Exelon's bid to buy D.C.-based power company Pepco would make it the largest utility company in the country, the Energy Department's independent research arm said Wednesday.

The Energy Information Administration said the takeover of Pepco by the Chicago utility giant would make it the country's largest utility company based on the number of customers it would serve, 8.5 million, beating out the nation's current title holder, Duke Energy, which achieved its size through a merger with rival Progress Energy three years ago.

Exelon has bought utilities in the Baltimore-Washington area, including Constellation and its subsidiary Baltimore Gas & Electric. The Pepco deal would extend its reach into southern New Jersey and Delaware, where it owns Delmarva Power & Light and Atlantic City Electric.

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The D.C. utility commission in the summer voted down Exelon's $6.8 billion bid, after New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, where Pepco and its subsidiaries operate, approved it. The company has been waging an aggressive campaign to reverse the decision, after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser came out in support of the deal after Exelon agreed to sweeten the terms for consumers.

The deal would ensure D.C. residents are protected from rate hikes, by creating a $25 million fund to offset future increases for residential ratepayers until 2019. It also ensures the company sticks with the District's clean energy goals. Concerns over Exelon scrapping the city's plans to invest in cleaner forms of electricity once it acquired Pepco, as well as concerns over price hikes, scuttled the deal in August.

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