After Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s rate adjustment was granted in June, Delmarva Power and Pepco now seek to raise their prices, citing millions of dollars invested into improving their electric systems and services during the past few years.
However, many, including Montgomery County councilmember Roger Berliner, said they believe these rate adjustments are unwarranted and will disproportionately affect lower-income residents already struggling to pay bills.
"There are so many people who are struggling and live on a fixed income," said Berliner, who also spoke at a public hearing on the rate increase on Sept. 6. "Pepco has a history of asking for more than what is justified."
Exelon acquired Pepco and Delmarva in March, and Baltimore Gas and Electric in 2012.
Pepco, whose coverage area consists of large portions of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, seeks to raise the average bill of a customer 8.71 percent or $13.29, making the new monthly average about $165. The new rates will bring in about $103 million annually, according to Pepco's filing with the Public Service Commission. (2016PepcoMDRateCaseApplicationDirectTestimonyandExhibitsVolIofII041616.pdf ).
The cost of energy is especially burdensome on low-income African-American and Latino households, according to a report published by Ariel Drehobl, a research analyst with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The report looked at 48 major U.S. cities, including Baltimore and Washington, D.C. (http://aceee.org/press/2016/04/report-energy-burden-low-income)
African-American and white households pay similar prices for utilities; however, the median energy burden for African-Americans is 5.4 percent of household income, compared to that of whites at 3.3 percent, according to the report. Latinos experience a median energy burden of 4.1 percent of their household income.
In Prince George's County, African-Americans account for about 64.6 percent of the population, and Hispanic or Latino residents account for 17.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/24033).
"Families who face higher energy burdens experience many negative long-term effects on their health and well-being," Drehbohl wrote. "These families are at greater risk for respiratory diseases and increased stress, and they can experience increased economic hardship and difficulty in moving out of poverty."
The $13 average would include both fixed and volumetric fees on a customer's bill.
"Fixed prices make it more difficult for households to try to mitigate the higher burden because you can't reduce your bill through energy-efficient measures," Drehobl said. "Low-income families tend to live in smaller households (but) bills tend to be higher per square foot."