"Most folks would be willing to pay another dollar or two for a more robust grid in order to avoid having to throw out $14-$18 a month" in spoiled food, O'Malley said. "It would be very easy and popular for me to jump on a box here and say, 'Damn the utilities, it's all their fault.'"
While that might please people, he said, "it won't keep the lights on."
The task force's other recommendations include adopting standards to govern how long utilities have to restore outages after major storms. Current standards apply to all electricity service except during major storm events.
The panel also encouraged a study of future strains on utilities' workforce. While the report found utilities have maintained crew staffing levels and increasingly added contracted crews, it found that the average age of workers is about 50.
The task force included officials from the governor's office, PSC, Maryland Energy Administration, and the state departments of natural resources, information technology and emergency management. Members met eight times over a period of three weeks in August and September and heard from outside industry experts on various reliability issues.
BGE spokesman Rob Gould welcomed the recommendations and said utility officials look forward to working with the O'Malley administration and the PSC on exploring them further. "It's an important and positive step forward in our collective efforts to strengthen the grid," Gould said. "The task force did some very good work in a short period of time."
Separately, Board of Estimates voted Wednesday to raise the rate it charges BGE for access to the conduit system by nearly 3 cents per foot of cable, from 90 cents next year to 92.7 cents.
Kimberly Curry, senior counsel for BGE, spoke out against the increase at the meeting, calling it unnecessary and saying it could end up saddling the utility's customers with slightly higher bills. "We just haven't seen that this rate increase is justified," Curry said.
Gould said the $1.5 million in charges would be passed on to the company's 1.2 million customers. Any rate increase, he added, would need to be approved by the PSC. "We absolutely support the need for increased investment in the conduit system," he said. "We see this as more of an issue of disagreement over the rate charge."
The city's conduit system covers nearly all of Baltimore — except the city's outskirts — and provides the concrete casing that carries wires for electricity, telephone service, fiber optics and street and traffic lights.
Jamie Kendrick, deputy director for administration in the city's transportation department, said much of the rate increase would be spent on improvements to the system on Washington Boulevard, Dundalk Avenue, Charles Street and Broening Highway.
Carmody said the conduit rate hike likely would show up in a future request from BGE to increase rates on costumers. "Once it shows up in a rate case, we'll be looking at it," she said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Dresser and Luke Broadwater contributed to this report.