If there’s one topic that’s been getting attention throughout the state lately, it’s the announcement by Delmarva Power that it is planning to implement a 59 percent increase in rates this May. We’re only going to add to that conversation today.
First off, we understand that the company would go for an increase, particularly after the lock on prices it’s faced over the past seven years. And, unlike some, we’re not going to argue that they don’t have a need to significantly raise rates since their profitability is at an all-time high. After all, there aren’t a lot of people holding candlelight vigils for the company when their profits are not that great.
However, we would argue that this is a big bite for the consumer to swallow all at once. As House Majority Leader Wayne Smith (R-Delaware North) said recently, the hike is going to be tough on people on fixed incomes, particularly for senior citizens, who have less of an opportunity to increase their income than younger consumers.
This is an increase that needs to go a little more gradual, both in terms of public relations for the company and the reality that many customers will not be able to come up with the money, particularly in the hot, humid summer months, when air conditioning can be a way of life around here.
We have nothing against companies doing what they need to do in a free market to either get ahead or stay afloat. However, since electricity options are limited, this is not really a free market we’re discussing. It’s more of a take-it-or-leave-it proposition — and most of us aren’t in the position to check “leave it” when it comes to electricity.
Speaker of the House Terry R. Spence (R-Stratford) is offering a proposal where the state would “provide $250 in assistance for each of the utility’s residential customers.” That’s great, and it would surely help out many of those affected.
But that’s also money that could be going elsewhere, and we’d like to see Delmarva Power offer something instead.