As Constellation Energy Group prepares to sell itself to Chicago-based Exelon, critics are advancing proposals to make the deal more palatable to Maryland customers.
The state's consumer advocate is proposing a three-year freeze on rate increases after the merger to ease the transition to out-of-town ownership.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers is enough, given the savings the companies expect to realize from the merger.
And the energy administration and the Maryland Office of People's Counsel are expressing doubts that the deal would produce job gains in Maryland, as Exelon and BGE parent Constellation have said.
In testimony filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission, consultants hired by the state, the commission's staff and the Office of People's Counsel say the $7.9 billion merger is a bad deal for consumers.
Their testimony suggests the outlines of the deal that officials are trying to get — one that would preserve local control of BGE, produce more clean energy and put money in customers' pockets.
The Public Service Commission, the state's energy regulator, is to begin hearings on the merger Oct. 31.
The concessions sought by the state, consumer advocates and others are not unusual in energy deals that require regulatory approval. Failure to reach agreement on rates and other issues has doomed two earlier attempts by Constellation to sell itself.
The energy giant did agree to measures proposed by the commission to gain approval for its deal to sell half its nuclear business in 2009.
"Given Maryland's history regarding these things, I don't think anyone should be surprised that there would be parties in the case that want more," said Paul Patterson, an analyst at Glenrock Associates in New York. "How much more they will get is another story."
Exelon President and Chief Operating Officer Christopher M. Crane said Tuesday that the company is reviewing testimony and proposals by various stakeholders.
"In some cases, it appears to be overreaching," Crane, who would be the new chief executive of the combined company, said at a conference of investors. "We think we understand the genesis of the statements, and we're working to provide our rebuttal filings."
While Exelon and Constellation officials say they welcome input from stakeholders, they say the current deal would provide significant benefits to BGE ratepayers and the state. The two companies are expected to file a response to the state and the Office of People's Counsel on Oct. 12.
Recognizing the state's regulatory history, Exelon and Constellation did not wait to tout the deal's benefits. In announcing the merger in April, the companies proposed a $250 million incentive package that would include financial contributions to the state's green energy goals and a commitment to maintain Constellation's charitable giving in the state for at least 10 years.
The hallmark of the companies' proposal was a $100 credit for each of BGE's 1.12 million households.
That is the same amount that BGE customers received in Constellation's 2009 deal to sell half its nuclear power business to the French utility EDF.
Matthew I. Kahel, a consultant for the state, questioned whether $100 would be enough. After reviewing the numbers, he concluded that the companies might be understating the merger-related savings for BGE.
"While I do not have an alternative quantification of a reasonable result for BGE, these concerns raise questions about the adequacy of the applicants' rate credit offer since it is supported by the BGE allocation result," Kahel wrote in his testimony.
In considering the size of the credit, Kahel said, the commission should take into account the "risks to utility customers associated with the proposed merger and the proportionality between shareholder and customer benefits."