The Washington Examiner reports today that hundreds of thousands of PEPCO customers remain without power, more than 36 hours after a nasty storm battered the D.C. region. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Potomac, electricity had been restored by Dominion Power to all but a few thousand as of last night. Virginians and Marylanders have long been rivals, but at least on this score, it’s obvious that Virginia is vastly superior.

An academic study from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley Labs finds that a sustained power outage will cost small businesses anywhere almost $5,000 per day and larger businesses considerably more. If this outage lasts anywhere close to the 10-days that it took PEPCO to restore power after Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the costs to a struggling small local business could be catastrophic.

For residential customers, the costs are less quantifiable. Other than simple annoyance, there is the potential for a life-threatening situation for infants, the sick, and the elderly if temperatures climb into the 100’s before power is restored. The storm brought slightly cooler temperatures yesterday, but tomorrow is predicted to reach the mid-90’s. National Weather Service data show that heat is a bigger killer than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning.

Given these dangers, it’s no surprise that Maryland has some of the lowest electric customer satisfaction ratings in the nation.  According to the 2010 J.D. Power satisfaction study, PEPCO and Baltimore Gas & Electric are tied for 104th out of 121 large and mid-sized power companies in and their consumer score of 600 was well below the national average of 630. Meanwhile, Dominion Electric ranks at 58th, or slightly above average with a consumer score of 636.

One has to wonder how there can be such a large disparity in both the number of outages and the response time between Virginia and Maryland. The D.C. suburbs are home to 21st century technology companies and D.C. itself is the capitol of the most advanced and powerful nation in the history of the world.

PEPCO should be embarrassed that its customers are reduced to living in the 17th century.

UPDATE: My original post forgot to mention two other area power companies. Both NOVEC and the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative scored in the top 20 nationwide with customer satisfaction scores well above the national average. Unlike their larger rivals, NOVEC has completely restored power within their coverage area and SMECO has restored power to all but a few dozen customers in Calvert and St. Mary's Counties.