Now that Vepco has asked for an unprecedented 25 percent electric rate increase could Northern Virginians fight back by switching their business to Pepco, which now supplies electricity to the District of Columbia and its Maryland suburbs?
This intriguing notion has been proposed to local officials in Northern Virginia by Diane Worthington, chairman of Virginia Consumer Congress, which has led the citizen opposition to the rate increase that Vepco (the Virginia Electric and Power Co.) has proposed.
"We suggest they set up a blue ribbon committee to study whether it's legal, what it would take to do it, and whether we'd save any money," said Worthington yesterday.
The chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, John F. Herrity, said he thinks the idea is "worth exploring." Supervisor James M. Scott said he thinks the idea is "very creative (and) one that the board definitely ought to pursue."
Herrity was one of many Northern Virginia officials to receive a letter from Worthington making the suggestion.
Pepco (the Potomac Electric Power Co.) is noncommital on the whole idea and Vepco, naturally, is somewhat less than enthusiastic about it.
"For more than 60 years Vepco has been franchised by the Commonwealth of Virginia to engage in the retail electric business," said Vepco's northern division vice president, James P. Cox, in a formal repsonse to Worthington's suggestion. He said the company has performed its work "responsibly and efficiently," investing "literally hundreds of millions of dollars in facilities to serve the citizens of (Northern Virginia). We would not willingly give them up."
Cox said the question of whether Vepco would be willing to sell its fascilities in Fairfax County came up several years ago and, "We made it clear we were not interested."
Most everybody agrees - theoretically, at least - that a switch woulbe possible if approved by the utility regulatory commissions in each jurisdiction. It is not unusual for one electric company to serve several jurisdictions, and Pepco already serves 2,836 customers in Rosslyn.
The question is whether a switch would save any money for anybody. Worthington's letter to Herrity says that, "At the present, Vepco customers in Northern Virginia are paying substantially more for their power than their neighbors in the areas served by Pepco."
However, this does not appear to be ture.Pepco chargs a residential customer an average of 4.86 cents for a kilowatt hour of electricity as opposed to only 4.5 cents that Vepco charges, according to information provided by the two companies.
The Pepco figure is higher for its customers in Maryland (5 cents) and Virginia (5.59 cents) than for those in the District (4.4 cents), a company spokesman said.
Worhington could provide no figures yesterday to confute those provided by the companies. "All we can do is ask" to explore the situation, sne said. "It certainly can't hurt."