BG&E's Baltimore-area rates up 11% in 12 months outlying counties pay less

January 26, 1991|By Kim Clark

While electricity prices for Marylanders in some outlying counties declined last year, the metropolitan-area customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. saw their rates rise 11 percent from January 1990 to January 1991, the biggest jump in the state for that period.

A survey of electricity rates in the region shows that utilities with troubled nuclear power plants charge the highest rates per kilowatt-hour, the energy required to run 10 100-watt light bulbs for an hour. Typical residential customers use 500 to 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month.

The survey also showed that of the four companies that serve Maryland and other states, three of them charge lower rates here than they do in other jurisdictions.

The most expensive utility in the state, Conowingo Power Co., is owned by Philadelphia Electric Co., which came under federal scrutiny when employees at its Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania were found asleep on the job.

Conowingo charges its Northern Maryland customers 9.9 cents a kilowatt-hour during the winter, down from last winter's 10.7 cents and significantly lower than its parent company's rate for Philadelphia, which exceeds 14 cents a kilowatt-hour.

Maryland's Public Service Commission, which regulates the prices set by monopolies such as electric utilities, has not allowed Philadelphia Electric to pass through to Maryland customers some of the costs associated with improvements to Peach Bottom.

hTC BG&E, which used to charge rates that were about average for the country and region, has become the state's second-most-expensive utility.

The company, which has won several rate increases to cover increased costs associated with repairs to its Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant since last year, is charging 9 cents a kilowatt-hour this month, an increase from 8.1 cents last winter.

BG&E spokesman Arthur Slusark said the expenses of shutting down and repairing Calvert Cliffs have driven up the company's costs but that BG&E is still among the cheapest utilities on the

East Coast.

Mr. Slusark said a BG&E survey of other cities showed that typical residential bills range from about $35 a month in Washington to morethan $83 in New York and Philadelphia. Baltimore's average bill of about $52 falls near the middle of that range. Last winter, BG&E's rates also put it in the middle of the national range, according to surveys by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

The utility with the lowest rates in the state is Potomac Electric Power Co., which charges 6.6 cents per kilowatt-hour for customers in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Pepco's rates in Washington, 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, make it one of the least expensive utilities in the nation, according to the association survey.

Nancy Moses, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based utility, said Pepco's rates are low because it burns coal to generate power and because the District of Columbia's regulators set a low rate for the first few hundred kilowatt-hours to give a break to low-income residents.

The utility commissioners association, which publishes a survey of winter electricity rates every year, has found that the nation's least expensive utilities tend to rely on water power and coal.

Last winter, the nation's least expensive utility was Washington Water Power Co., which charged customers in the Pacific Northwest 4.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The most expensive utilities tend to be those that are on islands such as Hawaii, those that burn oil to generate power and those that have problems running nuclear power plants, said association spokesman Mike Foley.

Last winter, the nation's most expensive electric utility was the Long Island Lighting Co., owner of the controversial Shoreham nuclear power plant, which charged 14.3 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Mr. Foley said the annual surveys have shown stable electricity prices for the last several years but that customers can expect price increases in the coming years.

In fact, most of the utilities in Maryland have announced tha they are considering asking for rate increases.

BG&E has already won approval of a 2 percent increase in monthly bills starting Friday and has won tentative approval for another increase starting June 1.

Pepco also has asked state regulators for a rate increase, and Delmarva Power & Light Co. is considering filing for an increase this year, said spokesman Jay Mason.

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