DC utility considers PR options amid outages, fires and monetaryissues

WASHINGTON: During a summer of exploding manholes and a three-day

power outage in tony Georgetown, Potomac Electric Power Co. (PEPCO) -

the utility that provides electricity to the nation's capital - is

seeking an agency to help it launch a consumer education program. The

campaign comes as the District of Columbia deregulates electricity.

However, several agencies walked out of the bidder's conference, which

was held in May, because the RFP only guarantees that PEPCO will pay 75%

of billings.

PEPCO expects consumers to pay for the campaign through a hike in

electricity rates, but it needs permission from the DC Public Service

Commission to approve the plan. What PEPCO cannot redeem from consumers

would be taken from the agency's billings, up to 25%.

PEPCO and the District of Columbia have been under heavy criticism after

fires in wiring under Georgetown streets caused manholes to explode and

power to get cut off to businesses and residences this month when

temperatures soared into the 90s. Businesses estimate losses in the

millions of dollars. PEPCO handled crisis communications internally.

PEPCO has not provided any budgetary guidelines, making it difficult to

determine how what could be allotted to PR or advertising. Norma Davis,

PEPCO's planning manager, said, "We want agencies to tell us what to


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