To forestall the need to build more power plants, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. plans to share the cost of new energy-efficient equipment for businesses and some government buildings.
"We'll put the money into this rather than a big power plant," said Edwin W. Skoglin 3rd, manager of BG&E's marketing and energy service department.
BG&E's initiative was announced yesterday at a news conference in front of the district court and multi-service building in Bel Air, the first state building to be refitted with energy-efficient fluorescent lighting.
On hand for the event were Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein.
BG&E will pay $100,000 to replace the building's 40-watt fluorescent tubes, and the fixtures that hold them, with 20-watt tubes that produce the same amount of light. The state will repay BG&E $50,000 of the costs over the next three years, Skoglin said.
Overall electrical costs should be reduced by about 20 percent, which means the state will be able to repay BG&E out of the savings, he said.
Skoglin said the government buildings to be refitted are to be "showplaces" to demonstrate the new efficient lighting.
Other local government jurisdictions have taken BG&E up on its offer and refitting projects are planned in Baltimore, Towson, Annapolis and Bel Air. Discussions are still under way with officials in Howard and Carroll counties, said BG&E spokesman Arthur J. Slusark. BG&E's share of the costs will total about $500,000, he said.
The efficient lighting pilot project is part of a BG&E effort called Conserve 2000 that involves various efforts to increase energy conservation.
Starting Jan. 1, BG&E will pay up to 40 percent of the entire installation cost of improved efficient lighting systems for business customers. "Not only will this program mean real savings to our customers, but reducing energy consumption has obvious, positive environmental aspects as well," Skoglin said.
The utility's efforts come as the state Public Service Commission is considering a 12 percent, or $193 million, rate increase by BG&E, the largest request in the company's history. Much of the proposed increase stems from problems with the company's Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.
The plant had been out of service since May 1989. But one of its two reactors was restarted on Oct. 1 and the other reactor is expected to be back on line by the end of the year.
While both reactors were out of service, BG&E had to pay an average of $600,000 a day for replacement electricity from other utilities.
Also at the press conference, the utility company announced that the state government will test six Chevrolet Celebrities that are converted to use liquefied natural gas. After a year of use, the engines will be compared with cars that used gasoline.
Shipment of liquefied natural gas in special ships a decade ago met with public concern over possible explosions. But the use of LNG in vehicles should be no more dangerous than gasoline, Slusark said, because the ignition temperature of LNG is 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit while that of gasoline is 600 degrees. However, there are still concerns about moving the vehicles through tunnels. If the natural gas escaped, it could become trapped in the tunnel, he said.