While more people live in Washington, D.C., than Wyoming, it’s not technically a state. Residents are represented by one U.S. house member who doesn’t have voting rights and have no representation in the senate. They weren’t allowed to vote in presidential elections until 1961.
The district is governed by a mayor and a 13-member city council, which can be vetoed by the United States Congress if need be.
Despite all of these anomalies, the district has a more aggressive incentive package for photovoltaic solar installations and energy efficiency improvements than many of the country’s “real” states. Net metering in the district is also far ahead of most "states".
And, really, it makes sense. The world looks to Washington, D.C. The district is meant to demonstrate America’s priorities. It’s home to the biannual solar decathlon, a solar home competition. It’s the stage for hot debates about old energy versus new clean energy solutions to climate change.
Washington, D.C., is also the site of the country’s most important house—the White House, where the president lives and works.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter sent a message to the American people by installing solar thermal panels on the roof of the White House. He meant to convey to the public that solar was a viable alternative energy source, accessible to the public.
“A generation from now,” Carter said in his dedication speech about the panels, “this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken—or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”
It turns out that the panels were more an “example of the road not taken” than anything else.
President Richard Reagan removed them and stuck them deep in a dark storage shed, from which they were unearthed almost 20 years later.
Fast-forward to 2010, and the most important house in the district and the country will get a new set of solar panels.
President Barrack Obama announced in September that he would install photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the White House. That announcement speaks to the viability of solar power and is accompanied by a slew of federal incentives to “go green,” which have been complimented by various state programs.
The great municipality on the Potomac may not be leading the nation in energy incentives, but it’s certainly holding its own. Here are a few of the available incentives.
|Technologies||Photovoltaics and Wind|
3 per watt for the first 3 kilowatts, $2 per watt for the next 7 kilowatts and $1 per watt for the next
10 kilowatts. Not to exceed $33,000
|Required Documentation||Prequalification application, receipts and contracts, including grid-tied agreement with a utility|
|Official Web Site||http://green.dc.gov/|
The Sustainable Energy Trust Fund is able to provide up to $2 million a year in rebate funding to D.C. residents who install new photovoltaic solar or wind power generation systems.
The systems must be grid-tied and cannot exceed the expected onsite use of the facility. The program is accessible to both residential and commercial applicants, though rebates cannot exceed $33,000 per installation. Government facilities and public schools are not eligible.
The program started in 2009 and is funded through September, 2012. The program does not offer rebates to companies installing systems on homeowners’ roofs with power purchase agreements. The property owner must wholly own the system. The rebate has to be used within six months of its receipt. Homeowners can apply for another six-month extension. If they do not apply for an extension or do not submit required documentation within six months, the District Department of the Environment will put a lien on the homeowner’s property.
|Program Type||Loan Program|
|Technologies||Specific technologies are not identified|
|Required Documentation||Application and compliance with program regulations|
|Official Web Site||http://green.dc.gov|
The Property Assessed Clean Energy program, PACE, allows homeowners to borrow money from their municipal financing district and pay it back over 10 to 20 years in their property tax bills. The D.C. program would allow applicants to borrow money from the city to pay for energy improvements, which could include anything from new appliances and window retrofits to a small solar or wind generation system.
In April, 2010, the DC mayor and city council approved the PACE program and set aside $250 million for energy improvement loans to homeowners. The argument for creating the program came from the revelation that 70 percent of the city’s energy consumption and 75 percent of its carbon emissions come from buildings. The program does not go online until early 2011, when more information, guidelines and rules for the program will be available.
|Program Type||Net Metering|
|Technologies||Photovoltaic, Solar Thermal, Wind, Biomass and Geothermal Electric|
|Amount||Retail rate up to 100 kilowatts|
|Required Documentation||Grid-tied system|
|Official Web Site||http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/detail/105|
The Washington, D.C., Public Service Commission first approved a net metering program in 1999 and has since updated and improved it. The system pays full retail value to residential and commercial customers who produce more energy than they use as long as their systems produce less than a total of 100 kilowatts. The payments are credited to the property owner’s next monthly bill. The credits may be carried forward indefinitely, but the commission will never pay the difference out in cash.
Systems that generate more than 100 kilowatts are credited at the generation rate, which is significantly lower than the retail rate.
Customers who participate in the program have to have a two-way meter that measures the flow of power in and out of the grid. The utility is authorized to install one of its own at the customer’s site.
The program caps out at 1 megawatt.