Washington, D.C., might soon embark on the nation’s most aggressive renewable energy target: 100 percent by 2032. The CleanEnergy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 passed a city council vote in November and has since become a topic of great debate. As a result, I find myself asking: Has the quest for energy efficiency gone too far?

This might sound strange coming from me, as I am a believer in progress, especially when it comes to developing more efficient and sustainable homes and buildings. But, in this case, it appears the bill could have a detrimental effect on consumers and their wallets.

You see, Pepco, an energy provider for the D.C. area, is charged with meeting the timeline outlined by the bill. According to an article published in the Washington Post, “New language in the legislation allows D.C.-based Pepco Holdings to administer energy efficiency programs and pass the expense to customers at the time it would be allowed to charge customers to make up for lost revenue from lower usage.”

Paying utilities to run energy saving programs is not a new concept; however, paying them for reduced carbon consumption is. In my opinion, essentially, the consumer is paying more and gets nothing more in return, so that the utility can maintain their profits on declining production.

The desire for D.C. to make energy efficiency mandatory is noble, but to pass all of the expenses to consumers has rightfully raised quite a bit of controversy.

The View from Here is that it is not difficult to convince most consumers to save energy wherever possible. However, we are still a long way from justifying the cost of 100 percent renewable energy. So, in this case, I do believe the drive for energy efficiency has gone too far and costs will continue to be the greatest challenge for renewables for the foreseeable future.

The good news is that this bill is far from final; Washington, D.C.’s, process mandates that it be reconsidered on December 18, and then it will go to the mayor for approval. After that, it will also have to be passed by Congress and could still be vetoed by the president himself, since D.C. is a federal district and not a state.

This is certainly one to watch as it could set a precedent for other U.S. cities.
What’s your View? Email me directly at eric.jackson@quanex.com.

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