and a 110 percent credit in 2006 and beyond. Utilities that do not meet the solar requirement would pay an alternative compliance fee of 30 cents per kWh. Under the new law, retail electricity suppliers in the District must obtain at least 0.386 percent of their electricity portfolio from solar energy by 2022. The national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) calculated that the District of Columbia’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard should result in 32 MW of solar electric generating capacity by 2022. That’s enough to power about 1,600 average homes, approximately the size of historic Anacostia. “We estimate that the RES will support more than 1,120 jobs in the solar industry, with at least 500 of these jobs being local to the DC area,” said Rhone Resch, President of SEIA. “While DC has comparatively little wind or biomass resources, there’s plenty of sun,” said Resch. “Every rooftop throughout the city has the potential to generate its own electricity, help reduce stress on the grid, and improve our energy security while cleaning up the air we breathe. The passage of this legislation creates a viable market for solar power in our nation’s capitol.” The law also establishes a Renewable Energy Development Fund to bank the alternative compliance fees paid by utilities. Proceeds from the Fund will be used exclusively to provide loans and grants for solar energy projects in the District. “This will empower the solar industry to continue it’s rapid expansion in manufacturing production and accelerate the training of technicians and economic development in this empowering and distributed energy industry,” said Peter Lowenthal, Executive Director of the MD-DC-VA Solar Energy Industries association, who had input on crafting the final legislation. While the new RPS will likely spur many REC purchases from out of state, there are likely to be many new solar projects within DC. Some may be focused on critical back-up power applications for important government and public entities. “DC could use it for reliable power for fire stations, police stations, if they’re thinking about doing the right thing,” Lowenthal said. “And that’s what we’re guiding them towards.” Lowenthal also explained that the language of the legislation focused on defining solar in a broad enough way that solar thermal could be included in the RES. The RES will greatly reduce harmful emissions from power plants – a critical benefit since DC currently is not in compliance with federal Clean Air Act standards. Local residents will experience less smog, fewer Code Red health alerts, and a decrease in the 20,000 annual pollution-generated asthma attacks in the District. “We currently suffer from some of the worst air quality in the country,” Resch said. “Increasing our use of solar power will help decrease the pollution in the metro area and reduce the health risks to our children and elderly.” The electricity generated from solar alone will prevent 66,722 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as 214.6 tons of smog-forming nitrous oxide (NOx) and 840.4 tons of the acid rain pollutant sulfur dioxide (SO2) annually by 2022.
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