DC’s electricity system should work for the public, not for profit. We Power DC is fighting for a power system that works for and is owned by the residents of the District of Columbia–one that works transparently and democratically to fight the climate crisis and meet everyone’s needs regardless of their ability to pay.
Pepco’s corporate-owned, profit-driven model isn’t working for us. It’s time we put power back where it belongs – in the hands of the people.
We Power DC is a coalition of community members and organizations fighting for public power in the District. We need public power to ensure we have a clean, affordable, and equitable energy system for every DC resident.
In 2018, Washington, DC passed one of the most ambitious clean energy laws in the country, with the goal of 100% renewable energy by 2032. However, our monopoly electric utility Pepco has demonstrated a clear lack of ambition to meet the city’s energy goals. To make matters worse, the company is planning to raise energy costs for DC residents to cover infrastructure projects that will not move DC towards the just transition we need in the next twelve years.
PEPCO RAISES RATES AS RESIDENTS STRUGGLE TO KEEP THE LIGHTS ON
Pepco’s high energy rates and unforgiving payment policies leave many residents in a cycle of late payments and under constant threat of shutoffs. Nearly a quarter of DC residents owe money to Pepco, and 99% of low-income residents owe utility debt, according to Pepco’s own 2021 data. With the moratorium on utility shutoffs now slated to end in October of this year, and extreme temperatures on the rise, we continue to call on the DC council to automatically forgive outstanding utility debt, and permanently end utility shutoffs.
Even as residents face a looming wave of shutoffs and struggle to pay their bills, Pepco is acting to raise their rates. On June 4, 2021, the DC Public Service Commission caved to Pepco’s pressure and approved a $108.6 million rate increase falling squarely on the shoulders of DC residents. The DC Office of the People’s Council called this rate-increase, which will increase consumer utility bills $63 per year by 2025, “excessive” and “unprecedented.”
PEPCO IS FAILING TO MEET OUR NEEDS
Pepco had only 0.26% solar and 5.42% total renewable energy in its 2018 energy source report, just a tiny increase from 0.1% solar and 4.3% total renewable in 2015, and far less than the 16.5% clean energy that Pepco needs to meet under the Clean Energy DC Act. despite the city having a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard in place for years. The lack of ambition to meet renewable energy goals while rates rise for residents and Exelon executives get richer is shameful. A 2017 report found that Pepco was slow to approve solar interconnection requests and, in 2020, the Office of the People’s Counsel criticized Pepco’s grid upgrade project for insufficiently considering distributed energy resources (like rooftop solar and microgrids) to meet projected demand. And out of the 100,000 low-income DC households that are intended to install solar power through the DC Solar for All program, Pepco has only managed to serve 364 households.
THE BENEFITS OF PUBLIC POWER
- Lower utility bills: Corporate utilities are guaranteed to profit, regardless of the quality of service they provide, even if it means dirty, unaffordable energy that supports generous executive salaries and makes their investors happy with high returns. In contrast, publicly-owned utilities only serve the community. That means that your bills stay lower. Plus, the profits a publicly owned utility does make go towards reinvestment in local infrastructure or to help fund our schools and libraries. A local, public utility means we could keep millions of dollars circulating in our community.
- Renewable energy: DC leads the way with one of the most progressive renewable energy plans in the country. But Pepco is resisting this change. DC needs to fight inequity and the climate crisis, and we have the power to implement the changes we need. When we own our utility as a community, we can guarantee a just transition that creates jobs and brings investment and resilience into our communities.
- Community control: We can control our energy system by kicking the investor-owned Pepco out of DC! Public utilities answer to us – DC residents who depend on reliable, affordable energy. Some added benefits of a community utility include job creation, and increased investment and resilience in our communities.