During a recent community meeting, representatives from Pepco Holdings and energy giant Exelon Corporation, D.C. businesses, nonprofits, and residents along with Maryland advocates of Exelon gathered to discuss the pending benefits that a possible merger between the two energy companies could give the city. However, not all of the attendees were convinced.
The Integrated Community Meeting, held at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery in Northwest D.C. on Oct. 26 went over the recent settlement that was reached between the two companies, the D.C. government, the Office of the People’s Counsel and the District Attorney’s Office, among others. The settlement has been submitted to the District’s Public Service Commission for review.
“We will be a company that will be your partner in every respect,” William Von Hoene, Jr., senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Exelon, based in Chicago, told the gathering of about 100 people. “This is the center of the country, this is where it happens. This is the place in which policies are determined, it’s the place in which the whole world looks at the country and says ‘how are we doing?’”.
Von Hoene, along with Dave Velazquez, executive vice president of power delivery at Pepco, listed several of the 120 benefits that would be offered to residents through the settlement, including a customer investment fund of $72.8 million for bill credits, low-income energy assistance, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the District. The merger would also ensure that customers will only pay for the energy services they are given that would not include any additional cost from other business and plants under Exelon.
“We’re committing to improving reliability and beating every standard set by the Public Service Commission from 2016 to 2020,” he said, highlighting the financial penalties put in place, for the company, if they fail to meet the new standards. Velazquez said the companies are trying to improve reliability without increasing costs, which was also included in the settlement agreement. He also stressed that neither Pepco, nor Exelon, have control over energy rates, which are set by the commission.
Another benefit under the settlement would provide $5.2 million for workforce development with local institutions including the University of the District of Columbia and the Department of Employment Services. Under the settlement the companies have also committed to hiring 102 new union workers in D.C. and no involuntary terminations for the next five years.
Calvin Butler, CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric, gave two examples of the progress in employee procurement and retainment in Baltimore after Exelon merged with Constellation Energy in 2012. “We had a two-year commitment, Pepco has a five year, so very similar concerns,” he said. “After that two years, we continued to grow our business and our employee-base.”
Butler also gave an example of the company’s implementation of smart meters, which makes the meter reader’s job obsolete. “We didn’t block anyone out, we said ‘where do you want to go, and let’s make sure you have a place to land,’” he said.
According to a handout, given at the meeting, the merger would also include:
- $25.6 million offset distribution rate increases for residential customers through March of 2019.
- A one-time direct bill credit to customers of about $50 within 60 days of the merger’s completion.
- $16 million for low-income energy assistance, including weatherizing homes and supplementing D.C.’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
- Service reliability improvements to reduce the number and length of power outages with more crews and resources.
But, not all of the attendees at the meeting automatically agreed that the merger settlement would be a good proposition for city residents.
According to an advocate for the community affairs of Ward 8, who preferred not to be named, the pending merger settlement seemed as if higher management job opportunities were not going to be offered to residents. She told the AFRO that it seemed as if the companies were looking to fill more “vocation, non-college” level positions. The community advocate also questioned the rate increases after 2019, since, she said, the meeting did not offer a precise projection, even though a projected increase of about 6 percent was informally given.
A statement, released Oct.28, from PowerDC, part of the opposition against the Pepco, Exelon merger, said the Commission ruled that the next steps in its review of the merger will take place before the end of 2015, with public hearings to be held the first week of December to debate Exelon’s settlement with Mayor Muriel Bowser.