The District of Columbia has one of the most ambitious renewable energy plans in the country with a goal to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2032, with 5% coming from solar generated within the District. Since the nation’s capital is limited geographically, the bulk of that energy will come from outside the city. The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) updated in the Clean Energy Act of 2018, requires DC to generate 10% of its energy from solar within the District itself by 2041. Community solar in DC is one of the necessary strategies to achieve the city’s renewable energy goals.
The District refers to community solar projects as Community Renewable Energy Facilities (CREF) and they are connected to the only electric utility, Pepco. Pepco runs the normal DC program for residential and commercial customers who receive Community Net Metering (CNM) credits on their electricity bill. There is no capacity cap on the development of CREFs in the DC community solar program. Pepco does not have a low-income community solar program. Instead, the city’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and the Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) are partners of Solar or All, a program administered by a third party to reduce low-income households’ energy bills by 50%.
DC generates a little under 200 megawatts (MW) from all types of solar, of which approximately 30MW are community solar. In order for DC to meet its 10% solar requirement, it will need to grow substantially and install an additional 665 MWs.
All CREFs in DC are subject to the following requirements:
In DC, ambitious goals come with ambitious levels of savings for low-income households. Solar for All’s target is to extend the benefits of solar energy to 100,000 low-income households and to reduce their electricity bills by 50% from the average residential electricity bill in 2016 by the end of 2032. Low income is defined as households at or below 80% of area median income.
Between 2019 and 2021, the DCSEU worked with developers to install more than 160 CREF projects that will provide bill credits to 6,000 income-qualified families which will see $40 million in projected savings over the 15-year course of the credit program.
Homeowners and tenants can qualify by meeting the requirements below:
Solar for All is a separate program administered by a non-profit, Groundswell, in partnership with DOEE and DCSEU. Projects register and customers are enrolled & managed by Groundswell. The program is funded annually by the Renewable Energy Development Fund.
Washington DC’s community solar program is structured for a high value of solar renewable energy credits (SREC). SRECs are valid for 3 years from the date of generation. This works in tandem with the alternative compliance payment (ACP) which effectively caps the value of SRECs in the District. The ACP incentivizes electric suppliers to meet the District’s RPS goals or pay the fee for each megawatt-hour (MWh) for any SREC shortfall. A steady decrease in the total value of compliance payments indicates the success of the program. The current ACP is $500 per MWh and the current value of an SREC hovers around $400 with some variance from market conditions.
The ACP is scheduled to diminish on a schedule through 2024 and will lower the value of SRECs over time. The current schedule is:
Credit rates will be applied to a customer's each billing month and will be allocated by multiplying the quantity of kilowatt hours allocated to each subscriber by the subscriber's CREF credit rate. The CREF credit rate is equal to the standard offer service (SOS) rate for the General Service Low Voltage Non-Demand Customer class or its successor.
CREF Rates October 2022:
The District’s renewable energy goals enshrine community solar as a priority. Minimally, 100,000 LMI households are supposed to receive the financial benefits of community solar. Beyond the Solar for All program, there are many potential customers in businesses, national NGO headquarters, government buildings, and many hundreds of thousands of residents.