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BGE representatives highlight Howard County work

By Amanda Yeager, ayeager@tribune.com

4:46 PM EST, November 12, 2013

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Last week, the Maryland Public Service Commission held a series of public hearings, including one in Ellicott City, for consumers to testify on a proposed set of rate increases that the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. says it needs to maintain quality service.

In a County Council meeting Nov. 12, two BGE representatives elaborated on the projects they have planned or are working on in Howard County specifically.

BGE wants to raise their typical customer's monthly electric bill by $3.90 and a typical gas bill by $1.97 a month.

The utility has also requested surcharges of $0.32 per month on residential bills and $1.87 on non-residential bills in 2014 to fund electrical system reliability improvements.

At the meeting Tuesday, BGE's Reliability Manager Mike Garzon and External Affairs Manager Mike Fowler told council members that the company has committed to investing in numerous improvement and expansion projects in Howard County.

According to Garzon and Fowler, BGE has 118,817 electric customers and 54,702 gas customers in the county, and paid about $10.2 million in taxes to the county last year.

Over the next five years, they said, the company plans to spend $20.3 million in capital projects in Howard County. Out of that $20.3 million, $10.1 million will be spent on electric transmission projects, $9.2 million will be spent on electric distribution projects and $1 million will be spent on gas reinforcement projects.

BGE has recently completed or is working on projects in Font Hill, Mt. Hebron Drive, Worthington, Turf Valley, Liter Drive, King's Contrivance, Pointer's Run, Greater Beaufort Park and Hickory Ridge. From the beginning of this year through Sept. 25, workers for the utility installed 87,544 feet of underground cable in Howard County.

BGE began to deploy smart meters in March of this year, and Fowler said 123,000 out of 175,000 gas and electric meters have been installed so far. In the event of a power outage, the company can ping the meters to determine if a customer has service, which can then ensure crews don't leave without restoring power to an entire area.

In 2014, the utility plans has plans for work in the Clarksville Ridge community.

And between 2014 and 2018, electric distribution projects are scheduled in Dorsey Run, High Ridge, Highland, Meadowridge and Ten Oaks.

Looking ahead, Garzon and Fowler said, the company was working to identify areas where expansion will be needed in the future – places such as Elkridge Crossing, Shipley's Grant, Maple Lawn, Oxford Square and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

In the past, BGE has weathered complaints about frequent and prolonged power outages in Howard County.

In September, the PSC ordered the utility to improve its service in the county, which includes undergrounding some power lines, improving faulty equipment and trimming or removing trees that threaten to disrupt cables. They have until Dec. 31, 2014, to complete the improvements.