Join us at our upcoming lunch and learn webinar, where David Roodman and Ipsun VP Joe Marhamati will tell the story of how David worked to get D.C. to raise the size limit on solar projects.
Three years ago, DC resident David Roodman decided to replace the solar panels on his rowhouse, and we were thankful that he asked Ipsun to do it. His goal was to maximize production, both by replacing the older panels and microinverters with more efficient ones, and by designing the array to the maximum size allowed. But there was just one problem: DC law wasn’t clear about what that maximum size was.
Some states are very clear that a new solar system can only be designed to produce a certain percentage (100% or more) of the home’s annual energy demand. For example, in Virginia, the Virginia Clean Economy Act now allows solar systems to produce 150% of the annual energy demand.
But DC’s regulations were not nearly that straightforward. “I started doing my research,” Roodman said. “And the DC law for net metering said that the limit was ‘intended primarily for self-consumption’....meaning it was unclear what the exact limit was.”
Pushing the Limits
So he worked with Ipsun to do a little experiment. “I spoke with Joe at Ipsun, and he said, ‘Here’s what I think the limit is, but if you want to try to get a permit, we’re happy to walk that road with you and see what happens.’ He was ready to accommodate whatever the result was, so we submitted the paperwork for 120% and gave it a try.”
Pepco immediately rejected the application, which Roodman expected. This led to a process that is a great example of how involved and dedicated solar enthusiasts are, and how much power we can have if we are willing to put the work in.
“The next step was to file an informal complaint with the DC Public Service Commission,” Roodman said. “Joe came to the hearing with me. It seemed like even Pepco didn’t know the answer to the question, so it went to a formal complaint. I lost that. But a lawyer at the hearing encouraged me to file a complaint in an ongoing regulatory docket at the PSC. I took her advice.”
Roodman said he did his best to write up a complaint that looked similar to the other ones he saw filed at the PSC. “I tried to make it look lawyerly, with footnotes and the same font,” he joked. Other solar owners filed comments to back up his complaint.
Working together to create change
The PSC staff handled the comment he filed, and added the issue to the agenda of a new working group. “I was the only person there not in an official capacity, but it was really helpful. The group met about seven times over the course of about a year and a half. Joe came to several meetings to lend support, and eventually we had success.”
In August 2020, the PSC issued an order to raise the size limit on net metered systems thanks to David’s work. The ruling increased the limit immediately to 120% of customers' consumption, and will continue to increase by 20% per year for five years, reaching 200% in 2024. A customer whose generation exceeds consumption will be compensated for the excess generation at the wholesale price per kWh.
“Increasing the solar offset limit in DC was the product of hard work and dedication by the solar advocacy community,” Roodman said. “As a result we are one step closer to realizing the city's vision of a carbon free future. This is a lesson for all citizens that engaging with your government can yield real results that are pro-solar and pro-environment.”
Join us to learn more!
Roodman’s story is a great example of the difference one person can make, especially when they’re backed up by a group of grassroots advocates. If you’d like to talk to David and hear more about the story, talk about how to get involved in solar advocacy, or just talk solar in general, join us for our next Wednesday lunch and learn webinar! We’ll have David Roodman and our VP Joe Marhamati discussing the new DC regulations and much more. There’ll be a lot of opportunity for discussion, so please bring your questions and join us: Wednesday, December 16th, 12:00pm - 12:45pm.