Today Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed legislation to require that utility Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO) procure 50% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2032 for its customers in the city, and 5% of its electricity from solar PV.
This is a substantial increase on the city’s previous target of 20% by 2020, and gives Washington D.C. the fifth-strongest renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policy in the United States, after Hawaii (100% by 2045) Vermont (75% by 2032) California and New York (both 50% by 2030). It positions the city ahead of Oregon, which increased its RPS to 50% by 2040 for large investor-owned utilities last year.
The announcement comes in the middle of a heat emergency in the city and a heat wave across the East Coast, which was referenced by city officials. “This week’s extreme heat and our volatile weather, including last week’s hail storm and this winter’s blizzard, are examples of the impacts climate change will continue to have on our city and the planet,” said Department of Energy and Environment Director Tommy Wells.
“The Renewable Portfolio Standard bill expands the set of tools we need to address and mitigate the effects of climate change in the District and will help keep us on track to meet our Sustainable DC goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and to ensure renewables make up at least 50% of the District’s energy supply by 2032.”
As part of the program, the city plans to make solar available to over 6,000 low-income households annually, and reach over 100,000 households by 2032. It is unclear at this time whether this means rooftop PV, community solar, or a combination of the two. Either way, as Washington D.C. has a population of under 300,000 households, this is a very substantial commitment.
City officials estimate that the plans for low-income solar will create at least 100 jobs in the first year alone, and this follows an agreement between the city and non-profit GRID Alternatives to provide young residents of D.C. with paid training in solar panel installation, energy efficiency, and safety and construction skills.
The new law also raises penalties should PEPCO not comply with the mandate in any given year.