Starting Oct. 1, the Potomac Electric Power Co. plans to give away free energy-efficient light bulbs and insulation to thousands of Marylanders -- and make money at it.
Pepco's proposal, which will be considered by the Maryland Public Service Commission Aug. 21, is the first plan to result from a year-old drive by state officials to encourage utility companies to save as well as sell energy.
Since PSC staffers helped negotiate the agreement, company and state officials said yesterday that they expected the plan to win approval.
And state officials added that they expect Maryland's biggest electric utility, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., to develop similar conservation programs sometime this fall. The rest of the
state's utilities will be encouraged to adopt conservation programs next year.
But after months of negotiations with Maryland consumer representatives, environmentalists, customers and state officials, the utility that serves nearly half a million Marylanders in Prince George's and Montgomery counties has proposed:
* Paying rebates of anywhere from $10 to several hundred dollars to consumers who buy high-efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps. Pepco has said that it will pay anywhere from 70 percent to 85 percent of the difference between low- and high-efficiency units.
* Offering rebates to builders and renovators who install energy-efficient lights, heaters, cooling equipment and motors in commercial buildings and single-family homes. Pepco workers also will give developers free advice on how to make buildings more energy-efficient.
* Free conservation fix-ups for Pepco's 25,000 small business customers. Pepco proposes sending workers to small businesses to install free energy-efficient light bulbs, weatherstripping and other equipment.
Washington-based Pepco said that it will propose additional conservation programs later this fall.
To compensate the company for its conservation costs and for reducing its electricity sales, Pepco has asked Maryland regulators for a rate increase of 0.017 cents per kilowatt hour.
Mary Beth Tighe, an economist for the PSC, said yesterday that Pepco's customers will probably see their bills drop as a result of the program, despite the small rate increase.
Though Pepco said that it expects to spend an additional $36 million on the new conservation programs over the next five years, Ms. Tighe figures that conservation will reduce Pepco's costs by about $105 million because it will cut the need to build expensive power plants.
Pepco's programs are expected to cut Maryland power consumption by 147,545 megawatt-hours by 1996, Ms. Tighe said. A megawatt-hour is the electricity needed to light 10,000 100-watt light bulbs for an hour.