By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
7:20 PM EDT, July 25, 2012
Gov. Martin O'Malley set up a work group Wednesday to propose ways of improving the resiliency of the state's electrical grid in storms, seeking to avoid prolonged outages such as the ones experienced by Baltimore Gas and Electric and Pepco customers this month.
O'Malley announced that he has directed his chief energy adviser, Abigail Hopper, to bring together state agencies to seek expert recommendations on improvements in the state's energy infrastructure. Among the issues the group has been asked to examine are the feasibility of underground power lines and how to pay for capital investments in the energy system.
The governor's executive order comes after the derecho storm that knocked out power to an estimated 1.2 million Maryland customers of BGE and Pepco on June 29. Some customers had to wait more than a week for restoration of service, bringing widespread criticism from the public and elected officials.
O'Malley said that as a result of climate change, Maryland can expect an increase in the number of violent storms.
"That's why we must engage in a thoughtful and informed dialogue to strengthen the resiliency of our electric grid," he said
The governor's office said the group will examine the costs and benefits of investments in the electric infrastructure over periods as far out as 30 years.
O'Malley directed the group to bring back recommendations for legislation, regulatory changes and executive branch actions within 60 days.
The administration said the study will not pre-empt an investigation by the Public Service Commission to determine the causes of the prolonged outages and the extent of responsibility on the part of utilities. However, the announcement said the work group's inquiry could lead to recommendations to the PSC for future investigations.
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