Power plan hope voiced

People's Counsel says criticism is misleading

Deregulation dispute

MAPSA denounced the proposed settlement with BGE


July 03, 1999|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

The Office of the People's Counsel yesterday rebutted claims by a coalition of power companies that said this week's deregulation settlement with BGE closes Maryland to competition.

Michael J. Travieso, the state-appointed People's Counsel representing consumers, said criticism of the state's energy-deregulation plan by the Mid-Atlantic Power Supply Association is "inaccurate and misleading."

On Tuesday, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and at least a dozen parties involved in closed-door talks submitted a proposal to the Public Service Commission (PSC) that would let users pick their power company by next July.

Customers remaining with BGE would receive a 6.5 percent rate reduction for six years.

In return, BGE would be allowed to collect $528 million from all customers during the same period as partial repayment for what the utility spent building power plants to furnish electricity to its 1.1 million customers in the region.

The PSC is to meet next week to set public hearings on the proposed BGE settlement.

"All of the parties who signed the agreement, including my office, are hopeful that competition will develop and that prices will decline as a result," Travieso said.

"On the other hand, if MAPSA's plan is for customers to forgo guaranteed rate cuts in favor of unsupported claims that vigorous competition [may reduce the rate cut by more than 6.5 percent], then to them I say a bird in the hand is worth two phantom birds in the bush," Travieso said in his statement.

The Mid-Atlantic Power Supply Association denounced Tuesday's settlement with BGE, Maryland's largest utility, and refused to sign the agreement.

Yesterday, Suzanne Daycock, the group's executive director, said MAPSA intends to present a counterproposal to the commission in coming hearings.

MAPSA, which is based in New Jersey, represents power companies including DTE Edison America, Shell Energy Services Co. and Green Mountain Energy Resources, all of which said they want to offer electricity to the Maryland residential market.

The intent of electricity deregulation was to clear the way for introducing competition into the state's regulated electric power industry.

The OPC also made it its priority to secure a rate reduction for Maryland's customers.

Daycock said the OPC is unjustly satisfied with just a rate cut.

"The discounted rates are clearly a victory for customers, but I remain bewildered as to why the People's Counsel would not advocate a robust competitive market," Daycock said.

"OPC should not be willing to forgo additional benefits that could come through competition."

Pub Date: 7/03/99

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