The Post's editorial of July 8 on "Blackouts" leaves more unsaid than said. Granted, no one wants to see the power companies have to resort to blackouts because of excessive demand when we are unwilling to adopt conservation measures or compromise in plant sitings so the companies can bring sufficient generators on line to cope with demand. But we need to be honest and to recognize where most of the demand is coming from and who the biggest culprits are.

Pepco selected the District's Southeast area for its blackout. This leaves one to wonder if the reason was to convince the residents of the need for new generators at their Benning Road plant or if Pepco chose to impose an inconvenience on those least able to protest or do anything about it.

The icing on the cake of this episode was Channel 9's news coverage of the blackout. The video of the blackout area began with scenes of some of the worst of the Southeast's tenements with sweltering residences clearly visible, then it shifted to the Watergate with an unseen reporter telling us that a Pepco official said the blackouts were necessary to ensure adequate power to other areas of the city.

A picture is worth a thousand words.


The Post tells readers that "you wouldn't want to see blackouts become a regular on hot afternoons, and you certainly wouldn't want to see those blackouts lengthen." What we really want to see is utilities providing reliable power at the least cost to consumers.

The Post attributes to "bad luck" the fact that the two Calvert Cliffs nuclear power reactors are down. Is it "bad luck" that put Calvert Cliffs on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "watch list" of problem plants for safety hazards? Perhaps Baltimore Gas and Electric is not lucky enough to avoid poor planning and mismanagement.

Is it also bad luck that Pepco has failed to enact aggressive energy conservation programs? As a result of Pepco's dreadful performance on efficiency, D.C. regulators awarded the utility only a $9.4 million rate increase instead of the $38 million it asked for.

It doesn't have to be this way. Energy efficient motors, lights, appliances, cooling equipment and building construction methods could cut U.S. power demand by 50 percent and could cost far less than building new power plants. In New England, 12 utilities have designed aggressive energy efficiency programs at a cost far less than that for producing energy from new power plants. The programs benefit utility rate payers, shareholders, local communities and the environment.

Will Washington area utilities see the light? Or are area residents just out of luck?

JEANNE BYRNE Research Associate Safe Energy Communication Council Washington