Bringing a Bright Idea to Life

May 14, 2012

Sometimes, great ideas spring from simple roots. In 2006, as Washington, DC resident Anya Schoolman was sitting at her kitchen table with her son and his friend discussing global warming, the boys wanted to know if “anyone was going to do anything about it?” -- which was followed by, “Why don't we get solar power in our neighborhood?” That was the start of the Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative, a Washington, DC-based organization with the simple goal of installing solar panels on houses in their community.

Their original plan was to get a group of neighbors interested and find a solar contractor to offer bulk discounts and install the panels. But dealing with the government and utility companies is rarely easy.

Kaye Scholer Partner Randy Speck, who has an active energy regulatory practice, learned about the group through contacts at the DC Public Service Commission and decided that Kaye Scholer was in a position to help the fledgling group.

Since 2009, Randy and associates in our Washington, DC office have represented the Co-op before the District of Columbia Public Service Commission, providing information and guidance while serving as advocates in their frequent dealings with the local utility company, Pepco, and the District government. After assisting the Co-op to obtain passage of new legislation offering sizable incentives to install solar facilities, Randy and Associate Kimberly Frank worked with various agencies to ensure that the statute was implemented properly. They have also helped the Co-op address implementation issues with Pepco and the DC Public Service Commission.

Other lawyers from the Kaye Scholer network have pitched in as particular issues arose:

  • New York Partner Laurie Abramowitz helped the Co-op to understand the federal tax benefits available to its members who installed solar facilities.

  • Chicago Associate Susan Rhee, working with New York Partner Madeleine Tan, drafted a shareholder proposal that was presented at Pepco’s shareholders meeting in order to raise concerns about the utility’s lack of responsiveness to solar issues in the District.

  • New York Counsel Patrick Michel and Washington, DC Associate Connie Ericson are currently assisting the Co-op in setting up a fund to enable low income and nonprofit organizations to make use of solar power.

Thanks to Kaye Scholer’s help, the Mt. Pleasant Solar Co-op has assisted 100 homes in the neighborhood in installing solar units and has helped start 10 other solar co-ops in the Washington, DC area, now under an umbrella organization, DC Sun. “It has been wonderful working with Kaye Scholer,” says Anya. “They believe in our work and have helped us overcome obstacles that at times seemed insurmountable.”

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