BG&E; Bounces Back


It has been a rocky few years for the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. Continuing difficulties at its Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant strained the utility's electric-generating capacity and raised troubling questions about the company's management ability. Those concerns are fast fading. BG&E; is on the rebound, and suddenly the future looks bright.

Both units at Calvert Cliffs now are back in business, running at full speed. Additionally, the company's new coal-fired plant at Brandon Shores is churning out 640 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power 6.4 million 100-watt light bulbs. The result is a reserve capacity well above 20 percent -- more than enough to handle peak demands during these swelteringly hot summer days.

Still, BG&E; remains on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "watch" list because of its past management and safety problems at Calvert Cliffs. The panel heard an encouraging staff report in late June on BG&E;'s progress but decided to continue close monitoring of the utility's nuclear plant. A $30 million

revamping of procedures at Calvert Cliffs and installation of a mainframe computer and a vast processing system have turned things around at the Southern Maryland plant.

Less promising is a nettlesome dispute in Annapolis that puts BG&E; in a no-win position. The capital city's council voted 5-3 to prevent a $3 million expansion of the Tyler Avenue substation because of fears that electromagnetic fields from power lines and transformers might be linked to low-level radiation. Scientific evidence is inconclusive, but that didn't stop the council from forcing BG&E; to pursue costly stopgap options to meet strong demand for electricity in fast-growing Annapolis. The ultimate losers could turn out to be the citizens of Annapolis, who may be saddled with big increases in their electric bills.

Now BG&E; is concentrating on an energy-conservation program designed to postpone the need for future power plants. If the Public Service Commission approves, the utility will be able to reap profits for encouraging conservation. This is a sensible approach which, when combined with the low-cost power generated at Calvert Cliffs and Brandon Shores, should put BG&E; in an enviable position to meet the Chesapeake region's electric demands in the years ahead.

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