Rival challenges BG&E; bid to expand plant


In the first of what is likely to be a growing number of regulatory battles over who should risk money on and reap profits from new power plants, a private company is challenging Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.'s application for state permission to expand a generating plant in Harford County.

Executives from Houston-based Cogen Technologies are expected to ask the Maryland Public Service Commission this morning to favor their plan to build a power plant in Curtis Bay over BG&E;'s proposal to expand its Perryman Station by 770 megawatts.

It is unusual for a competing power company to intervene in state regulatory proceedings such as these, said Chuck Gray, an energy expert at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

But private companies have only recently started to compete for the right to build power plants and sell electricity, Mr. Gray said.

Until the 1980s, only state-regulated utility companies such as BG&E; built large power plants. Now, he said, federal laws allow unregulated companies to build power plants and sell the electricity to the regulated companies.

"We haven't had a whole lot of independent power producers until now. You're going to be seeing [such battles] more and more," Mr. Gray said.

Privately held Cogen Technologies wants to build a $300 million power plant on land owned by the FMC Corp., sell about 430 megawatts of electricity to BG&E; and sell steam to local factories, Cogen attorney Ross Ain said. A megawatt is enough energy to light 10,000 100-watt light bulbs.

But Mr. Ain said yesterday his company won't be able to build the plant if BG&E; installs four additional generators at Perryman, eliminating its need for extra energy.

By law, he said, Maryland utilities are to use the cheapest reliable way of providing power to their customers, and Cogen has tried for a year to convince BG&E; that its alternative fits the law.

BG&E; spokesman Arthur Slusark said yesterday the company believes buying the extra energy would cost more than the Perryman additions.

Six other independent companies are considering building privately owned power plants in Maryland, according to the Utility Data Institute, an energy consulting firm.

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