Recently more than 100 District residents flooded a community hearing at the Public Service Commission to urge them to approve the Pepco – Exelon merger settlement. Residents from across the District came wearing buttons and carrying signs praising the “affordability, reliability and sustainability” the merger would bring.
The purpose of the hearing was to solicit public comment on the merger settlement endorsed last month by Mayor Bowser, the Department of Energy and Environment, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, the Office of the People’s Counsel and other organizations. A majority of the D.C. Council also has called on the Commission to approve the settlement.
Some may ask why care about the merger of two utility companies? For me the reason is clear. I, like so many residents, understand much is at stake for the District if it does not go forward. As DC residents, we all rely on our local utility – for affordable and reliable electricity, for partnership with our communities, and as a driver of jobs and economic development in DC.
The settlement has firm commitments by Pepco and its merger partner, Exelon, that will make electricity more affordable, from millions of additional dollars and debt forgiveness to help low-income customers pay their bills to a more than $50 bill credit for every residential customer. Millions will also be invested to offset distribution rate increases for residential customers through March 2019. That is real money in the pockets of DC families. Other commitments raise the bar for reliability, setting new and higher standards that reduce how often power outages occur and how long they last. And the merger promises easier access to resources and crews from Exelon’s utilities to help restore power quickly after major storms.
As the District’s economy continues to grow, I’m encouraged the merger settlement will bolster the ability of our utility to promote local employment and develop our future workforce. This includes commitments to add jobs in the District and hire new union workers, plus millions of dollars for workforce development programs.
DC has ambitious goals for moving toward more renewable and sustainable energy sources; fortunately, the merger settlement supports this effort. Exelon will be required to develop new solar energy in the District and to purchase wind energy – enough combined to power as many as 24,000 households or more. Another $7 million is earmarked for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the District.
Finally, Pepco’s support for local charities that help take care of those in need will increase by guaranteeing $19 million over 10 years in contributions to nonprofit agencies in D.C.
District of Columbia residents need the benefits that have been promised from the Pepco – Exelon merger. Some say that DC residents can’t trust Exelon to deliver. I disagree – but there is something more that we can do.
As a former member of the District of Columbia Board of Education, my first appointment was Chair of the Committee on Education. In that role, I had the responsibility of holding charter schools accountable for educating our children. I invite the residents, political and community leaders, and the Public Service Commission of the District to hold Exelon accountable to do what they say they will do.
The Reverend Robert G. Childs is the Senior Pastor at Berean Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. He is also the former President of the District of Columbia Board of Education.