We have been building the DCSEU for nearly a decade now. We have built relationships, experience, expertise, and programs that have contributed to the achievement of the DCSEU’s nationally recognized goals. Building up the DCSEU has also helped us address the special challenges those goals present. We’ve done all this by asking a persistent question: “How can we help?”
How can we help District residents and businesses uncover energy savings that free up cash and capital? How can we help unemployed and underemployed DC residents get the training and experience they need to pursue careers in the green economy? How can we help District contractors use our programs to strengthen their businesses?
We entered this year in a strong position to be able to achieve or exceed all of our cumulative benchmarks by the end of FY 2021. Between FY 2017 and FY 2019, the DCSEU helped customers:
- Save 375,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity
- Save 6.8 million therms of natural gas
- Install 11,000 kilowatts (kW) of solar capacity (not including capacity from the more recent Solar for All program)
- Cut electricity bills in half for more than 1,800 low- to moderate-income residents through our work on Solar for All
During that same period, we had also secured funding from Washington Gas to help the affordable housing community reduce their natural gas use. We had no idea how crucial all of this would be until March 2020.
When the District began implementing restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the DCSEU staff immediately began to work remotely. With a good portion of our work normally occurring in person—doing building assessments and inspections, meeting with clients and contractors, and attending community events—we quickly had to pivot and find ways to continue safely serving our customers and keeping their projects moving. Within the first month, we began protecting our customers, staff, and contractors by using protocols for working safely, based on the guidelines from the District and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We figured out how to continue working with customers and contractors, assessing projects and checking in regularly via video conference, e-mail, and phone. We worked with the District Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) to design remote inspection protocols, thus ensuring customer projects could be completed, and incentives and rebates could be distributed in a timely way. We also designed safety protocols and acquired personal protective equipment (PPE) for our staff, so that they could conduct site visits when restrictions might be lifted later. Our ability to quickly pivot our operations, keep projects moving, and keep in close contact with our customers and contractors has paid off.
Many businesses have faced and are continuing to face uncertain futures and long recovery times. Residents have faced and are continuing to face rising unemployment. However, we—the staff at the DCSEU—have approached these conditions, our customers, our partners, and our contractors with that ever-important question: “How can we help?” We are determined to make a positive impact in our most vulnerable communities, help businesses reduce their operating costs, and to create green job opportunities for DC residents. And we continue to be here for you.
None of us is out of the woods, yet. As we enter the next year and celebrate the DCSEU’s tenth anniversary, we believe the DCSEU is well positioned to play a vital role in the District’s recovery and resilience, and to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever, ready to meet the persistent challenge of climate change head on.