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Clean Energy Programs Benefitting Disadvantaged Communities

Thomas O'Connor's picture
President O'Connor Consulting Services, Inc

Senior energy/utility attorney possessing extensive public policy advocacy and analytical experience before local communities, the US Congress, state legislatures, PUCs and state energy agencies...

  • Member since 2021
  • 1 items added with 626 views
  • Jun 5, 2021

As an experienced former utility government and community relations director as well as an energy technology, renewable energy, energy efficiency and solar energy consultant and advocate with over 28 years in the utility, energy efficiency and renewable energy industries I am pleased to provide for the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (“Commission”) consideration the following suggestions to implement an innovative Energy Efficiency and Sustainability program consistent with Decision #1148 that will serve the low and limited income community of Washington, DC.

Given this background I would like to participate in any workshops to discuss these recommendations in greater detail.  In addition to this experience of developing utility ratepayer clean energy and energy efficiency technology development programs in low-income communities in California, and in financing large scale solar and energy efficiency projects I also served as a former inner city public school teacher in Boston and as a former Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Montague Academy for the Arts and Sciences in Pacoima, CA;  a charter school located in a low-income community within the city of Los Angeles.  Accordingly, I have a passion for bringing the benefits of these programs to the low-income community.  Therefore, I believe I can provide value to the strategic leadership in the development and operations of the innovative program the Commissions will ultimately adopt.

With that in mind I have attached for your and the Commission consideration a “White Paper” recommending the creation of a non-profit DC based organization whose mission would be to establish and maintain a community based program that would provide a portfolio of energy efficiency and sustainability programs designed to provide long -term affordable, reliable and clean resources of energy for the low-income and disadvantaged communities in Washington, DC.

I truly appreciate and thank the Commission for the opportunity to present these ideas and look forward to an opportunity for further discussion and consideration. 

Respectfully Submitted,

Thomas D. O’Connor, Esq.
5800 Owensmouth Ave., #34
Woodland Hills, CA  91367








In the Matter of the Investigation into the )

Establishment and Implementation of )

Energy Efficiency and Energy )

Conservation Programs Targeted )                                    Formal Case No. 1148

Towards Both Affordable Multifamily )

Buildings Which Include Low and )

Limited Income Residents in the District )

of Columbia


Executive Summary

I would recommend the creation of a non-profit DC based organization whose mission would be to establish and maintain a community based program that would provide a portfolio of various energy efficiency and sustainability programs designed to provide long -term affordable, reliable and clean resources of energy for the low-income and disadvantaged communities.  The non-profit status would enable the Commission to ensure that this organization would be able to leverage the $12 million with private donations from philanthropic entities and individuals whose mission is focused on improving education opportunities of inner city youth, promote climate change and related a sustainable living environment for low and disadvantaged communities or a combination of both objectives.

It is imperative that this fund not be used as a “one time expenditure”.  Consistent with the long-term mission of the proposed Non-profit organization, these funds rather should be leveraged and cost-shared with other related PSC funding programs, Washington, DC housing funds and philanthropic donations.


This new organization would perform the following functions:  Programs Operations; Finance, Fundraising; and Government and Community Affairs; all supported by a highly competent administrative staff capable of performing multiple cross -disciplines; such as Human Resources, Finance and Legal.  

The programs offered by this new organization would entail:

  1. Low Income Residential Energy Efficiency
  2. Multiple Affordable Solar Housing and Energy
  3. Community Energy Efficiency and solar for renters
  4. Other Low Income Community-based Entities
  5. School Based Energy Efficiency and Solar programs


  1. The Low Income Residential Energy Efficiency program would entail using the industry’s best practices for direct installation of energy efficiency measures installation, and project evaluation, measurement and verification.  As a community based program, the Low Income Residential effort would target community health centers, single family homes and multiple affordable family housing units.  Furthermore, other potential participants would include Neighborhood Boys & Girls Clubs, Veteran’s homes and Shelters.  These program beneficiaries also would be eligible to participate in an EV sharing program.  This program also would enlist the help of Social Justice and Neighborhood Housing advocates to optimize the number of participants.


    1. Multiple Affordable Solar Housing and Energy Efficiency (MASHEE)

The MASHEE program would provide fixed, up front, capacity-based incentives for qualifying solar energy systems to achieve the following goals and objectives:

  • Stimulate the adoption of solar power with energy efficiency in the affordable housing sector;
  • Improve energy utilization and overall quality of affordable housing through the application of solar and energy efficiency technologies;
  • Decrease electricity use and costs without increasing monthly household expenses for affordable housing building occupants;
  • Increase awareness and appreciation of the benefits of solar among affordable housing occupants and developers. 
  • Maximize the overall benefit to ratepayers;
  • Require participants who receive monetary incentives to enroll in a Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) program, and
  • Provide job training and employment opportunities in the solar energy and energy efficiency sectors of the economy.

The Program Administrator (as a third party vendor/contractor) for the MASHEE program should possess the following qualifications:

  • possess a long history of renewable and energy efficiency program delivery that includes program design and start up, outreach, education, marketing, trade ally management, and regulatory and legislative support.  
  • This experience should include designing and implementing one of the same or similar programs and services in the country.  Such experience would include conducting a range of programs from small pilot programs to large developed programs.


    1. Community Renewables for Renters

Amend the Community Renewable Program the PSC adopted in 2013 to set aside certain number of MWs dedicated to renters who live in low -income and multiple affordable housing units and developments.  For renters to participate in this program, their low-income and multiple affordable housing landlords would receive program funding based on required audits and then use those funds to retrofit those units if necessary with the latest commercially available energy efficiency measures.  It is important to the mission of this program that renters pay for only the solar they need based on using the best applicable energy efficiency equipment and controls such as but not limited to HVACs, lighting, solar heating and energy systems, and web based thermostats.


    1. EV Sharing For Low Income and Disadvantaged Communities

In concert with the DC Alternative Fuel Vehicle Conversion Credit the Commission through this non-profit organization should establish and implement an EV Car Sharing program for Low -Income and Disadvantaged Communities, similar to a pilot program in Los Angeles that started last year.  That pilot program is being conducted with the Bollorè Group who operates a similar program in Indianapolis, to operate an electric carsharing program that will add 100 vehicles and 200 charging stations and wants to deploy 1.5 million electric vehicles around California by 2025.  The pilot program will be paid for with $1.67 million in grant funds from the California Air Resources Board and $1.82 million from the city.  The Bollorè Group will initially invest at least $10 million.


Similar to the Los Angeles effort, this proposed program could initially commence with a pilot program recruiting an estimated a significant number of new EV users from residents in disadvantaged communities by community based organizations.  It would provide affordable last mile/first mile solutions for low-income families and other residents who do not own a car or need a second car for trips requiring a light duty passenger vehicle. 


    1. Low-Income Entities

In addition to targeting Low Income homes and multiple affordable housing units this program, this program through collaboration with low-income housing and veteran support groups should also focus on community low-income support groups such as community health centers, Veterans’ and Homeless Shelters; Veterans’ Housing, and Boys & Girls Clubs.  These facilities would undergo audits to qualify for energy retrofits that would include the installation of a variety of energy efficiency measures such as HVAC systems, lighting, double paned windows, insulation, thermostats, and solar hot water and energy systems.


    1.  School Based Solar .and Energy Efficiency Programs Supported by Community Outreach

Generally speaking, most schools serve as the community anchor for most low-income families.  In addition to the educational environment schools also offer pre -and after school activities from providing breakfast, to offering after school exercise and arts and craft programs as well providing academic support. Thus, this type of site would be ideal to teach school children the related themes of sustainability, climate change, solar energy and saving energy. 

Similar to a program in California, the non-profit could conduct an innovative Sustainable Schools program in which DC schools could qualify for energy efficiency audits and retrofits.  This program would entail providing a grant to participating schools to conduct energy audits from which energy efficiency measures would be installed.  After the installation of these retrofits, each participating school could hold a sustainability themed dedication centered around a science fair in which all the students in that particular school would write essays, create songs and posters.  School families and local community leaders would be invited to participate in the dedication.

Public schools, charter schools, Faith based schools and day care centers would qualify for this program.


Roles and Responsibilities

The CEO of the non-profit organization would serve as the direct report for the Directors of the following functional departments.

  1. Program Operations
  2. Fundraising
  3. Collaborative Funding Development
  4. Public and Community Affairs
  5. Administrative: Finance, Legal and Human Resources


  1. Programs Operations and Management

This department would manage the energy efficiency and clean energy programs previously mentioned above.  Through a fully transparent procurement process compliant with current City procurement rules and regulations, the Director would identify, seek and manage 3rd party Energy Efficiency and Solar Program Administrators (PA) experienced in designing and managing multi-million dollar low -income energy efficiency and solar programs.  The PA also would be experienced in conducting Evaluation, Measurement and Verification of the effectiveness of the installed energy efficiency measures for programs similar in scale.  The PAs in turn would conduct city complaint RFPs to identify, seek and manage solar energy and energy efficiency contractors.


  1. Collaborative Funding Development and Strategic Partnerships

The Mission of this department would be to leverage existing funds by raising matching public and private funds.  Specifically, this department would seek public collaborative cost-sharing opportunities with both the federal government through the USDOE and HUD and the City especially through the City’s Clean Energy DC Program.  This approach also would ensure that the new program would not be redundant with existing City energy related funding programs.  Rather, the program focus would act to complement and supplement those existing programs.

The Director of this department also would be responsible for developing strategic partnerships with private and corporate endowments, individual donors and private financing firms.  The value of being a Non-profit organization would be to identify and solicit private donations from endowments and individual donors who target inner city and community based programs for their philanthropy.  Wealthy individuals and finance firms also could provide 3rd party financing for the installation of larger scale solar energy and energy efficiency projects where those individuals and firms would benefit from beneficial tax benefits such as the 30% Federal tax credit and depreciation as well as from a reasonable ROI.


  1. Public and Community Affairs.  (PCA)

The Mission of this department would be to create and implement effective Community outreach strategies to garner government, grassroots and community support.  This department would develop and implement effective government relations strategies with key decisionmakers such as DC City Council, The Mayor’s Office, the Federal government, such as the US Department of Energy, HUD and the US Congress.

Additionally, the PCA Department would implement effective community outreach programs that would inform and educate the public, while targeting affordable and low-income communities on the benefits of participating in the program.  Such efforts would entail utilizing various traditional and social media contacts and platforms. Furthermore, it would engage in NGO outreach to such groups as Low Income advocates, Neighborhood councils, PTOs, Neighborhood Faith Based Organizations and charter school advocates.


The Commission should seize this opportunity to provide long -term affordable, reliable and clean energy resource solutions benefiting the low-income and limited income Washington, DC communities. For the Commission to successfully meet this mission it is essential that it create a non-profit DC based organization dedicated to establishing and maintaining a community based program that would provide and sustain a portfolio of energy efficiency and sustainability programs benefitting low income and limited income communities for generations to come. 




Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 7, 2021

recommending the creation of a non-profit DC based organization whose mission would be to establish and maintain a community based program that would provide a portfolio of energy efficiency and sustainability programs designed to provide long -term affordable, reliable and clean resources of energy for the low-income and disadvantaged communities in Washington, DC.

Honestly, I'm surprised such a program doesn't already exist. Having spent a decade in DC in the energy space, I know there's a ton of people who highly prioritize these issues and recognize the power of community-based efforts. Best of luck in this process!

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jun 7, 2021

Tom great program. We need to help in this segment since they suffer from the pollution the most. Their homes are not usually the most efficient. They gain gain the most from simple passive items like solar screens. Radiant barrier and LED lights. More insulation is also a great easy savings. 

Benjamin Burdick's picture
Benjamin Burdick on Jun 23, 2021

The District of Columbia actually already has a program called the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) that has been operating for the last decade. The DCSEU, which is operated by the nonprofit energy efficiency and renewable energy organization VEIC under contract to the District Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), offers extensive energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and services to residential and commercial customers. The DCSEU is unique among energy efficiency utilities in that it combines energy savings goals with social equity goals, which includes a mandate on investing a certain percentage of funding in low-income communities. Since 2012, the DCSEU has invested more than $50 million in energy efficiency in low-income communities. The DCSEU's overall work also has the added benefit of creating more than 700 jobs for DC residents since 2012 (all paid at least DC's Living Wage). In addition, since 2019, the DCSEU has operated DOEE’s Solar for All program, which aims to bring the benefits of solar energy to 100,000 low- to moderate-income families in the District by 2032. You can read more about the DCSEU at Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 23, 2021

Thanks for the additional info!

Thomas O'Connor's picture
Thank Thomas for the Post!
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