Mar 13, 2016

Learning About the Solar Politics of DC

On February 9, I got to interview Anya Schoolman, the force behind DC Solar United Neighborhoods or DC SUN. DC SUN is less than ten years old and has already been instrumental in bringing solar to hundreds of homes around DC and blocking the merger between utility giants Pepco and Exelon. It was a real honor to sit down with Anya and by far the best education I've received in the solar politics of Washington, DC.

Community solar--you buy a big solar
installation with your neighbors and you all
save money on electricity
One of the most interesting points that Anya mentioned has to do with community solar. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, community solar allows "several energy customers to share the benefits of one local renewable energy power plant. The shared renewables project pools investments from multiple members of a community and provides power and/or financial benefits in return."

This is a no-brainer way for you and your neighbors to make money! However, Anya explained that community solar is being held up by DC's at-large Council Member, Vincent Orange. He's the Chairman of the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and has the power to push community solar legislation through. Common Vincent!

Another big thing we focused on was the Exelon-Pepco merger. Exelon is the largest US nuclear power plants operator and regulates utilities in IL, PA, and MD. It's looking to buy out the Potomac Electric Power Company or Pepco. The merger seems inevitable--Exelon is a giant that employs 30,000 and looks like it can easily gobble up Pepco and its 1,400 staff. Anya and DC SUN oppose this merger vehemently, arguing that Exelon will not be a friend to home solar and clean energy installations. Their efforts have helped delay it but the war isn't over.

During the interview, Anya informed me that DC's Mayor Muriel Bowser got a $25 million payment for one of her pet projects after the merger was initially shot down. The Mayor then began to publicly favor the merger. In addition to that, many of DC's elected officials own stock in either Pepco or Exelon that would benefit from this merger. Classic David vs. Goliathe.

To conclude, if you're living in the DC area and want to go solar or would just like to learn more about DC SUN's work, you should visit them at www.dcsun.org. They're a dedicated team and tireless workers.

PS--one complaint I have about my video is sound quality. My cell phone has a hearing problem. To give you an idea, of the 20 minutes I recorded, I could only use 4 minutes because most of it sounded like mumbling. Does anyone have any cheap audio recommendations? Thank you.