How the PSC ties BGE and Pepco's hands
By Edward Portner
As noted in the July 31 editorial “Gridlock,” in June the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) denied a rate increase that BGE said it needed to add smart meters. The editorial should have also noted that the meters would have enabled the utility to immediately assess the state of outages in the whole system, which would greatly improve response to large-scale power losses.
Just days before the most recent power outage centered in Montgomery County [“Back-to-back blows smack region around,” Aug. 13, Metro], the PSC denied most of a rate increase that Pepco sought to upgrade its distribution system, which is the heart of the outage problem. The rationale in each case was that some customers might not be able to afford any rate increase, as if the unreliability of power systems does not have significant economic consequences for the same customers, as well as health and safety implications.
In response to the public outcry about the number and duration of power losses in Maryland, on Aug. 12 the PSC initiated a proceeding to investigate the reliability of Pepco’s electrical distribution service. While this inquiry is needed, it would be more appropriate for the Maryland legislature or the governor to investigate why the PSC has denied two important recent requests to improve electrical system reliability in Maryland.
Pepco clearly has problems with reliability, response time and communication, but the environment for system improvement will not change as long as the PSC keeps sending the message that utilities should not bother. The Post should also do a better job of connecting the dots on this issue.
| August 18, 2010; 10:07 PM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Maryland
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