BGE to review PeakRewards program

No more power cutoffs expected through Saturday, officials say

July 24, 2011|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore Gas and Electric is reviewing its PeakRewards program, officials said Sunday, after emergency activation of the energy-saving program turned off air conditioning for hours during the hottest part of Friday, angering customers.

The utility will try to avoid another systemwide emergency activation through Saturday, officials said, despite forecasts calling for temperatures to reach 100 degrees or higher Friday and Saturday.

"Barring anything unforeseen related to the electricity system or the weather, we are not expecting to go to another emergency event," said BGE spokeswoman Linda J. Foy.

Friday's intense heat led to the first "emergency event" in the four-year-old program, lasting about six hours. Participating customers came to a slow boil as they couldn't override the shutdown, and with no air-conditioning for up to 10 hours, watched the thermostats in their homes top 90 degrees.

Customers complained they couldn't get through on customer service lines; officials earlier blamed that on the volume of calls overburdening call centers and the cellular network, and said they are working on improvements. Some participants were confused when online records said the air conditioning was back on when it was not.

BGE spokeswoman Linda J. Foy said the company will take a look at what happened Friday, evaluating what "went well and what could gone better." One aspect they will examine is "how we communicate with our customers to set appropriate expectations," Foy said.

Adding to the hot weather and high electricity usage was a transformer problem at an important substation. Officials said that forced the utility to take it out of service for repairs, cutting back the available electricity supply at a time when demand was "unusually high."

PJM Interconnection, the power grid operator for Maryland and several other states, directed the emergency cutback, BGE officials said. Without it, all of BGE's 1.2 million customers could have been subjected to brownouts and rolling blackouts, they said.

"That's what customers participating in the program helped us avoid," Foy said.

Officials said Friday's emergency load reduction did save substantial energy — 600 megawatts, the equivalent of a medium-sized power plant.

As of Saturday, about 1,700 of the 350,000 people enrolled in the program have dropped out or reduced their enrollment level, said BGE executive Mark D. Case, who is in charge of PeakRewards.

Sun reporters Tricia Bishop and Steve Kilar contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.