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Renewables Portfolio Standard

Investor-Owned Utility
Retail Supplier
Savings Category 
Fuel Cells using Renewable Fuels
Solar Water Heat
Program Info
District of Columbia
Program Type 
Renewables Portfolio Standard
DC Public Service Commission

In January 2005, the District of Columbia Council enacted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that applies to all retail electricity sales in the District. In October 2008 the RPS was amended by the [ Clean and Affordable Energy Act (CAEA) of 2008]. Significantly, this legislation increased the percentage and number of benchmarks that utilities must meet, included solar water heating as an eligible technology, increased the alternative compliance payment and amended reporting requirements. In August of 2011, the RPS was further amended by passage of both the [ Emergency Distribution Generation Amendment Act](B19-0384) and the [ Distributed Generation Amendment Act] (B19-10), which increased the solar carve out from .4% to 2.50% by 2023. Following a Congressional Review Period, The Distributed Generation Amendment Act became D.C. [ Law 19-36] on October 20,2011.

Subsequent to these major changes, more minor amendments clarifying the eligibility of solar thermal facilities located within the District, and geographic eligibility of renewable resources in general were made by D.C. Law 18-0223 in 2010. These changes are not yet reflected in the associated administrative regulations although the law states that the provisions of the law apply as of October 1, 2010. Further amendments were made by D.C. Law 18-0303 in March 2011 to clarify the certification requirements for non-residential solar thermal systems.

District energy suppliers must meet the RPS by obtaining renewable energy credits (RECs) that equal the percentage requirement for electricity sold or by paying specified compliance fees. DC's RPS involves a two-tiered system. “Tier 1” renewable resources include solar (electric or thermal), wind, biomass, landfill gas, wastewater-treatment gas, geothermal, ocean (mechanical and thermal) and fuel cells fueled by "Tier 1" resources. Solar thermal installations must generally use Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) certified components in order to qualify as an eligible resource. “Tier 2” renewable resources include hydropower (other than pumped-storage generation) and municipal solid waste. Although it is currently an eligible Tier 2 resource, municipal solid waste incineration may not be used to meet more than 20% of Tier 2 requirement during a given year and beginning in 2013 municipal solid waste will no longer be eligible to generate Tier 2 RECs. After 2019, Tier 2 renewable resources will not be allowed to be applied toward meeting annual RPS requirements.

Specific minimum percentages of retail electricity sales must come from eligible renewables according to the following schedule:

Year Tier I Tier II Solar
2007 1.5% 2.5% 0.005%
2008 2.0% 2.5% 0.011%
2009 2.5% 2.5% 0.019%
2010 3.0% 2.5% 0.028%
2011 4.0% 2.5% 0.40%
2012 5.0% 2.5% 0.50%
2013 6.5% 2.5% 0.50%
2014 8.0% 2.5% 0.60%
2015 9.5% 2.5% 0.70%
2016 11.5% 2.0% 0.825%
2017 13.5% 1.5% 0.98%
2018 15.5% 1.0% 1.15%
2019 17.5% 0.5% 1.35%
2020 20.0% 0.0% 1.58%
2021 20.0% 0.0% 1.85%
2022 20.0% 0.0% 2.175%
2023 20.0% 0.0% 2.50%

Based on the final rulemaking issued by the PSC in case [ 945-E-2581], it appears that the solar requirement is contained within the Tier 1 requirement, meaning that a solar REC used to comply with the solar requirement may also be used to meet the Tier 1 requirement. Energy from Tier 1 resources is eligible for inclusion in meeting the RPS regardless of when the generating system or facility was activated. Per 945-E-2581, to become a certified solar energy system the system capacity must not be larger than 5MW and must either be located within the District or in locations served by a distribution feeder serving the District. Solar energy systems larger than 5MW or not located within the District and not approved prior to February 1, 2011 were decertified by the Commission. Tier 1 energy may be applied to the percentage requirements of the standard for either Tier 1 or Tier 2 renewable resources. RECs have a three-year lifetime from the date of generation during which they are valid for compliance under the standard. The PSC RPS working group will identify any renewable energy resource that has been both certified by another PJM state and is eligible for participation within the D.C. RPS. Annual filings on Tier 1 and Tier 2 eligibility matrices will include this information and will be made available by February 1 of each year.

Certain renewable resources have in the past received preferential treatment through the use of compliance multipliers. Before January 1, 2007, electricity suppliers received 120% credit toward meeting the RPS for energy generated by wind or solar. Between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2009, electricity suppliers received 110% credit for energy generated by wind or solar. Before January 1, 2010, electricity suppliers received 110% credit for energy generated by landfill methane or wastewater-treatment methane. Suppliers that fail to comply with the requirements must pay $0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of shortfall from required Tier 1 resources, $0.01 for each kWh of shortfall from Tier 2 resources. Solar energy sources have an unique set of shortfall payment requirements, from 2011 through 2016 at $.50 per kWh, $0.35 in 2017, $0.30 in 2018, $0.20 in 2019 and 2020, $0.15 in 2021 and 2022, and $0.05 in 2023 and thereafter. Alternative compliance fees are deposited into the D.C. Renewable Energy Development Fund and may be used to provide support to renewable energy projects. Energy supply contracts entered into prior to August 1, 2011 will not be subject to the increased solar requirements.

In December 2005 the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted interim regulations governing the implementation of the RPS, including the application and transfer of RECs.* The PSC issued final regulations in January 2008 which require that each electricity supplier submit an annual compliance report detailing the quantities and types of renewable energy purchased and any compliance fees owed. Under these regulations, renewable energy generators must be certified as eligible by the PSC, but system owners may complete an expedited certification process if the generator has been previously certified by an eligible state with similar resource requirements. Further proposed rule changes were issued by the PSC in April 2009 to address the legislative changes made by the CAEA of 2008 with final revised rules adopted in September 2009. In March 2012, the PSC issued Order 16738 and formal rules 945-E-2581 to address to legislative changes outlined in the Distributed Generation Act of 2011 (D.C. Law 19-36).

The RPS program website contains a detailed summary of legislative and regulatory actions since the inception of the program.

''*Electricity suppliers were permitted by statute to begin receiving and accumulating RECs on January 1, 2006. Effective October 1, 2010, RECs must be purchased from resources located within the PJM Interconnection region or within a state adjacent to the PJM Interconnection region. This portion of the law was amended by D.C. Law 18-0223 in July 2010 to remove confusing language pertaining to RECs associated with electricity delivered into the PJM Interconnection region from an adjacent control area. These terms are defined in greater detail in the rules adopted by the PSC.''