WASHINGTON, April 30 -- Public Citizen issued the following statement by Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen's Energy Program:
Today's announcement of a debt-laden acquisition (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/pepco-agrees-to-be-sold-to-chicagos-exelon-in-x-billion-utility-deal/2014/04/30/f762cbb2-cfdb-11e3-a6b1-45c4dffb85a6_story.html) of D.C.-based Potomac Electric Power Co (PEPCO) by Chicago-based Exelon raises concerns about shifting risks from Exelon's massive unregulated wholesale generation portfolio to Pepco's captive ratepayers. Stronger federal consumer protections are required, including the establishment of an Office of Consumer Advocate at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In addition, state and federal regulators must examine whether this transaction exposes ratepayers to too much risk.
As one of the largest operators of unregulated power plants in the regional market (PJM), Exelon is exposed to commodity price volatility risk. It appears as though Exelon is embarking on a strategy to mitigate that risk by expanding its control over captive ratepayers through the acquisition of local distributional utilities. The more captive ratepayers a large wholesale generator like Exelon has, the easier it is for it to find a guaranteed market to pass on higher wholesale costs. Therefore, this deal is all about shifting the operational risk away from Exelon's shareholders and onto Pepco's household consumers.
Part of Exelon's wholesale operational risk stems from its nuclear power fleet. Exelon's aging nuclear plants have been a drag on its profits, so adding more captive ratepayers through this deal will help Exelon shift its nuclear liability away from shareholders and on to ratepayers.
Exelon already controls captive ratepayers through its 2012 acquisition of Baltimore Gas & Electric, its existing captive ratepayers at Commonwealth Edison, and its acquisition of PECO in Pennsylvania.
With this proposed purchase, Exelon is essentially recreating a giant corporation. While Wall Street investors likely will cheer the risk-shifting away from Exelon's shareholders and on to D.C. ratepayers, our concerns about the adequacy of consumer protections in the wholesale market require the adoption of additional reforms, including the establishment of an office of consumer advocate at FERC.
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