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BGE to host meeting on Southeast Baltimore outages

The cause of days-long power outages in Southeast Baltimore earlier this summer and the work by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to prevent future problems will be discussed at a public meeting hosted by BGE officials in Fells Point on Monday, according to the company.

In the middle of July, residents in Canton, Fells Point and other neighborhoods endured days without power at a time when the heat index was often approaching 110 degrees.

Amid efforts to restore power, BGE officials acknowledged that the rapid growth of the neighborhoods has outpaced improvements to the electrical grid. A growing population and home renovations have added to the power demand per house.

At the meeting Monday, which was organized in partnership with City Councilman James Kraft, BGE officials will outline "detailed plans" for improving the grid, said J. Andrew Dodge, BGE's vice president for transmission operations and planning.

"We plan on actually explaining what the cause of the problems were on the week of July 15, talking about historical performance and also about our detailed plans for what we're doing to address the recent problems we've had," Dodge said.

Kraft has said BGE owes Southeast Baltimore residents quicker solutions to the power problems.

About 25,000 BGE customers are connected to the troubled grid in Southeast Baltimore, which is 2 percent of BGE's overall customer base of 1.25 million, Dodge said.

The electrical reliability for Southeast Baltimore customers has been slightly better than that of the average customer across the company's service area in recent years, but that hasn't held true so far this year.

In 2010, for instance, the average BGE customer experienced 1.48 outages, while Southeast customers experienced 0.87 outages. In 2012, the system average was 0.97, compared to 0.84 in Southeast. Through Aug. 1 this year, the average customer had experienced 0.55 outages, while Southeast customers had averaged 0.78 outages.

Dodge said he could not provide information showing when outages occurred in specific areas, which would allow an assessment of how often outages in Southeast Baltimore occurred during periods of high temperatures.

He said reliability is improving throughout the company's service area, and officials want to ensure improvements continue in Southeast Baltimore as well.

"We are very much focused on improving reliability," he said.

In its repairs to damaged equipment earlier this summer, BGE installed larger, higher-capacity cables that can carry more electricity at peak times, said Mike Garzon, BGE's customer reliability supervisor.

The company has also been trying to better monitor electrical demand during peak hours in the neighborhoods, to better gauge fluctuations in demand, he said.

The company's long-term plans will be outlined more fully at the meeting, but Dodge said they will include installing more high-capacity cables as well as more switch gear, which allows the company to isolate outages to smaller areas when they do occur.

The work will be made more difficult because many cables in the city are encased within concrete ducts below ground, Garzon said.

The public meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Christo Rey Jesuit High School, 420 S. Chester St.

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