Hearings will continue through Friday on a Pepco rate hike request for its District of Columbia customers that would raise the typical residential bill by about $5 a month.
The total increase sought by the electricity provider is $42.5 million, which the company has said it needs in order to replace aging equipment, improve reliability and prepare for growth in its customer base.
The company also has a pending rate case before Maryland utility regulators asking for a $68.4 million increase that would up a typical residential customer’s monthly bill by about $5.50.
Since 2010, Pepco officials have acknowledged long-standing reliability problems and begun upgrading equipment, expanding tree trimming and enhancing customer service centers as part of a five-year, multimillion-dollar effort to improve performance. The improvement plan addresses issues identified in a 2010 analysis by The Washington Post that found Pepco ranks as one of the worst utility companies in the nation when it comes to keeping the power on and bringing it back once it goes out, even on sunny days.
District regulators estimate they could make a decision by April on the rate increase request Pepco filed in July.
The District hearings start at 10 a.m. before the District of Columbia Public Service Commission and can be followed live at the commission’s Web site. The hearings also are open to the public at the commission offices at 1333 H Street NW.
Pepco filed its Maryland request in December, and Maryland regulators estimate their review would continue through late June or July.
In December, the Maryland Public Service Commission fined Pepco $1 million after regulators concluded Pepco had failed to maintain its power lines for years, resulting in prolonged outages during storms and on fair-weather days. The commission said that Pepco compounded its failings by communicating poorly with customers.
The Maryland regulators described the fine as the commission’s largest ever and only its “initial” penalty for the company, saying additional fines could follow if the company failed to improve.
Though large, the fine represented a small percentage of the company’s revenue in a given year. In the third quarter of 2011, it took Pepco Holdings about a day and a half to earn $1 million, according to the company’s government filings.
Pepco delivers power to 778,000 customers in the District and neighboring parts of Maryland.