Op-EdOpinion

DAVIS: Don’t Raise Utility Rates Based on Pre-Pandemic Math

The world changed this spring. Markets have fallen, businesses have shuttered and unemployment rolls have grown. Whether you’re making decisions in a corporate boardroom or balancing the checkbook at a kitchen table, our economic outlook is dramatically different.

So why is the District making decisions about our utility rates based on data from before the pandemic?

Right now, the D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) is considering Pepco’s request for an unprecedented three years of rate increases that would raise rates $160 million and increase the monthly customer charge over $20 per month.

The demand for electricity has changed significantly as District residents are staying at home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Interest rates have dropped to near zero, making it cheaper for companies to borrow cash, and prices for energy and fuel have fluctuated. Pepco’s full proposal needs review — especially with hundreds of District residents now unemployed. The PSC needs to consider all of these new developments when setting our utility rates.

AARP has a history of fighting to keep residential utility rates fair, and that fight is even more important when our communities are struggling. The AARP District of Columbia State Office has filed comments to support the Office of the People’s Council motion with the PSC asking the commission to require updated information from Pepco about its proposed rate hikes, accounting for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even before this crisis, AARP called Pepco’s proposed rate hikes unfair. Rate hikes can be especially hard on the pocketbooks of older District residents and their families, many of whom already struggle to pay their utility bills along with other necessities like food and medicine.

While the PSC has set the issue for discussion at a May 14 workshop, AARP urges the PSC to instead act immediately to approve the emergency petition or at a minimum require Pepco to file supplemental testimony on the impacts of the pandemic as we initially requested.

District residents can’t afford unfair rate hikes in these uncertain times. We urge the PSC to delay the Pepco rate case during the public health emergency and reevaluate the rate change proposal to reflect changes to the economy and the latest data before making any decisions that will raise residential utility rates.

Join us in making your voice heard and submit a comment to the PSC today at action.aarp.org/PEPCOIncrease.

Louis Davis Jr. is the director of the AARP District of Columbia State Office.

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