Last Updated October 27, 2014
District of Columbia
Public Benefits Fund
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
The District of Columbia's Retail Electric Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 1999 required the DC Public Service Commission (PSC) to establish a public benefits fund to provide energy assistance to low-income residents, and to support energy-efficiency programs and renewable-energy programs. This fund, known as the Reliable Energy Trust Fund (RETF), took effect in 2001. In October 2008, the District of Columbia enacted the Clean and Affordable Energy Act (CAEA), which effectively eliminated the RETF and replaced it with the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF). This program will be administered by a third-party “Sustainable Energy Utility” (SEU) which will be selected to develop, coordinate, and provide programs for the purpose of promoting the sustainable use of energy in the District of Columbia.
The SETF is financed by a non-bypassable surcharge on the electric and natural gas bills of utility customers who are not Residential Aid Discount (RAD) or Residential Essential Service (RES) customers. The surcharge for natural gas customers is calculated on a per therm basis and is assessed at $0.011 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, $0.012 in FY 2010, and $0.014 in FY 2012 and each subsequent year. The surcharge for electric customers is calculated on a per-kilowatt-hour basis and is assessed at $0.0011 in FY 2009, $0.0013 in FY 2010 and $0.0015 in FY 2011 and each subsequent year. The October 2008 legislation also established a separate Energy Assistance Trust Fund (EATF). The EATF collects a surcharge of $0.006/therm from natural gas sales. It collects $0.0000607/kWh from electric sales in general, plus an additional assessment $0.00069/kWh for June - September 2010. Electricity collections were formerly set at $0.0004/kWh, but the law regarding the EATF surcharge was amended in 2010.
In the past, the RETF program supported weatherization measures; appliance replacements for low-income residents; RAD extension; LIHEAP expansion and education; energy efficiency for small businesses, institutions and non profits; ENERGY STAR appliance and lighting rebates, home energy ratings and loan promotions, public education and outreach, distributed generation and net metering; and renewable-energy demonstration projects. The program website listed at the top of this page contains a detailed history of the RETF/SETF.
Per DC Code § 8-1774.01, the Mayor, through the District Department of the Environment (DDOE), is charged to contract with a Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) to conduct sustainable energy programs on behalf of DC. In March of 2011, the SEU contract, which is designed to administer sustainable energy programs in the District, was awarded by the DC Council to Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), a non-profit organization. VEIC has partnered with dozens of local organizations to implement the program, with VEIC principally responsible for program-design and management. In the first year of the contract, VEIC is required to implement energy-saving measures in low-income multifamily homes, to arrange for energy-saving installations in commercial buildings, and to create green jobs, among many other initiatives. VEIC operates a similar program in Vermont and also has helped set up programs in Oregon, Delaware, and Maine. An annual independent review of the performance of the SEU is to be conducted beginning in FY2012, under § 8-1774.05(k) of the D.C. Code.
This SETF is projected to eventually amount to about $20 million a year, plus any money from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Specific annual funding levels are set for existing electricity programs, temporary electricity programs, existing natural gas programs, renewable energy incentives, and energy efficiency programs (administered by PEPCO). Like the RETF that it replaced, unused SETF funding will carry over to the following year rather than lapsing at the end of the fiscal year. As amended, the EATF is expected to collect $2.3 million annually for existing low-income assistance programs and $5.2 million in 2010 for a new Residential Aid discount subsidy. Related PSC documents are available at the web site listed above, or in the E-docket Section of the PSC website under Formal Case (FC) 945.