Friday Question of the Day – Rating Pepco

“Dear PoPville,

Day 5 of no power, but Pepco installs a street light!

How is it that Pepco sends out a crew everyday this week to install a street light when the residents of the street are STILL WITHOUT POWER?! How dare they brag about restoring 90%!”

Another resident has started a petition with over 1500 hundred signatures as of Thurs. evening:

Pepco makes millions in profit but remains one of the most unreliable utility companies in America. Add your voice to the demand that Pepco invest their profits in burying the power lines and making our power system more reliable and safe.

In the first 3 months of this year the utility company Pepco made $68 million in profit. In 2009 the CEO of Pepco, Joe Rigby, made $2.9 million in personal income.

My neighbor is 70 years old, her name is Kay, and she has now been without power for 4 days in this sweltering heat. (Update: Kay told me this morning that her dog is acting really sluggish and she is worried the dog might die).

For almost $3 million a year, Joe Rigby needs to be held to account. We demand, on behalf of all the seniors, poverty-stricken and children, that Pepco immediately begin investing their profits in improving our power and implement a long term solution to these unacceptable delays.

For instance, Pepco could commit to a 5 year plan to bury the power lines in their service areas which would greatly improve reliability during massive wind storms and blizzards.

Invest your profits in your customers!

And in the tradition of the Cabin Fever video from Snowmaggadeon 2010, other readers send in a video voicing their frustration (NSFW) in song about Pepco:

But on the other hand we’ve seen Pepco employees working through the 4th of July and scorching heat.

Do you think Pepco is to blame for taking so long to restore to power to 100% of its users? Or is this just the unfortunate reality of a huge storm and living in an area with lots of trees and above ground wires?

141 Comment

  • From 2008 to 2010:

    Pepco CEO Joe Rigby earned $8.8 million
    Pepco top officers earned more than $22 million.
    Pepco reported $882 million in profits
    Pepco paid no federal and state income taxes
    Pepco received $817 million in tax refunds.

    Pepco is another large company run amok, fat on our money, padding their own pockets. Another company that has no incentive to improve anything, because they are beholden to no one, having successfully bought the politicians who should be working for us.

    We have no alternative and they have no incentive. Pepco is just another example of how screwed up this country has become, where the rich get richer and the rest of us do our best to get by. So is Pepco to blame? Sort of, but it’s really wrong to expect corporations to do anything other than make as much money as possible.

    Really, we’re all to blame- for allowing our elected leaders to be bought and sold so blatantly, for failing to hold them accountable for it, for allowing our system of government to become a joke, wholly owned by corporate money.

  • We never praise electricity. Only curse not having it.

    • A perfectly simple phrase to capture why everybody and their mother hates Pepco.

      Pepco is just one company among many that is trying to balance the needs of their customers against an old electricity grid infrastructure that is less than ideal considering the old-growth trees DC has. Sometimes you have to take the good (air conditioning, ability to have a fridge, being able to watch TV, having light after the sun has gone down) with the bad (power outages after a storm). It’s not like Pepco turned your electricity off on purpose!

      • pepco didnt turn the electricty off on purpose but they did take $800 million in tax payer money and put it into their pockets instead of making the system more robust.

        • Agreed. When there’s a monopoly, the company is always going to take as much profit as it can over providing better service. It’s what they’re required to do as a corporation–maximize profits for shareholders. We should be angry at our elected officials, who’ve allowed them to take rate increases without improving service. For example, there was a proposal to require them to bury power lines when the streets were already opened up for road work. Pepco didn’t want to pay even this cheaper amount (and wildly inflated its estimates of what it would cost), so it never went anywhere.

  • We love our canopy and we have intense weather events, so this is the price we pay. The lines should be buried in more densely developed neighborhoods (like Petworth) but the days of massive public investments like that are over. The upside is that it makes us appreciate how good we have it and keeps us from being a bunch of big pussies, at least for a few days every once in a while.

    • Why are the days of massive public investments over? That’s ridiculous. Now is the time for investment in our infrastructure. We have people out of work and we need to invest. What if that was your business out of power for a week? What if it was our government? That we all just accept this is absolutely crazy.

      Pepco paid out $60 million dollars to their shareholders last year and $240 millions in dividends in 2010. From an article in the post after the blizzard: Montgomery County Council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large) cited figures from Pepco’s public filings showing that Pepco Holdings paid $1 billion in dividends – three times more than Pepco spent on transmitting power and maintaining its distribution network – between 2005 and 2009.

      • You’re so funny. The revenues of a public utility are small and part of the bargain of being heavily regulated. Take them away and you lose investors. So if you mandate the utility to make huge capital expenses, that will be paid for by rate increases. While we’re in the real world, do you even have an idea what burying all the power lines would cost? Billions. More than a fantasy seizure of the regulated utility’s revenue could service. Hundreds of dollars more pe month for every customer.

        • Stop. Who cares if the profits are limited? They’re still extremely profitable. Pepco makes between 5-6% net profits a year. Yes, if they were unregulated, they could make unlimited profits because people need power and they have no competition but thats not really the issue.

          I can’t think of any company that can routinely suck as much as pepco and still make 5-6% profits. In fact, extremely successful companies survive for years on thinner margins. The entire Grocery sector and many, if not all, clothing retailers, survive (and thrive and expand) on smaller margins.

          • You HATE Pepco. We got it!

          • “I can’t think of any company that can routinely suck as much as pepco and still make 5-6% profits.”

            really? Comcast, Bank of America, really any huge bank-fact is most companies care more about their shareholders and short term profits than about their customers..and a large part is our fault. Pepco is different because you don’t have a choice, but I bet many here rail about comcast or BofA or Safeway or whatever, yet they still do business with these folks. Become a shareholder of Pepco and you have shareholder rights. Bring up exec votes, etc to improve service.

  • I was talking with some Pepco guys last year when they were working on a problem at my house. They painted a pretty ugly picture of workforce downsizing that had left them increasingly shorthanded in recent years.

  • Never lost power at our apartment.
    And, those guys are awesome! Love that song, can’t get enough of it.

  • storms happen and massive outages occur. Its hard to blame them for this single event.

    However, there is a trend here. Pepco is out more often and for longer than other utilities in other similar cities. They are disliked by customers more than other electric utilities. And, I have no idea how our rates stack up, but they’re probably not the lowest.

    To top it off, coal, natural gas, and oil, the three most likely energy sources, have declined in cost since 3-4 years go. Natural gas prices have fallen off a cliff. Profits, executive salaries, and dividends have been high at pepco.

    So, what I do not understand, is why should Pepco ever get another rate increase until their service improves dramatically, or the cost of generating electricity goes back up?

    In the years that energy is expensive, they raise the rates to compensate, when the costs come down, they raise the rates for other reasons. Rates never come back down. If they feel they are guaranteed a rate increase, what is to incentivize them to increase the quality of their service. They have a responsibility to their shareholders to ask for a rate increase, but DC and Maryland have a responsibility to their citizens to not always permit it.

    • So you want Pepco to invest billions of dollars into improving their infastructure, but you don’t want them to raise rates? How again are they going to pay for putting their power lines underground?

      Dividends are high at Pepco and other utilities because that is what keeps the private investments coming in for them. Unlike tech companies like Apple and Google where the goal is to make money off of soaring stock prices, electric utilities generally have stable stock prices. People buy their stock because it is consistent and gives out generous dividends.

      And don’t complain to Pepco about rates. Every increase and every decision they make is monitored by regulators.

      And Pepco is out more often than Potomac Edison or Dominion because of the three utilities in this area. Pepco has the oldest infastructure. The majority of Potomac Edison’s grid is much newer (by 60-70 years) and thus underground. You can see that as the further out from the city you get (Northern MoCo, Loudon County, etc) the less outages you have – newer infastructure.

      • So, you or a family member works for Pepco?

        I believe that a heavily regulated utility that has a monopoly on a product should be held accountable for their service. You can be an apologist for them all you want, but they consistently deliver terrible service and they consistently have their way with the Maryland and DC PSCs with all of their promises of improvements.

        Yes, their infrastructure is old, but why is it they always need a rate increase to do upgrades, but their outages continually outpace those of other utilities across the country?

        I don’t particularly care if they spend the money to put their lines underground (though they have said they will not) so your first argument was a bit of a straw man and its nullified by the fact that they always ask for a rate increase to make upgrades, but if they’ve made these massive upgrades, they certainly aren’t paying off.

        Like I said, I can’t blame pepco for asking, but Maryland/DC need to stop ok’ing it, especially the pending one. The system we have is the best of the 3 possibilities for electricity transmission. Open competition won’t work, nationalized utilities won’t happen and probably wouldn’t work, so having a monopoly thats heavily regulated is the only possibility – but if the regulators don’t use their sticks once in a while, the utility is just going to run roughshod . O’Malley said he’s going to have his boot up Pepco’s ass – I guess we’ll see how that goes. We can’t count on Vince Gray, or most of the council, especially Orange…

      • “So you want Pepco to invest billions of dollars into improving their infastructure, but you don’t want them to raise rates? How again are they going to pay for putting their power lines underground?”

        Gee buddy, I dunno, but that $882 million in profits in 2 years would be a good start. The salaries of the higher ups and the fact they don’t pay taxes are criminal.

        • Burying the power lines in the DC area would cost billions. Okay, so you make a downpayment by taking all those profits and using them to bury the lines. Now where do they get the rest of the capital to make the upgrades? Investors don’t like it when the state arbitrarily confiscates their profits.

      • thebear

        PEPCO could have VERY easily solved its infrastructure issues over the last 15-20 years by reinvesting their profits *IN* upgrading or replacing problem facilities and coordinating undergrounding overhead lines with roadwork projects. Instead, they squandered all those billions of dollars and now come to us with hat in hand asking for rate increases to cover those costs. No. Their execs and investors need to take the hit to revenue/earnings until they have fixed what must or should be fixed and they have a permanent requirement to not put profit over reliability and service ever again. A power company is a PUBLIC BENEFIT operation and MUST be required to put that ahead of all other considerations. And, there is way more money to be made from a well-run operation that isn’t the subject of lawsuits and fines and public hatred…it just takes commitment to get there and keep the focus on that.

        Anyone who is bitching about PEPCO had damn well better make sure they personally weigh-in with their elected officials and their utility overseers, not just dump on the Internet.

        • Spoken like someone who doesn’t know whether their pension fund or 401(k) is invested in utility stocks. (Utilities are highly favored by pension funds because of their steady return)

          If you were the shareholder, and that was your retirement on the line, would you be saying that it was fair for the government to take the dividends that have been paying your rent?

          • thebear

            Au contraire. If fund managers or individual investors only look at numbers and not a company’s underlying operations, culture, and long-term prospects, they are part of the problem by rewarding a company for screwing its customers. Just moving on to a different investment when one loses its shiny because it either decides to reinvest in its future, or has screwed the pooch once too often only perpetuates the “f* everything beyond this quarter!” mentality. Up until the 1980s, a company’s fundamentals were considerably more important than near-term outlook, and investment portfolios were largely long haul with typically not more than 1/4 to 1/3 in short-term holdings.

          • Go read stuff about phone company service written in the 1970s before you wax lyrical about how awesome utilities used to be.

          • thebear

            I remember full well how utilities worked 40+ years ago. You could count on them working. Public utility overseers had balls and would deny rate hikes if service sucked…which kept the util accountable and forced them to make sure things worked. And, in California, where I’m from, even earthquakes didn’t cause prolonged, widespread service outages that are SOP for PEPCO and Verizon. That 1971 Santa Monica quake did extensive damage over a pretty wide swath of geography but most areas had lights and phones back by the next morning and something like 95% were back within 2 days…only the most heavily damaged areas were out longer.

  • Seems to me Pepco’s approach is like not immunizing kids against polio and then bemoaning the lack of iron lungs and crutches. Consider the REAL cost of not burying the power lines, Pepco. And start doing it. Now.

  • I cannot believe for one second that others would not get pissed off while they sat in a 90 degree house while they watched the installation of a street lamp during a massive power outage.

    I wasn’t upset with the crews, that’s ridiculous as they were doing their jobs. I was never angry at the crews. I do not blame them. I’d guess it’s pretty much a thankless job and that the way that pepco treats the consumers is any indication of how they run their business, I’m sure the employees are not appreciated.

    I very much appreciate the long hours that the crews put in to help restore power to the people.

    I blame the corporation for not communicating to the public. The best they could do was tell us the power was to be restored June 6th at 11PM. This was global, apparently. I was frustrated that every time I looked at the mobile app there was “no record of a power outage associated with my account”. We called multiple every day we were without power. What perplexed us was that the first three houses on our row had power but from our house down to the near end was without. There were no downed trees or power lines. It turns out the transformer in front of our place was out. It took the crew about five minutes to fix it.

    • No communication to the public? They called their customers to let them know 90% of people would be restored by today. Sounds like a clear answer to me. Joe Rigby was quoted by CNN loads of times… That sounds like communication to me.

      And you are right, this industry is the most under appreciated one out their. We don’t even think twice about having consistent, safer power 24/7 until we lose it for a few days. And then we complain about not having AC (what did our ancestors do all those years ago??) and that they aren’t working hard enough. Yet none of us have any idea what it takes to get the grid back online.

      • So, I guess it hasn’t gotten so bad at Pepco that the PR hacks have been assigned to line duty.

        I heard their VP on Kojo a few days ago. Everything the guy said was thinly veiled contempt and corporate evasiveness. They’re making good on their responsibility to shareholders to maximize profit. Great for shareholders and what you expect of a company. But, this is a heavily regulated public utility. They should be held accountable for their high profits in the face of shitty service. I’ve lived in this area for 30 years and the politicians all get hot and bothered about outages and talk a big game, but when pepco comes around with their hands out begging, they silently get their rate increase and all the posturing mysteriously goes away.

      • Perhaps I should have been more clear. I wish they talked about “…what it takes to get the grid back online.” This is the communication of which I speak. I don’t give a that they restored 90% of the power. I want to know what the job entails, so I can understand why it takes as long as it down when my block was without power and there were no downed wires or trees. Of course, I understand that they have to respond to those areas first as they could be life threatening, etc.. The communication that I received was an automated phone call letting me know that my power was “fully restored”when in reality it was NOT restored. After multiple calls to report our outage, it did not register that we were without power.

        What ancestors did without A/C is irrelevant — they didn’t have A/C so they didn’t know better. We’re accustomed to living in a temperature controlled environment.

    • Maybe those crews didn’t have the equipment or the skills necessary to do the work of fixing downed lines. Who knows?

  • I’ve been in my condo since 2003 and have never lost power.

  • How many PoPers have lived in the midwest? If you have, you know that providing and maintaining a solid infrastructure that can withstand most storms is possible, without burying power lines. So, it’s not like Pepco has to invent the wheel, they just have to model the work successfully done by companies in areas that have major weather events. Also, tree cover is not the main problem — every place where I lived in the midwest had just as much tree cover and power was maintained in severe thunderstorms, freak wind storms and blizzards.

    • I don’t know where you’ve lived in the midwest, but my relatives and I have lost power for days because–trees took down power lines in major storms. (Or when I lived in Chicago, because the A/C load overwhelmed the grid on hot days and we blew fuses.) Last time I looked, the second biggest outage from this storm was in–Ohio.

      • Many midwesterners would argue that Ohio is not part of the midwest. 🙂 I grew up in Iowa and spent two winters in the Upper Peninsula, where I never lost power, and no one I knew who lived outside of town ever lost power, despite having a blizzard or heavy snow nearly every week. I also lived in North Carolina for two years, where we lost power about 3 times while I lived there. So, overall, I think I’ve lost power more often when I lived outside of the midwest.

    • I grew up in Minneapolis. We had trees out the wazoo, above ground power lines, and lots of big storms. The one thing we didn’t have is major power outages. Apparently making infrastructure investments can do the job.

      • Yep. I grew up in St. Paul, and we didn’t often lose our power – blizzards, tornado, flood causing rain – power stayed on, or it was back on within a day. Never in my life did I go without power for a week til I moved the the DC/MD/NoVA area. I have done so 4 times in the past 7 years. My relatives are amazed at how many times DC goes dark.

        National Capitol can’t keep it’s power on…. amazingly screwed over by the Power Company. Pepco is a piece of crap company for the customers it serves, while it is a boon for the investors and high level employees.

        • Except that the National Capital is not dark – the vast majority of the problems are in the suburbs. We have enough real troubles – don’t burden us with someone else’s too.

      • Ditto. We lost power sometimes after storms, sure, but the longest I can remember it ever being out was eight hours or so.

  • Egads! Why such coarse language?! Yet…there’s so much creativity in DC.

  • West Virginia has hundreds of thousands without electricity also. Just no TV cameras.

  • Also, to provide a bit of context, the only time that I can remember loosing power for more than a couple of hours while I lived in the midwest was a major ice storm in the late 1980s, which took down major transmission lines.

    • Agreed! I’m from Iowa as well, and that same ice storm is the only time I can remember people being without power for days. Floods of ’93 included. In my 20-some years of blizzards, thunderstorms and tornadic weather, the power outages were never this bad.

  • The issue is the lack of willingness to invest the money to move lines underground. No I do not expect them to go neighborhood by neighborhood doing this, but if every time the opportuntiy arose they committed the extra money to do so, that would be less exposed lines in the next storm. The Public Utility Commissions need to mandate that PEPCO begin such a process. Suspect there are also less linemen on staff today at PEPCO than 20 years ago and they have more lines to maintain, as you never see a PEPCO crew only out of state crews.

    • Where do you think the money comes from to bury the power lines? They don’t have a money bush in the backs of their offices, and regulators guarantee them a rate of return over costs. If they bury the lines–properly, in a buried conduit container that will protect it from ground freezing and water and provide easy access for repairs–they will add the cost to your electricity bill. That cost runs into nine figures per mile. Do you want to pay higher rates in order to have more reliable service? That’s the choice. It’s not “Pepco should just face up to its responsibilities and do the right thing”, but “Pepco should bury the lines and charge me an extra $100 or so a month for my electricity. There’s no third choice where we get buried lines and some mysterious third party pays for it.

      • Their profits, salaries, and dividends certainly indicate they have a money bush somewhere. Not to mention they pay -57% in federal income taxes. They get a ton of tax credits to do business and they still suck.

        They have a duty to shareholders to maximize their profits. Thats what they’re doing. That doesnt mean that they should get away with it. If they were an outstanding utility, I wouldnt care how much money they were making. DC is not the only city with an aging infrastructure, big trees, and frequent storms.

        • We’ve all lost our patience, but let’s not lose our reason. Making our electricity infrastructure more reliable is a complex problem. To think one can simply mandate that the regulated utility’s profits be assigned to capital investment is simplistic and mistaken. A regulated utility must have profits or else it loses its substantial private investment.

        • Actually, the profits of a public utility are limited by the PSCs.

        • They didn’t pay negative 57% in their taxes; they got money back because the government ruled that they had overpaid in earlier years. Many people get a tax refund every year, but very few of them have a negative income tax rate.

          • Seriously? Back taxes being refunded? Its subsidies.


            Like i said, I dont blame them for making the most of the tax code – they have that responsibility to shareholders. But for the PSCs to approve their requested 4-5% rate increase given how crappy their service is, seems inappropriate.

            It would be like me going to the grocery store, buying tomatoes, finding out they’re rotten, and then going back in and having the grocery store charge me extra to replace them with fresh ones because the loss costs them money.

            I guess I’m in the minority of people who think that if profits only get passed onto shareholders, than losses should be passed on too, instead of just taking it out on the rate payer??

          • A suggestion for Anon X: Rather than vent misinformed agitprop, do some reading on how regulated utilities work.

          • Since you’ve got all this in the bag, please enlighten me as to why Pepco is so consistently bad compared to counterparts in other jurisdictions across the country? What makes Pepco so unique? Above ground power lines and aging infrastructure dont count – DC/PG/MoCo arent the only places with old equipment and above ground lines. And, if those are the biggest problems and these problems set them apart, why doesnt Pepco fix it? Presumably it wont cost them significantly more than other utilities have paid to bury their lines or upgrade their equipment.

            I dont think the answer is easy, but I also dont think that continued poor quality service coupled with rate increases is the answer. The company is going to plead poverty to the PSCs every chance they get. But something has got to give, why are they consistently so bad, despite the rate increases that were supposed to make them better?

            And, dont assume that because I dont agree with you, I dont know “how regulated utilities work”.

  • Allison

    I’m wondering if maybe they installed the street lamp before restoring the power because said street lamp had actually gotten knocked over, and it wasn’t safe to turn the power back on until the wires were fixed. Might not be true, just a potential alternative explanation unless it genuinely was a brand new steet lamp.

    • There was never a street lamp there (well as long as I’ve lived on the street) — so, it genuinely is brand new. It’s nothing like the two other lamps on the street, which are attached to telephone poles. This lamp has a cement base with metal post. I watched the progress happen every morning as I walked my dog.

      A few weeks ago they (I don’t know who exactly) came out and replaced the lamp on the telephone pole directly in front of my house. It’s wonderfully bright and I’m very happy about having a well lighted street at night, believe me.

      It was just poor timing.

  • Perhaps we should all take a deep breath and try to truly appreciate how incredibly blessed we are to have electricity and air conditioning.

    Obviously, on a global scale, we are incredibly privileged to have both of those things. But even in DC, many people do not have air conditioning at all. I’ve lived here without it for four years, and the temperature in my 2nd floor bedroom is regularly in the 90s during the summer. We do all right with fans and it would definitely be hard to live without them during such a hot week, but we would manage. And we would know that the power would be back on eventually. It’s always a good exercise, during trying times, to count your blessings!

    (Not to dissuade anyone from regulating utilities – please, go for it!)

    • It’s not “blessed”. Sure, we’re all lucky on some level to have been born in America and not Equatorial Guinea, but we and our forefathers worked hard to make this country succeed and build an infrastructure. I’m not saying we shouldn’t reflect on how cushy our lives are, but we also should demand more. The fact that Pepco has the profits and salaries they do, means they are up for scrutiny and it’s fair game for customers to complain when things go wrong.

    • Sweet, since you’re so fortunate, why dont you just start giving all of your money away for sub-par service.

      I guess we shouldnt expect to be treated with respect when we go out to eat because Somalians cant afford to eat out at nice restaurants.

      I’m so sick of hearing some variation of “first world problems”. You know one of the things that makes us a “first world” country? Our reasonably reliable electrical grid. It’d be great if we could keep it that way instead of squeezing every last cent out of consumers to pass on to shareholders and executives while the infrastructure erodes.

      You’re right, we have “first world problems” like how to keep the lights on and how to explore the universe beyond the moon. So what?

      • Do you understand that the profits of public utilities are limited by regulators?

        Hopefully the restoration of air conditioning will bring back sense to the cranky hotheads here.

        • I didnt lose power once. My lines are underground for miles downstream.

          Do you understand that just because profits are “limited” doesnt mean that the regulators are doing enough to hold their feet to the fire? No shit that public utilities are regulated, but when Pepco can consistently suck for decades, then the regulators are the weak link. Pepco is just being capitalist. The regulators came about because a lack of competition.

          Let me ask you, did you write the talking points or did Pepco just hand them to their PR agency?

          Its just interesting, because every single point you’ve hit, I first heard from Pepco execs on NPR.

        • Well, I’m one of the Anonymouses that’s replied to you, but this is only my 3rd time.

    • You at least have fans to move the air around. I grew up in the deep south without A/C, and the fans helped. This was just stiffling.

  • I share your frustration but this letter is not very sensible. PEPCO is a regulated utility and any significant new capital costs will come from rate increases. Burying all of the power lines would add more than $200 to the monthly bills of customers. I suggest the letter writer learn more about the subject before firing off petitions no one can take seriously.

    • PDleftMtP

      I’m not going to defend Pepco’s relative performance, but this is right. Saying we can fund a multi-billion dollar investment without raising rates significantly by cutting into corporate greed is just the left-wing version of the tea party’s saying we can balance the budget without raising taxes by cutting government fraud and waste. There is no money fairy.

      • “There is no money fairy”

        Unless you are rich, are too big to fail, or are otherwise well connected to congressional power.

        Although I completely agree with your point that the money should come from somewhere (raising rates or taxes), not spending us further into the red.

      • Lack of A/C + lack of something important to do with time + lack of understanding of complex problems of aging infrastructure = petulant posts about money-grubbing utilities.

      • Who says there won’t be tax increases? Everyone talks about tax increases but not for everyone. Let’s increase the top tax rates and put our tax policy back in balance. If the top earners paid what they paid under Reagan or Bush 1, we could invest in the infrastructure that we need. And corporations, many who pay no taxes, could start paying their fair share we would be able to fix problems like this. Look, after 10 years of low tax rates so the “job creators” would start hiring hasn’t worked. Corporations have made record profits and have record amount of money in the bank and are not hiring.

  • I’m not sure what you’re expecting Pepco to do. Are they supposed to rally up all the employees who aren’t part of their emergency response crew and train them to do something that’s not part of their job description? I used to go to school with a guy who worked for Dominion Power, and believe me, everyone who’s responsible for restoring downed power lines is working around the clock to fix them when something like this happens. Doesn’t matter what company they work for. And I’m sure the task is not as simple as everyone makes it out to be. If you look at the maps, DC made out pretty well with power availability after the storm. Everyone I work with lost power in the suburbs, and most of my coworkers in Virginia still didn’t have it restored by Monday. Some are still without. The situation is frustrating, certainly but this is not strictly a Pepco problem and it’s silly to point to someone installing a street light as the reason for it.

    • What are you talking about? Pepco pays out-of-state workers to come in and work on the lines. Guess what? they were buying far fewer man hours and running smaller crews than utilities in neighboring jurisdictions.

      • So is Mr. Street Light Installer not supposed to continue doing his job while all this is going on?

        • I dont care what the streetlight installers do. I think Pepco should have hired the same number of out-of-state contractors and purchased close to the same man hours as utilities in neighboring jurisdictions.

          • Because we have exactly the same geography, volume of customers affected, and specific issues as neighboring jurisdictions?

      • Clearly Anon X is an super-competent utility executive. It’s really that simple, people! If only Anon X could be put in charge, Pepco would be fixed and all our problems would be solved.

      • According to Pepco–and sure, consider the source–that’s because unlike Dominion, most of their reciprocal agreements were with other utilities in the path of the storm. There’s no giant pool of sub utility workers out there for them to hire; they have to borrow them from other utilities. In this case, the other utilities needed those workers to fix their own lines.

      • Honest question: How does the number of emergency crews hired on by Pepco compare to the neighboring utilities on a per customer or per square-mile-of-service-area basis? Just comparing sizes of crews is not helpful without context.

        • I agree, and thats a very fair question and one that I dont know… my gripe is that its the crew size this time, the response time, the downtime and the number of times that this is repeated over and over again when there are storms. The crew size is merely one part of the story of a utility that is routinely viewed as one of the worst in the nation.

          I dont think the people who are criticizing Pepco are only thinking about this storm. This storm was really bad and was (hopefully) an outlier. Its more the fact that decades have gone by and things are always like this. Other similar cities and suburban areas dont have the same experiences and people are generally happier with their utilities. Though, its also fair to point out that people are generally unhappy with their utility services, but Pepco still ranks highest in disapproval even then.

          As for where they get their outside help, I guess anything is possible, but they were bragging on the radio about getting people from Canada, New Jersey, North Carolina, etc. You cant have it both ways. You cant brag about going way out of your way to hire crews but then defend your lack of hiring crews on the lack of availability.

          I’d be ok with them getting caught with their pants down once in a while and especially times like this.. but its just become so routine. There’s no reason to have the worst rated utility. Sure, someone has to have it, but its time for someone else to have it.

  • We should really be cursing the city for allowing all these big old trees to be here. It’s dangerous and it’s the reason Pepco has been scrambling to restore power.

    • Right, not having power outages every once in a while are totally worth getting rid of what makes our city beautiful.

      How on earth can anyone be against trees?

  • austindc

    Well, more than a thousand of us lost power yesterday in Columbia Heights and there was no storm or trees to blame, and many of us are still without power, so I am going to join the pitchfork mob for now. But usually they seem to do a good job in my neighborhood.

  • I’ve had bad experiences with Pepco as well, but I am constantly amazed at how people get pissed off when companies make money. This is what they are supposed to do. If you don’t like the fact that they don’t pay taxes, write your congressional represenative. If a company had the ability to pay no taxes (without breaking the law), and actually paid taxes, their accountant should be fired immeadiately.

    • “write your congressional represenative”

      right, so what are we in DC supposed to do?

    • Most people dont have a problem with companies that make money when they are competing in the free and open market. That is not the case with power utilities. Which is why the regualtors need to knock some heads to get Pepco to wake up and make improvements.

      • On the contrary. The free market is the ONLY place where profits can be maximized. For people who get up in arms about corporate greed, a regulated utility is a poor target. Public utilities can and do frustrate customers, but corporate greed or excessive profits cannot be the reason because those profits are limited.

    • write congress? hello we are not multi millionaires able to buy politicians, they dont care what the peons have to say.

  • Corporations with near monopolies that obviously put profits over investing in customers and proper infrastructure is a huge problem. However, like the Anonymous above said, “We never praise electricity. Only curse not having it.”

    Most people in the world don’t even have the privilege of electricity that sometimes goes out. And most humans who have ever lived did so without electricity. So, maybe instead of complaining so much, we should all be more thankful that for the most part, we get to enjoy this luxuries consistently and not take them for granted and freak out so much. Being 100% dependent on things other people control is always a bad idea.

  • It’s not just trees, though. My neigborhood and those surrounding it have underground utilities, and we still lost power for 3.5 days. And yes, I am angry with Pepco’s response. Telling thousands of people that they will have power within a week – oh but we can’t be more exact than that – is not especially useful communication.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but clearly something needs to change. These multi-day outages happen with alarming frequency.

    • Yeah, my friends in colleagues in VA have outages all the time, and this time was particularly bad. Sometihng needs to be done.

  • austindc

    Cute song! How did they get that matching couch pillow on the right to play guitar?

  • Wow, Anon X is a big bully.

  • I don’t have any problems with how they handled the aftermath of the storm. I lost power Friday night and got it back Sunday night.

    I’m a little annoyed at Pepco now because I paid my last bill online on July 1 and never got a confirmation. My account says that it’s paid but I still have a bill (with the same amount) due. Whenever I try to call their billing phone number, I get a message about the power outage and restoration/repairs. I filled out an online contact form this morning. Hopefully they’ll email me about it soon.

  • I had an electrician perform a heavy-up at my house last June. He called Pepco and placed the order to have someone come out and do the necessary work for their end. After multiple calls over the past year, a Pepco truck with 8 guys finally showed up this Tuesday to do the work. I was amazed that they chose this week to finally do this routine work, considering the storm.

  • Change dot org is a joke! Has any online petition ever been successful? I think I might “sign” that one with the names Haywood Jablowme and Phil MaCrackin.

  • The amount of excuse making in this thread is astonishing. Pepco is, objectively, a bad, unreliable electric company. They are one of the worst in then nation. This has not always been the case – they used to be average. They made a decision to spend less on maintenance, and reliability went down. None of this is in doubt.

    Storms will happen, and outages will happen. They do not need to happen as frequently as they do, and they do not need to last as long as they do, even with above ground lines. Claiming the only way to fix Pepco is to bury everything is simply not true. 10 years ago Pepco eas a much better company, even though they had the same geography. We just need bett regulators to enforce reliabilty, which may, finally, be coming.

    • the amount of ignorance about the economics of publicly regulated utilities in this thread is the truly staggering thing.

      • Which part of my post demonstrates “ignorance about the economics of publicly regulated utilities”? And why don’t you sign up for an account, Mr or Ms Pepco cheerleader, instead of doing all of your corporate bootlicking as Anonymous?

      • +1

        Ignorant rage is satisfying.

        Grappling with a complex and difficult problem is not.

        • You keep throwing around ignorance and acting like you and pepco have it all figured out. Except you dont explain how pepco is any different from all the other utility companies that many hate, but have a better service record than pepco and arent hated as much.

          There’s very little left to think about the rampant Pepco apologism on this thread except that at least one person with a personal vested interest in the company is posting on this thread.

          People dont defend the catholic church, obama, or the republicans as much as Pepco is being defended here. You’d think insulting Pepco was tantamount to insulting freedom and America.

          • how did he/she defend pepco???

            gb just said the problem is complex. by your response, you seem to be the one on a blind crusade, assuming you have all the facts.

          • A lot of us dislike Pepco. The difference between most of us and you: We don’t spend a whole day frothing a bunch of nonsense on a local blog.

  • From the OP: “My neighbor is 70 years old … Kay told me this morning that her dog is acting really sluggish and she is worried the dog might die.”

    Ummm – maybe you could take a little time off from petitioning and web-surfing, and actually help the lady and her dog.

    • Yes, because clearly she talked to this old lady and then left her high and dry and ran home to her computer. I think we can assume the OP was doing the right thing, checking on her elderly neighbor. And it’s weird because you could probably help your neighbor and write an online petition. Like all in one day, even. Amazing how some people can do more tasks than one.

  • I agree, Pepco needs to be held totally accountable, but that video is horrible and juvenile. Waaaaahhh, drunk hipsters with no electricity.

  • I think Pepco is too easy a target for letters such as this. First, this letter seems to equate CEO’s salary tied to the failings of restoring power in what seems to be a “reasonable” fashion. The CEO’s salary is one thing (and not uncommon in terms of CEO pay scale in general. Second, Pepco workers have been working 24/7 (there were over 1 million outages in the DC area). Clearly, the Pepco workforce wasn’t enough because they’ve called in electrical workers from the south and from Canada. Please don’t confuse management pay with those workers out there working 24/7 and in really hostile temperatures. I think their clean-up/restoration is complicated to the extent that you have different crews for removing trees, another crew for fixing the power lines and yet another crew for restoring power. A lot of the problem rests with the fact that the power lines are above ground (hence, falling trees will bring down/damage power lines). Restructuring the system is costly to retrofit underground and another of the arguments is that people don’t want to lose these trees in their neighborhood so some are resisting putting the lines underground because they don’t want to change their neighborhood landscape. Regardless, Pepco and other power companies have a real doozy of a job following massive storms such as post-derecho. I’m not saying if you’re sitting without electricity for a week that this is acceptable and how especially unfortunate that it comes at the same time we are having record-breaking heat. But I don’t understand all the hate on Pepco who have restored over 700,000 people with power, while other companies who have far fewer outages and are still restoring power to all their respective customers. Why don’t they get heat? Because the numbers are smaller? Then the other companies should have power restored to all of their customers.

    Unfortunately, I think it’s a frustrating situation for all and really ends up being a no-win situation for everyone.

  • We have to give a lot of credit and thanks for the workers on the street. Few if any of us have more than a very basic understanding to how power is delivered to our homes, how the connections are made, and what is involved in the safely to restoring power after the storm.

    As each of us probably feels about our professions, there can be a vast gap between what we do and how it is preceived and how things really
    work. Hats off to the Pepco workers and the other utility workers whom have come to our area to lend a working hand!

    How many of you have spent time working with high-voltage cabling, bucket trucks, and commercial tree equipment and understand the dangers with working with electric?

    Bottomline…As with a lot of other commodities, most of us give no thought at all until it fails.

    I certainly feel for those without power. I know it’s hard to keep cool about it, but no one should think that some CEO at Pepco is flipping a coin or looking for favors, deciding who’s next. It’s a lot more like battlefield triage: no fun, no glory, but it does take lots of guts.

    • The CEO at Pepco made a decision to spend less money on maintenance, which caused Pepco to be less reliable. I don’t blame the linemen who are working their asses off right now, but I absolutely blame the company, and you should too.

      Pepco’s problems are a direct result of the choice they made. The company should be held responsible for those choices, as should be the regulators who watched it happen.

  • You can’t blame Pepco for not burying power lines – at least in DC. According to my internet research:
    The DC Public Services Commission (PSC), a district government body which oversees the operations of public utilities, rejected placing power lines underground in October 2010, following the release of a study by Shaw Consultants International into the cost of the operation. While the analysis showed that 100 percent of outages during storms would be prevented by burying the lines, the associated cost of $5.8 billion was declared to be too great.

    The fact is that we have become more and more dependent on electricity and other resources while investing less and less in maintaining, let alone modernizing, those resources. Every year there are articles about how old the water mains are in major cities. And every year exactly nothing gets done about it. People don’t care until there is a crisis. When – not if – a main breaks and a significant part of the population has no water for days or weeks, that’s when it will become an issue. Once electricity is restored and the outrage fades, we’ll go back to relying on the electric grid without any plan to invest 5 cents in modernizing it. There is no planning. It’s just lurching from crisis to crisis.

    • Well said. We can no longer properly invest in our nation’s infrastructure because that would be socialism or something.

    • I completely agree.

    • Well put. The current state of Metro is a good example of how decades of deferred maintenance can destroy the reputation of a public service provider.

  • Lots of good comments here and I thought that follks might like to know that next Monday, July 9, is the last day for public comment on Pepco’s proposed $39.7 million rate increase. For the past year, I have been helping AARP DC fight this rate increase for many of the reasons mentioned in these comments. So far over 5,000 members have written to the Public Service Commission and asked them to deny Pepco’s request. If you are intersted in emailing your thoughts to the Public Service Commission, you can go to and send a note.

    • Because that makes sense. Have you not seen how people are complaining about having now power? Or that it is taking too long to repair from this storm? So, we demand Pepco to “fix” their “broken” system, yet deny them the chance to raise capital to fund projects to do just that. Tell me how that is logical…

      • There are certainly many who feel the way you do – how can improvements be made if Pepco doesn’t have the capital. However, the company has a record of raising such capital and choosing payouts to shareholders rather than making necessary investments to an aging infrastructure. Should customers be on the hook for those decisions, only to be asked to pay more? Certainly, investments should and will need to be made and customers will likely pay for them – but the means in which that arragement is made must be carefully crafted. I would argue that the current rate proposal lacks that careful attention and only further strips consumer protections.

        • You don’t think that there might be some connection between Pepco raising capital, and Pepco making dividend payments to shareholders?

  • Everyone should get used to this. As the oil not so slowly runs out, and the grid ages, and the economy continues to suffer, we will slowly but surely regress (or to some progress) back to the days before electricity. They call this the “information age” but it’s really the “oil age” and it won’t last forever.

  • Pepco sucks and they do not deserve a $42 million rate increase from D.C. residents. Mr. Graham, the President of Pepco should be terminated. Sometimes I wonder if the D.C. and Maryland Public Service Commissions and politicians are in the pockets of Pepco?

    • I think the answer to your question is clear. Just this year, a DC Council committee voted against someone who would take a harder stand on Pepco as the head the PSC, Betty Noel. From the Post (March 15th):

      “The nomination turned into a bruising battle between Pepco and allied business interests, who questioned Noel’s impartiality given her previous work, and labor unions and consumer advocates, who have accused the commission of being in thrall to the utilities they regulate.”

      Because of Yvette Alexander, Muriel Bowser and Phil Mendelson, we don’t have a Noel serving as an independent-minded head overseeing Pepco.

      • DCster, you are correct. Ms. Betty Noel would have made an excellent D.C. Public Service Commssioner. I was disappointed in Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser and At-Large D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson voting against Ms. Noel’s nomination.

        Faints at computer! LOL

  • Please let us know how Kay and her dog are doing… hope AC is back

  • Is there a way to rate Pepco customers? Because if so they would probably be the biggest bunch of whiners in the country ( see OP). Is there a way to rate media bias? I read an article yesterday in the Examiner which not only had incorrect numera but failed to report the outages in other territories. Its as if Pepco was responsible for all 1.2 million outages. This was not an avg 10 minute thunderstorm, it caused so much damage that Pepco spent Sat and Sun just assessing the damage to pass along to the crews they contracted out from all over the country and Canada. If Pepco really is that unreliable where youre located you should probably look into a generator

    • Is that you D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange, a former Pepco Vice President?

    • “Pepco now ranks at or near the bottom in industry surveys of reliability. The average Pepco customer experienced 70 percent more outages than customers of other big city utilities that took part in one 2009 survey, The Post reported. And the lights stayed out more than twice as long.”

      Pepco is unreliable, period. And I’m not going to buy a generator. Instead I’m going to push my elected officials and PUC to actually start to regulate, and force Pepco to meet reliabilty targets or pay penalties.

    • Great, so this storm sucked. What about all the other storms?

      Also, why can other utilities manager to stay up in similar circumstances when Pepco cannot? Was Pepco the first utility and therefore has the oldest infrastructure? Oh wait, they arent. Even if they were, they’d still be guilty of not making all of investments they were supposed to.

  • Loved the video and song – thanks, POP

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