Cleaning Up DC’s Renewable Energy Law

This fall, Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and Clean Currents are urging  the D.C. City Council to clean up the District’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and to promote the cleanest sources of energy — wind and solar.

Thirty states in the US have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). The RPS mandates that utilities purchase a certain percentage of renewable energy, generally ranging from 1% – 20% of their fuel mix. These standards help bring more clean energy online and establish a more secure market for clean energy development.

Currently, the DC RPS classifies old, high-emission black liquor and inefficient wood waste under their Tier 1 renewable energy standard. Therefore, these old, dirty sources of power are attributed to the RPS. Several Mid-Atlantic States, including Delaware and New Jersey, already get over 70% of their renewable energy portfolios from wind and solar power. However, the opposite is true for DC. For the past seven years, black liquor and wood waste made up 68% of DC’s RPS. Only 12% came from wind and solar power.

What are Black Liquor and Wood Waste?

Black liquor is an industrial by-product of the pulp and paper industry that has been converted to electricity since the 1930′s. Wood waste biomass consists of mill residues, brush, yard waste, pallets, and leftovers from the timber industry. Almost all of the wood that currently qualifies for the DC RPS is burned at facilities constructed before the RPS law was even enacted.

Because black liquor and wood waste facilities that qualify for the RPS were built decades ago, they are not contributing to a reduction in CO2 or other pollutants. Part of the intent of the RPS is to incentivize investment in new facilities that bring additional power to the grid. By classifying these existing facilities under the RPS, they are displacing investment in newer, cleaner renewable options.


Closing the Loophole

Currently, the DC RPS is on track to reduce .3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. That’s equal to removing about 62,000 cars from the road. However, if we remove black liquor and wood waste, DC’s RPS will reduce 1.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions — equal to removing about 230,000 cars from the road.

The solution is simple: The D.C. City Council should pass legislation to limit old and polluting energy sources under the District’s renewable energy law. It is now up to organizations like CCAN and the people of D.C. to tell the City Council to close the RPS loophole.

You can take action by signing the petition: Tell the City Council to clean up D.C.’s renewable energy law.