Rockville councilman proposes changes to improve Pepco -- Gazette.Net


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A Rockville city councilman wants to use his political power to create a plan aimed at improving the reliability of a major power company.

In the wake of the derecho that left many in the region without electricity for days this summer, Councilman Mark Pierzchala is suggesting changes in how the state deals with Pepco, one of the state’s largest utility companies.

Pierzchala’s plan for a reliable Pepco, released Oct. 2, calls for adding two members to the Public Service Commission, which regulates utility companies in Maryland, and adding more staff. It also proposes providing incentives for reliable service and collecting information on campaign contributions by utility companies on the PSC website, among other changes.

Pierzchala posted his plan at PepcoPlan.org, a website he created. He said he hopes the plan will facilitate communication about how to improve the reliability of Pepco. He said he is looking for people’s input on the plan through a forum on the website, although a website for complaints would probably be more popular, he admits.

“A lot of people like to complain, but to actually come up with a solution is a very difficult thing,” he said.

The idea for PepcoPlan.org came after Pierzchala attended a series of meetings after the summer derecho knocked out power to many area residents.

“I had attended a series of meetings over the summer and into the fall and did some reading on my own, and I just didn’t see people coming forward with a plan to help fix our reliability problem,” he said.

Pierzchala credits former Rockville Mayor Susan Hoffmann with the idea for adding consumer representatives to the Public Service Commission. Hoffman said that she, like many others, started researching the reasons for power outages after the summer storm.

“We cannot change ... our electricity providers no matter what we do,” she said, since the public does not control electric companies’ corporate cultures and labor practices. “But the Public Service Commission can, so what we really need to do is change the Public Service Commission.”

Hoffmann suggests adding two or three people to the commission who do not necessarily have any background in utility companies, but who represent consumers.

Pierzchala eventually hopes to revise his plan and take it to state lawmakers in 2013.

For now, he is looking for ideas and input on his and other plans to improve Pepco’s reliability, through PepcoPlan.org.

The website also includes the full text of Pierzchala’s draft plan and links to plans that others have proposed. So far, Pierzchala has added a report by the state on electric grid resiliency, although he said he expects to add other plans if they become available.

“This kind of problem only gets solved by people being determined to do something about it,” Pierzchala said, “and you just have to be persistant, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”