Carroll Co. energy cooperative rejects five bids for electricity

May 17, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County cooperative that pooled $3.5 million to buy electricity has been unable to lock in reasonable energy prices in a highly volatile market as Maryland moves toward deregulation in July.

That means Carroll businesses and municipalities could absorb rate increases as high as 30 percent when local governments' finances are tight.

The 82-member group - which includes Westminster, Sykesville, Manchester and New Windsor - sought bids last week from five energy suppliers. The bids, however, translated into rate increases of more than 30 percent, said Richard Anderson, an energy consultant for the electricity cooperative organized this year by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.

As a result, the cooperative has decided to forgo a contract and will wait until the energy market is more stable. The group could solicit bids again as early as September, he said.

"There were quotations that provided savings on selected accounts, but the participants of the cooperative felt as though they would rather wait and see if the market will readjust itself and provide them with a significantly larger savings to all members at a later date," Anderson said.

Chamber President Bonnie J. Grady did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Cooperatives have been forming across the state in an effort to secure the lowest energy prices for members through collective buying. In 1999, the Maryland General Assembly approved energy deregulation to open up the industry to competitive pricing.

Rate limits that were set to ease the transition will expire June 30 for commercial customers served by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co.

Last week, a group of governments in the region, including Carroll County, awarded a $67.3 million energy-supply contract to Houston-based Reliant Energy. The participants are expected to save $3.2 million a year on electricity over 23 months.

Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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