SPEAK OUT: Is There an Alternative to Pepco?

Tell us what you think in the comments section.


Montgomery County residents fed up with what they see as Pepco's unreliablity will discuss options other than the long-time, investor-owned utility supplier.

This prompted a response from local officials, including Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner, who blasted Pepco for what he called an "unacceptable" performance.

In an effort to explore new options, community members and officials will look into an option called public power.

These utilities are not-for-profit electric systems owned and operated by the people they serve through a local or state government. The power is supplied by green sources, including hydroelectric, wind or solar.

A few public systems already in use are based in California, Puerto Rico and New York, serving a total of 4 million customers, according to Public Power for Montgomery County.

This public meeting is set for Wednesday, Oct. 3, inside the Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza, One Veterans Place at 7 p.m.

Participants can RSVP

What do you think about a public option for a utility supplier? What do you think about Pepco's performance?

wvkniw September 26, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Get more qualified linemen - don't rely on contractor services - they are talking strike - and Pepco says they have office personal whom have trained over two months if there is a strike - must be a joke - I'd like to see one that would go on a high tension wire with only to months training. Some of these guys have worked for years, and still can't be a class A lineman..If they can pay the contractors it costs more to the customers in the long run than hiring and training their own employees..
Sid Lahiri September 26, 2012 at 04:54 PM
It would be a GREAT idea to have a non-profit Public Power system in Montgomery County similar to the ones that are existent in California, New York and Puerto Rico. We, the citizens would have more say in the rates and utilities management part of the deal. Also, we can ensure cleaner sources of energy generation such as wind, solar, bio-diesel and geo-thermal. This would ensure that our county is put on the National map of clean energy utilization and make our county a progressive one in such areas of public policy. So, the answer is, "Yes" - there IS an alternative to PEPCO in Montgomery County, MD.
Matthew Starr September 26, 2012 at 05:57 PM
The reliability problem is caused by storm damage to the wiring to our homes. It has nothing to do with the sources of power generation, whether clean or dirty. The wiring to our homes is maintained by Pepco, as it must be. No new company is going to replace the wires. Taking money away from Pepco means they will have less to maintain the wiring. The only answer is to convince Pepco to do a better job in maintaining the lines.
Tamika Smith (Editor) September 26, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Mathew- so you are saying it does not matter who runs the lines there will always be concerns because of storms? This new solution gives you a little more power of your situation but you do not want that?
Jerry September 26, 2012 at 10:02 PM
While local energy sources are an intriguing idea, green power sources are a bad one doomed to excessive expensive and/or complete failure. The compelling logical choice is nuclear, and there are presently available small sized nuclear reactors suitable for small communities. A French company has been selling and installing them in third world countries for years. An American enterprise called Hyperion is poised to do the same here. For comparison purposes, note that 4,000 ugly, noisy, bird killing wind turbines would be required to duplicate the output of one 2.0 Gigawatt nuclear reactor. Similarly, 64 square miles of densely packed solar panels would be required to duplicate the output of that same reactor. Of course, 2.0 Gigawatts is not required for a small community; however, the comparison scales.
Dick September 27, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Before considering government ownership of the power company, think of WSSC. WSSC has continually failed to maintain its infrastructure. Every winter there are numerous water line breaks because of aging pipes. Also think of all the political bickering that has gone on over the years. It could possibly be a whole lot worse if the politicians and special interests run the system.
Eric Hensal September 27, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Compare WSSC to Pepco for a moment. Does our water go out as often as our electricity?
Ddad99 September 27, 2012 at 01:44 PM
There is no ready alternative to the infrastructure and generating capacity provided by PEPCO. There is, however, an alternative to the management, both executive and operational, and political oversight provided by and to PEPCO. I say fire all the PEPCO executive team, including the board of directors. And then fire everyone on the board of the Maryland Public Service Commission. Fire them. Now. Incompetence should never be rewarded.
Ddad99 September 27, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Publicly owned power is a TERRIBLE idea. Do you really want PEPCO to be run by the County Council? And all it's workers paying dues to the Democrat Party,, I mean the SEIU?
Titra Hamilton September 27, 2012 at 03:16 PM
One of my family members has worked for Pepco for 20+ years, so I know the challenges of well. I see those challenges when he sleeps in his truck, working 36 hour shifts to restore power during storms when most of us are warm in our homes asleep. I see those challenges when he is on the phone trying to assemble teams to respond to an urgent issue on Christmas Day. I also see those challenges when he tells me many power outtages can be avoided if homeowners would replace faulty electronics, cut off electronics they don't need, properly maintain their HVAC unit, or simply cut back over grown bushes and trees so that, when storms come, they don't take down power lines. Based on what he has told me, the power goes out during storms because the infrastructure/power grid is too old to support the ever increasing demand. Without investments in replacing the various infrastructure components with newer technologies, the power will become increasingly unreliable during storms and high usage periods. I am willing to pay an extra $3 per month to improve the grid. To the question, is there an alternative to Pepco. I would say "probably", but not an immediate one.
Woodside Park Bob September 27, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Pepco no longer has any "generating capacity." It sold all is power generating plants when they were deregulated. Pepco buys all its electricity from other companies, just as a Public Power Co-op for Montgomery County could do.
Roger Berliner September 27, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I appreciate the diversity of view on this important public policy issue. The comments here reflect what I consider to be a common misperception when there is discussion about "public" power. Public power is NOT synonymous with government power. We have a form of public power in Maryland, the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative that is essentially run by the members for the community. I represented the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) that is run by an independent board, totally removed from local government. There are in fact government run public power options as well, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power is one such example. But the important point is that a pursuit of public power is not the same as saying that government would (or should) necessarily run it. Roger Berliner President, Montgomery County Council Chairman, Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee
Woodside Park Bob September 27, 2012 at 03:49 PM
A public power co-op for Montgomery county is a great idea. We need a power company that is more interested in serving its customers than in maximizing profits and serving the best interests of its shareholders. The WSSC may not be perfect, but it does a lot better job of providing reliable service than Pepco does, and it is ultimately responsible to the voters of Montgomery and Prince Georges counties, who can hold elected officials accountable if the WSSC fails in its mission. We don't have that level of control over Pepco's management. We would have that control over a public power provider.
Ddad99 September 27, 2012 at 03:52 PM
You are correct that PEPCO does not own generating capacity. I was lumping the infrastructure together.
Ddad99 September 27, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Nice to hear from you, mister "expert" on public utilities. Thanks for raising my electric bill with your money-grab of an energy tax. You said the tax wouldn't raise my electric rate and you were right. The tax appears as a separate line item on the bill. Since then I fail to take anything you say seriously. You are being equally disingenuous with your representation of how a publicly owned electric utility would be organized for MC. The utility would have all the efficiency of the county liquor stores, be unionized top-to-bottom, and would be no more answerable to county citizens than PEPCO is now. We all know that the problem is aging infrastructure and the failure to bury power lines in a heavily forested suburban environment. MC ownership would change none of that. Why not admit what you really want? More power to the County Council and you. You see "public" ownership of PEPCO as another "funding opportunity" for other pet projects. Why not spend your time addressing the county's structural budget deficit? Better yet, why not resign and find a real job.
Ddad99 September 27, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I know they are unionized (and ready to go on strike, apparently). Would the union representing the new MC utility necessarily change after it becomes publicly owned? I foresee SEIU grabbing this one, and directing many tens of thousands of dollars in union dues back to the Democrat Party, just like they do now with other county employees. County ownership of PEPCO is just an invitation to more corruption.
Joe Galvagna September 27, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Any thing would be better than Pepco. This is another case where the union has outlived its usefulness. Even the people that answer the phones at Pepco have attitudes. Worst public utility in the US. Sure helps Generator sales. In addition to worst utility I think it is the most dishonest utility in the country. You cannot get a honest or straight answer out of these guys no matter what. They need to be broken up and some sort of take over would help all the way around.
Michael Smith September 29, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Are you serious? Why don't we address the white elephant in the room, which is that Pepco makes INCREDIBLE amounts of profit as a for profit power utility and invests VERY little into the infrastructure. Why do you people like rate increases so much when it's shown that they don't increase the quality of service? The infrastructure/power grid is too old because Pepco refuses to actually reinvest the massive profits they make back into the community! Pepco made over $200 MILLION in profits in 2011, they then raised rates to pay for "infrastructure" to the tune of another $53 MILLION. http://www.councilmemberriemer.org/2011/01/pepcos-shocking-profits.html Again, they're gouging the communities and charging insane amounts for power and you want them to charge US more so that they can "improve" the grid? If Pepco was bleeding cash and was in the red I would agree that a rate increase would be warranted, but as is they're making massive profits and reinvesting almost none of it back into the community. This is the issue, not whether it's green, dirty, eco friendly, or any other reason people want to talk about. Why is it that everyone is so afraid to talk about the real issues which is what Pepco is doing with the money we pay them? My power bills for work in other states are a fraction of what Pepco charges, yet Pepco spends LESS than any other power utility on infrastructure.
Chris A. September 29, 2012 at 12:53 PM
"INCREDIBLE amounts of profit"??, Spoken like a true 47%-er! That equates to less than 5% of revenue! Pepco is a public corporation, owned by stockholders that have a right to a return on their investment. 5% is not much! If you and every other one of the nearly 2 Million customers have a spare $2,500 to donate (I say donate, because you won't get any return on it), you can take them private, and maybe get an extra 22% improvement in capital expenditures. ".. refuses to actually reinvest the massive profits.."? In 2011 they spent over $900 Million on capital expense, and increase of $100M from the year before. This represents about 1/6th of their revenue. They are planning on continuing to invest. We need to be a little patient and let the hard working people of Pepco get their jobs done. When Mother Nature strikes we should be thankful to those that risk their lives so our TiVo's stay full and our smartphones stay charged..
Greg September 29, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Blah, Blah, Blah..... If trees are the major culprit of power outages, just put the wires underground. No doubt that it can't be done all at once, but over the next 5 years? Maybe! It's a pretty simple solution to the issue. Simple to implement? Probably not, but it is the only viable alternative to what is currently in place, which IMO is a joke.
Jeepster September 29, 2012 at 05:52 PM
MY QUESTION IS THIS: what is the Mission of PEPCO? Most large companies and government agencies have a Mission Statement posted, usually along with a Vision Statement. PEPCO doesn't have one. However, I did find this, which could probably we taken as their Mission Statement: "....to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity to homes and businesses throughout Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia." Okay. How reliable? 80%? 90% What about as a vision or goal: 99%? Suppose the Secret Service's mission to protect VIP's was 80% or 90%? How acceptable would that be to their customer -- the people getting protection? PEPCO can find a way to improve the reliability of the electric service they deliver -- they need a single focal point of purpose ... a mission of duty that drives and compels them above all else. Often, external pressure is required to overcome inertia and force a refocus on mission. Competition is one force. Government regulations are another. Public and customer pressure is also effective. People will start installing solar panels and other self-generating power devices, and communities will create co-ops, etc. if customers are not satisfied. It may take these initiatives to make PEPCO refine their mission focus, and quantify what it means by "reliable" service. Just formulating and posting a Mission Statement on their website would be a start.
Ian Brett Cooper May 17, 2013 at 09:52 PM
I lived for 8 years with a public utility in Massachusetts. Never had a single problem. The same cannot be said after just one year with Pepco. There are Third World countries with better power utilities than Pepco.


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