The Public Service Commission in February ordered Maryland utilities to come up with a plan to speed up electric-grid improvements.

"As long as major storms such as hurricanes, snow storms and Derechos occur, we will continue to experience widespread outages," the commissioners wrote. "However, we are not satisfied that the duration, extent and experiences of the outages faced by Marylanders are at an acceptable level."

BGE said its proposed electricity surcharge would help pay for its five-year improvement plan, including tree-trimming beyond the state requirements and addressing twice as many of its worst-performing feeders — circuits supplying power to neighborhoods — as now mandated.

BGE also plans to upgrade some feeders with about 300 "reclosers." The devices allow the utility to automatically reroute power to customers, where possible, during an outage, Case said.

All that should help minimize outages, BGE said. But the work won't eliminate them.

"There's just no way to hurricane-proof the system," said Robert L. Gould, a BGE spokesman.

The utility often points to Pikesville as an example of its reliability work. Major tree trimming and removal significantly cut the outage problem there between the derecho in June and Sandy in October, BGE officials say.

"They're doing a lot, I've got to hand it to them," said Levy, who lives in Pikesville.

But he's not pleased at the thought of more rate requests.

"It's going to be a merry-go-round," he said.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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