Stakeholder Engagement in the Nation’s Capital | SEPA Skip to content

Stakeholder Engagement in the Nation’s Capital

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s recent celebration of the arrival of electric buses for the District of Columbia is the latest in D.C.’s leadership in the electrification of transportation. In fact, electricity first came to the nation’s capital over 100 years ago — in the late 19th century — when the citizens decided to install electric street cars.

Excess power from those vehicles was then sold to business and residential customers. The city’s utility, Potomac Electric Power Company, was originally founded by a private street car company, Washington Traction and Electric in 1896.

Clearly, a lot has changed since then. Streetcars have been replaced by automobiles, and Potomac Electric Company is now known mainly as Pepco. Locally and across the country, the electric power sector is again going through a transformation with the introduction of distributed energy resources (DERs). One thing has been constant throughout all this change: the criticality of consumer input in strategic decision making.

In the electric power industry, the term “stakeholder engagement” has traditionally been insider jargon for a policy-making process that has been largely bureaucratic, adversarial and not very accessible to the consumers — stakeholders — most affected by the outcome. Public utility commissions opened dockets and solicited statements from the main players — utilities, and various consumer and advocacy groups — who often had to be certified as official “intervenors.”

Getting in on the action also meant having the time and resources to engage in these proceedings.

But now we are in the midst of a disruption of the U.S. energy system — by distributed technologies such as solar, storage, advanced meters and other “smart” technologies. This transformation is being driven in part by customer demand, which has resulted in more open and customer-centric strategies for connecting with those who rely on and thus have compelling stakes in our electricity system.

We’ve seen REV in New York, NextGrid in Illinois and PowerForward in Ohio all tackle these difficult questions surrounding the future of the grid.

Next up is the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (DCPSC) Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS) initiative. SEPA is honored to be part of this effort. The opportunity to enable the transformation of our headquarters (and most of our staff’s households) electricity supply, through a particularly compelling stakeholder approach, is truly monumental.

SEPA will be kicking off the latest component of the MEDSIS initiative with a June 27 Technical Conference. We see this daylong meeting as an opportunity to unlock the D.C. community’s creativity and problem-solving abilities. The purpose of the day is two fold:

Determine the appropriateness of conducting a distribution system assessment in the District.
Determine the appropriate working groups to establish Phase 2 of the MEDSIS initiative

As clearly defined in the MEDSIS vision statement, our goal is nothing less than the creation of a modern, well-planned electric system that is sustainable, reliable, secure, affordable, interactive and nondiscriminatory.

Yes, we welcome everyone — and we do mean everyone .

A pivotal moment for DC’s electric system

The Technical Conference also comes at a pivotal moment in the evolution of the D.C. electric system.

D.C. faces some formidable challenges along this path to a clean and modern grid.  To start, powering the federal government takes about a quarter — 26 percent, to be precise — of D.C.’s total electricity generation. And those federal facilities include more critical infrastructure  — military installations, hospitals and high-level government buildings — than most jurisdictions. In other words, a resilient grid is essential to the city and the entire nation.

The city has also adopted a renewable portfolio standard — 50 percent by 2032 — and is committed to community shared renewables, Finally, D.C. has the highest penetration of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) — aka, smart meters — in the country, nearly 100 percent, which presents unique opportunities for data gathering and DER interconnection. Harkening back to its roots, Pepco has run an electric vehicle pilot. And while not new, Pepco is aggregating demand response for the PJM wholesale market.

The MEDSIS goals are attainable and this initiative will require stakeholders to work together to accomplish the vision.

SEPA brings to the table our experience in creating forums and platforms for cross-industry communication and collaboration. That is, we are really good at getting a broad range of stakeholders in rooms to talk and really listen to each other – so that we can identify the optimal innovative solutions and obtain as much consensus as feasible. Through our long standing and robust working groups, we have have established communities of experts combining their differing perspectives and expertise to develop best practice and the basis for industry standards.

One of the outcomes of the June 27 meeting will be the suggestions of several working groups to explore a full range of possible solutions to meet the MEDSIS vision. And again, we are encouraging participation by all residents, business and other stakeholders in the community.

While the task at hand may be a bit esoteric, and by no means simple to resolve, we have a rare opportunity to make an impact bigger and more long-lasting than any sports championship (though that was really cool) or even a major corporate headquarters.

So please, join us, and share your ideas, question, concerns, data, insights, and aspirations with us – we want to hear them.

The MEDSIS Technical Conference will take place 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., June 27, in the Commission Hearing Room at the DCPSC, 1325 G St., NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005. To register, visit the registration website here.