12:45 PM EDT, July 16, 2012
Though state policy allows BGE to levy a small fee on consumers even when they don't have electricity (officially called a "bill stabilization adjustment"), it's easy to see why Marylanders are frustrated by it ("For frustrated BGE customers, even small bills too much," July 13th).
Supposedly it is used to pay for the electricity grid. But in reality it is probably just another way for BGE to get money.
Still, the Public Services Commission, under pressure from the consumer lobby, has limited such fees to the first day of a "major storm event." After than, BGE is required to absorb the cost of storm cleanup. But I believe something more comprehensive is needed.
Since 1999, the Maryland energy market has been deregulated, thanks to lobbying by Constellation Energy and BGE. As a result, the state government has accepted BGE's monopoly status of the market. Granted, there are other providers, but BGE wields major influence and power and recently Exelon merged with Constellation Energy to create the largest non-utility energy provider in the United States.
But the Public Service Commission's current regulation of BGE is inadequate. BGE should be broken up, and there are a number of different options that could be put into place instead. The utility could become a publicly-controlled utility or jointly controlled by the public and private sector. Red tape could be reduced and customers would have more control over their power needs.
Community ownership has worked around the world. WindShare of Canada, a for-profit co-op, develops sustainable power projects for the community.Germany'sNorth Frisia district has more than 60 successful wind farms, many of which are 90 percent community-owned.
In Australia, the Hepburn Wind Project, the country's first community-owned wind farm, produces enough power for more than 2,000 households. And in the U.S., National Wind, OwnEnergy and Goodhue Wind LLC are either community energy companies or allow communities to have partial ownership of energy.
Marylanders should remember that there alternative solutions to our energy problems, even if our politicians are afraid to say so.
Burkely Hermann, Towson
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