Washington Gas Light Co. plans to seek higher rates from its customers in Maryland, Virginia, and the District this year, company chairman Paul E. Reichardt revealed yesterday.

Speaking to more than 100 stockholders and officers at the Washington-based utility's annual meeting, Reichardt noted that higher rates in all three jurisdictions had taken effect during the final quarter of 1976, following approval of state regulatory agencies.

"But already we recognize the inadequacy of these new rate levels and later this year it will probably be necessary to file for further increases in all jurisdictions," he stated.

D.C.'s public service commission approved a $6.7 million rate boost effective last Nov. 1, Maryland's commission approved a $9.5 million increase effective Nov. 19 and Virginia's State Corporation Commission granted a 5 per cent surcharge on customer bills starting Oct. 1, pending a final decision not yet announced on WGL's request for an $8.6 million hike.

Although the full impact of the recently approved higher rates won't show up in the gas company's overall earnings until later in 1977, the increases did contribute to what Reichardt called "a substantial improvement" in profits last year to $17.2 million ($3.30 a share) compared with $10.8 million ($1.96) in 1975.

"But we don't plan for improvement to end at this point. Rather, our goal is to achieve a consistent advance from one year to the next for the foreseeable future," said Reichardt, whose firm's profitability has sagged in recent years because of a shortage of natural gas supplies and an inability to expand its base of customers.

Success in meeting the goal of higher annual profits will depend on securing an adequate supply of gas, keeping expenses under control and securing "a fair price for the gas we sell," Riechardt declared.

The costs of all energy services are rising and will continue to rise in an era of shortage and inflation, the gas company chief executive added. But natural gas will continue to enjoy a competitive advantage in the retail marketplace with oil heating costing one-third more than gas and electric heating double the cost of gas, he said.

"While the margin of advantage will probably decrease in the foreseeable future, our studies indicate that gas will continue, even with deregulation of wellhead prices of gas, too enjoy a favorable competitive position," said

In response to several questions by stockholders, many of whom also are the gas company's customers. Reichardt said he recognized that Washington Gas had not increased its dividend rate in recent "lean years" because of its relatively weak financial status.

"We know we are lagging behind the cost of living . . . the board [of directors] will continue to consider dividend policy in consonance with the financial condition of the company," he said.

Washington Gas has been paying a dividend on common stock of 47 cents per share quarterly since March 1973, when the rate was boosted from 45 cents.

Reichardt also revealed yesterday that his firm is studying possible implementation of an employee stock ownership plan.

Nearly 9 per cent of Washington Gas stockholders voted in favor of a resolution of professional investor and annual meeting gadfly Evelyn Y. Davis, which would have required the utility to furnish each year details on previous government employment by top officers. Davis, who said she has offered similar resolutions at 30 companies, said it was the largest percentage support for the idea yet recorded. More than 10 per cent of WGL owners favored another Davis proposal designed to prohibit political partisanship.