But mostly, I like to get to the bottom of these issues as a consumer who has experienced more than a dozen power outages, lost thousands of dollars to water damage resulting from powerless sump pumps and warming refrigerators and who subsequently invested thousands more in a hardwired generator. All of these bad experiences fall into the last 20 years of my life as a BGE customer in an older suburb, where power lines run overhead through trees. None of the power outages fall into the 42 years before that, when I lived in cities or in suburbs with underground power lines. Coincidence?
I did some of my own math: Let's say I lost 20 grand to the sloppy power grid in 20 years, or $1,000 per year. That would be roughly 8 cents for each kilowatt-hour used in those years. If all 1.2 million customers had paid only half of that — say, a 4-cents-per-kWh surcharge — then BGE would have collected $12 billion in those 20 years. That is a nice chunk toward "wildly expensive," even if actual numbers are probably different and folks may not go for a 4-cent surcharge, at first. The calculation shows, though, that together and over time, we could do a lot better and eventually would all start saving. There are plenty of countries and places that can show us how.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA, is the president of ArchPlan Inc. Philipsen Architects in Baltimore and co-chairman of the Urban Design Committee AIA Baltimore. His email is email@example.com.