Energy Incentive Programs, Washington DC

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Updated October 2015

What public-purpose-funded energy efficiency programs are available in the District of Columbia?

In 2008, the Council of the District of Columbia passed the Clean and Affordable Energy Act (CAEA), establishing the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), whose mission is to provide energy assistance to low-income residents and support energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The DCSEU, funded by the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (also created by the CAEA) and under contract to the DC Department of Energy & Environment (DoEE), helps District residents, businesses, and institutions save energy and money.

The DC SEU provides comprehensive energy services to large energy users, including federal facilities, that are replacing old equipment, renovating an existing building, or beginning new construction. These services, offered through the DC SEU's For My Business program, include custom and prescriptive rebates (covering HVAC, lighting, compressed air, refrigeration and food service, and other opportunities), technical and design assistance, and coordination of services to assist consumers, design professionals, vendors, and contractors in overcoming the barriers to installing energy-efficient equipment. The DCSEU can facilitate providing rebates to third parties to reduce the burden on federal agencies and improve project economics. For more information, visit or e-mail the DCSEU ( with your contact information and the subject "Federal Energy Management."

In 2014, nearly $18 million was budgeted for incentives activity in DC.

What utility energy efficiency programs are available to me?

DC utilities do not offer incentive programs that federal customers can take advantage of.

What load management/demand response options are available to me?

The PJM Interconnection (PJM), a regional transmission organization (RTO), offers several demand response programs. Two specific programs may be attractive to federal facilities in the PJM footprint:

  • PJM's emergency "capacity" program allows demand resources to participate in PJM's Reliability Pricing Model (RPM) forward capacity market via a curtailment service provider (any existing PJM member, such as their utility, a third-party electricity supplier, or a specialty CSP). Participants pledge to either reduce their load by a specified amount (guaranteed load drop, GLD), or to a specific kW level (known as firm service level, FSL), within one or two hours of an event notification. Load reductions are mandatory and may occur up to ten times per year, lasting up to six hours per event. Penalties for non-compliance are substantial. Remuneration is based on the results of the annual RPM capacity auctions in various PJM regions. Remuneration levels for the 2016-17 PJM year (which begins June 1, 2016) are in the $80,000 per MW range for DC customers. Participants are also eligible to receive energy payments for actual reductions, if and when the program is called.

  • The Economic Load Response program allows electricity users to provide load reductions in exchange for a payment based on hourly wholesale electricity prices. Participation is fully voluntary. Customers start by submitting load reduction bids (through their CSP) of at least 100 kW into the day-ahead energy market. Participants whose bids are accepted are paid for their load reductions based upon the day-ahead, hourly electricity market prices (the day-ahead "locational marginal price," or LMP). Reductions are figured based on a customer baseline load (CBL), which is essentially the average loads for the same hours in four of the facility's previous non-responding days. Regardless of which type of firm it is, the CSP will generally offer to split the revenues with the customer at a pre-determined percentage.

In both programs, participants can provide load reductions either through curtailing electricity use or by operating on-site generation consistent with local environmental regulations and permits.

What distributed energy resource options are available to me?

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) provides information on programs that offer incentives for renewable distributed generation. The following programs may be of interest to federal government facilities.

  • For PV and other types of solar projects, federal customers can take advantage of DC's renewable energy portfolio standard. Because DC has a large solar requirement, the city participates in a trading market whereby owners of solar PV installations can sell solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) representing the clean energy benefits of their solar systems. 2015 SRECs have been trading in the range of 45-50¢ per kWh recently (Fall 2015). Federal facilities can sell SRECs from their DC solar installations and buy back an equivalent number of generic, national RECs at a fraction of a cent per kWh, thereby augmenting the financing of their solar installation but still maintaining their contribution towards federal renewable energy goals. SRECs in the DC market are traded through PJM's Generation Attribute Tracking System in chunks of 1 MWh (1,000 kWh).

  • DC provides a property tax exemption for solar systems (including those for solar space and process heating) as well as for cogeneration/CHP installations. Although federal agencies cannot use this tax credit directly, it can be assigned to a tax-paying entity, such as a utility, energy service company (ESCO) or other project developer in exchange for price reductions on the deal.

Are there energy efficiency programs sponsored by DC government?

No city government energy efficiency programs are currently available to federal customers besides those offered by the DCSEU (see above). For information on potential future opportunities, consult the District Department of Energy & Environment's EnergySmart DC initiative.

What additional opportunities are available to me?

Federal customers whose utilities have area-wide supply contracts through GSA (e.g., PEPCO and Washington Gas), may be able to take advantage of 3rd-party financed energy efficiency projects called utility energy services contracts (UESCs). Information is available in GSA's Energy Division Library. Federal facilities should contact their account executive to determine the level of each utility's participation. Federal facilities should contact their account executive to determine the level of each utility's participation.

PJM (see above in the demand response section) now allows energy efficiency projects to participate in its forward capacity markets, based on its Reliability Pricing Model (RPM). To be eligible, energy efficiency projects must reduce load continuously by at least 100 kW during peak summer hours. This load reduction can be bid into PJM's annual (for three years in advance) and "residual" (nearer-term) capacity auctions, and if selected will receive the auction clearing prices. EE reductions are eligible for four years' worth of participation. Interested customers can participate through energy service companies conducting ESPCs or utilities executing UESCs at their sites.