Utility 2.0 Filing at Public Service Commission March 14, 2013
As the Commission is poised to speed up reliability improvements and investments -- investments that will exceed $1 billion in Pepco's service territory alone -- it is critically important that we make sure that these investments will also help bring about a very different kind of utility, a utility that is more right for the 21st century, a utility system that we call "Utility 2.0".
There is little doubt that our existing system -- the way in which the grid itself operates and the manner in which it is regulated -- are both sorely out of date. It is sometimes said that if Alexander Graham Bell came back today he would not recognize a phone. Not so if Thomas Edison came back. He would look proudly on his work -- for it has changed so little. That is not a good thing. We need a new, reinvented system that would make Steve Jobs proud -- one where you, the customer, have far more control; a system that is more "decentralized" using "distributed" clean energy sources; a system that is far less wasteful economically and environmentally.
I was grateful that the Governor's reliability task force recognized that we need to act "boldly" to help bring about this new energy future, and literally tasked the Energy Future Coalition with the job of coming up with recommendations on how we could move in that direction. Their work will be released any day now, and will set the stage for important conversations to follow.
In a filing I made with the Commission last week, I urged the Commission to open an investigation into "The Future of Maryland's Grid" and to assume the lead in bringing thought leaders from around the country to help us lay out a path towards a reinvented grid, which should include a close examination of the work of the Energy Future Coalition. My hope is that Montgomery County and our state can assume a leadership role nationally in realizing the benefits of Utility 2.0.
"Mirco-grids" are thought by many to be at the very heart of Utility 2.0, and we know that they work, and we know that they work here in Montgomery County. FDA has its own micro grid, and it has not lost power due to weather once since that grid was operationalized. It uses cleaner energy, produces fewer carbon emissions, is 99.99 percent reliable, is more energy efficient, and it produces net revenue for the government by virtue of its capacity to sell power into the grid. That is a future I am looking to see available more broadly, including at the neighborhood level.
Department of Energy State Energy Advisory Board March 14, 2013
Recently, I was given the honor and privilege of being appointed by the Obama Administration to join the 21-member State Energy Advisory Board (STEAB) to the U.S. Department of Energy.
In a board composed mostly of state energy directors, weatherization program heads, and academics, I am the only locally elected official to have been appointed. Our job is to advise the Assistant Secretary for renewables and energy efficiency on issues, issues that I certainly care deeply about. I look forward to doing so over the course of my 3 year term.
Residential Energy Rebate Efficiency Program September 28, 2011
As a result of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Montgomery County received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop programs to increase the energy efficiency of buildings. As a part of the grant $1.1 million dollars is now available for residential energy efficiency rebates. To date only $150,000 of those monies has been committed.
The Montgomery County Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program offers incentives to homeowners up to $3,000 to offset the cost of certain energy efficiency projects and products. Rebates are available on a first come, first served basis to individuals in single family homes, town homes and condominiums. Up to $3,000 per participant is available, on a one time basis, for energy-efficiency improvements. The minimum rebate amount that a participant can apply for is $500.
In order to apply for a Montgomery County rebate, an applicant must get an energy audit (or quick check for condominiums), a scope of work from a contractor for the improvements they plan to install, and complete an on-line application.
To get more information and to access an application, click here.
HELP Needs Help August 10, 2010
At our last Council session, the full Council approved the regulations that were necessary to implement the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) that I sponsored and our Council unanimously passed.
This program, based on similar programs that were started by local governments in California and other places in the Untied States, provides low-interest funds, up to $25,000, to eligible homeowners to retrofit your homes with cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. This program should allow you to reduce your utility bills and your greenhouse gas emissions by up to 33%, increase the value of your home, and create good, "green" jobs in Montgomery County. This is a win-win-win situation, which is why the legislation was supported by an unusual alliance of realtors, home construction companies, and the Sierra Club.
The cost of the measures installed is recovered through an annual property tax assessment. Spread out over 15 years, this property tax assessment, like other assessments used to recover the costs of sewers and other improvements, "runs with" the property, not the individual homeowner who makes the investment. It is this last aspect of the program that is critical to its success. If you as a homeowner were obligated to pay off the entire amount owed, you might naturally only make an investment that would pay for itself while you owned it. But if you can make an investment that is paid for by the next homeowner who will enjoy the benefits as well, all with proper notice of course, you will invest as much as is found to be cost-effective over the 15 year time horizon.
While Montgomery County is the only county in the Washington region to have adopted this program to date, 200 jurisdictions throughout the country are now in various stages of implementing programs like this. At least they were until .....
On July 6, the Federal Housing Financing Authority, the federal regulators who control $5.6 trillion (yes trillion) in mortgages provided by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, issued a statement in which it concluded that this use of property tax assessments by local governments was too radical for its tastes. They ruled that our program would violate a homeowner's mortgage unless consent was given, and that, among other things, any jurisdiction that implemented such a program would face higher costs of providing mortgages.
Needless to say, our county is not going to put you or any homeowner in such a position, so we have put our program on pause until this gets worked out. The State of California has sued FHFA, as have several local jurisdictions and the Sierra Club, arguing in part that FHFA has no basis to overturn a local government's determination of what is a proper property tax assessment. I have been working with a coalition of local governments across the country that are trying to find a way forward with FHFA, or failing that, asking Congress to intervene. I have written our excellent congressional delegation asking them to overturn FHFA's decision if FHFA can not be persuaded to do so voluntarily. I am going to do everything I can to fight for this program.