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Pepco is looking to increase its electricity rates. Under an intricate plan from Pepco, D.C. residents could see their bill raise by at least $96 per year on average, according to the Office of the People’s Counsel. (The office is an independent government agency that represents the interest of the city’s utility customers.)
Pepco first filed its multi-million dollar proposal in May 2019, when the company asked the DC Public Service Commission to change the way it sets rates by allowing the company to automatically increase rates each year over a three-year period.
A lot has changed since Pepco requested a $162 million rate increase. For starters, the company reduced its proposal to $135.9 million. But more importantly, the coronavirus pandemic has led to massive job losses and job insecurity.
“That is completely unacceptable,” says Johanna Bozuwa, with We Power DC and The Democracy Collaborative, of Pepco’s plan to raise rates during the pandemic. “They are also nowhere near to meeting their climate goals,” she adds. D.C.’s 2019 law requires utility providers to derive 100 percent of their energy supply from renewable sources by 2032.
Bozuwa believes Pepco’s proposal is symptomatic of a for-profit corporation having a monopoly over D.C.’s utility. “We want to own our utility. We want to break ties with Pepco completely—kick them out of D.C.—and institute our own publicly owned utility that then would be run for the people of D.C., would be nonprofit … and, as a publicly owned utility, would also not have that same influence over politics,” she says.
We Power DC’s ultimate goal is for D.C. to have a set-up like Nebraska, where everyone receives electricity from a public institution rather than a private company. In the immediate future, We Power DC is asking the Public Service Commission to reject Pepco’s proposal.
A host of other stakeholders—from the Office of the People’s Counsel to landlords to solar power enthusiasts—have also called on the city’s regulators to direct Pepco to scrap its plan because its proposal to increase rates “has been riddled with errors, missteps, and false information from the start” and has devolved into an “evidentiary and procedural mess that is a waste of public resources.” Instead, OPC recommends that the Public Service Commission approves a traditional plan where the company gets a rate increase of no more than $21 million.
In a statement via email, a spokesperson for Pepco says: “We know this is a difficult and unprecedented time for our customers and communities that we are privileged to serve. The plan we proposed provides significant support mechanisms, including extension of current shareholder funded customer credit and acceleration of tax credits so that customers experience no change in overall distribution rates for more than 18 months – at least until 2022. It also proposes extended payment arrangements, financial support for small businesses, nonprofits and houses of worship through discounted rates and payment plans and increases opportunities for customer participation in the Residential Aid Discount program and expansion of the company’s arrearage management program.”
The Public Service Commission is holding a community hearing on Pepco’s plan today at 2 p.m. To testify or tune in, check out the quasi-judicial agency’s website. At least 106 people plan on testifying. If regulators approve one of three Pepco applications, the rate increase is likely to take effect in the spring of 2021.
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
Correction: The story originally said regulators rejected Pepco’s $162 million rate increase. But the company proactively changed its proposal and reduced its rate increase to $135.9 million.
This post was also updated to include comment from Pepco.
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