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Md. utility regulator decries electricity proposal

Maryland's utility regulator Friday criticized a decision that could alter electricity bidding rules in the region, saying the change would hurt consumers.

The state Public Service Commission is upset with the proposed changes that PJM Interconnection, which runs the regional electric grid, is filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after the PJM board voted in favor of the move this week.

PJM electricity auctions, held to ensure there is enough power to meet demand, set a price that feeds into consumers' electricity bills in Maryland, a dozen other states and the District of Columbia. At issue is the auction's complicated "minimum offer price" rule that dictates how low bids can go for new power plants.

The Public Service Commission, which earlier objected to "clandestine" negotiations that gave birth to the proposal, said in a statement Friday that the change would benefit companies already generating power in the area by erecting "new and higher barriers to competition" — driving up prices for consumers.

"This decision is designed to prevent state utility commissions like ours from fulfilling our historic duty to ensure a reliable, long-term supply of electricity," said Douglas R. M. Nazarian, chairman of the commission, in the statement.

PJM said its board voted Wednesday to forward the proposal to the federal energy regulator after 90 percent of its markets reliability committee — made up of transmission, generation, electric distribution and other energy companies as well as customers — gave it a thumbs up.

Andy Ott, PJM's senior vice president of market services, said the change would make the process more transparent and shield consumers "from the long-term impact of uneconomic resources coming into the market."

"While differences remain between those supporting and opposing the changes, the meetings I observed were characterized by … a sincere desire to do the right thing for ultimate consumers," said PJM CEO Terry Boston in a letter to members.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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