The Office of the People's Counsel ("OPC") welcomes you to its smart grid education web site. OPC is committed to providing residents timely and straightforward information about the changes currently underway regarding how electricity service is provided. Additionally, OPC is charged with educating consumers about emerging issues in the utility industry and how they impact consumers. The smart grid is certainly one of the biggest changes in the District of Columbia's utility landscape as this change in infrastructure touches each and every consumer. This section of our website was created to introduce District of Columbia residents to the smart grid PEPCO is in the early stages of deploying.
OPC realizes the success of the smart grid is directly tied to whether consumers change their consumption behavior. So, this website is a vital tool for both the Office and consumers. The site will answer questions such as what is the smart grid, why do we need it and how will consumers benefit from it. Additionally, the website explains how the smart grid was approved in the District of Columbia and provides a number of private, local and federal contacts with additional information about the smart grid. Last, and perhaps most importantly, the site tells consumers how their voices can be heard by the DC Public Service Commission whose responsibility it is to make important decisions about the smart grid over the next few years.
PEPCO's AMI plan is designed to deliver a number of benefits to consumers wanting greater control over their energy usage.
In the short-term, consumers will benefit from:
- Detailed information about energy usage,
- Actual meter readings instead of estimated readings, Ability to program your smart thermostat to adjust its usage in response to changes in the price of electricity Ability to know your bill-to- date
In the future, PEPCO is expected to offer:
- Ability to choose a pricing plan that fits your usage,
- Ability to remotely control your heating and air conditioning system
The Office of the People's Counsel has used all available means to obtain an opt-out for consumers. In 2012, after receiving complaints from consumers about the safety of smart meters, OPC wrote a letter to Councilmember Yvette Alexander who had oversight of the Office and the PSC requesting she urge the Commission to conduct an independent study to determine the technical and economic feasibility of Pepco providing an opt-out provision and a study to determine the safety of smart meters. On August 9, 2012 Councilmember Alexander wrote a letter to the PSC and urged the Commission to conduct such a study. The Commission hired West Monroe Partners to conduct the study.
Also in an effort to prevent Pepco from disconnecting consumers who refused a smart meter installation, OPC on May 16, 2012 filed a Motion with the Commission requesting the PSC prevent Pepco from disconnecting consumers who refused the smart meter installation. On June 21, 2012, the Commission issued Order No. 16841 denying OPC's motion but urged Pepco to use restraint for those consumers who did not want a smart meter installed. (See order attached)
While the Office was urging the Commission to conduct a study on the feasibility of an opt-out, on May 15, 2013, Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie introduced legislation to give the PSC authority to decide on the issue of opt-out. Unfortunately, the legislation was not voted on and no further action has taken place on this issue at the Council since.
On September 20, 2013 West Monroe Partners filed its report with the Commission. The report found that there was no credible, scientific evidence to show that the level of RF emissions from the Pepco smart meters is a threat to human health. The report also said that Pepco could provide an opt-out provision but that there were questions that remained to be answered. On December 13, 2013 the Office of the People's Counsel filed a motion requesting the Commission further examine the findings and recommendations of the West Monroe Report to determine if an opt-out provision is feasible. On February 20, 2014 the Commission issued Order No. 17388 denying OPC's Motion stating "OPC’s motion is premature in light of the fact that the District has not passed a law regarding opt-out in the District of Columbia." This order was consistent with Commission's Order 16761 in April 2012 in which it denied OPC's request for the PSC to determine whether it was reasonable for Pepco to provide an opt-out because the City Council had not given it authority to act on the issue. As such, the Commission will not action on this issue until the Council gives the PSC authority to act on the issue of opt-out.
Based on OPC's involvement with the PowerCentsDC pilot and research of other smart meter pilot programs, OPC supports the introduction of smart meters and the smart grid to the extent deployment proceeds in a manner that empowers consumers to be able to better control their energy usage; enhances energy efficiency; reduces the District's overall electricity load, thus reducing the cost of energy to all consumers; and does not unduly burden seniors and those on fixed incomes.
OPC has strongly advocated for clear, consistent consumer education at the outset of the meter installation process and throughout the duration of deployment so consumers are knowledgeable about how their electric service will differ.