The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said yesterday that it would soon solicit bids for an independent power plant -- the first such arrangement in the company's 177-year history.
BG&E; will be seeking bids for construction of a 140-megawatt power plant, which is expected to go into operation in 1997.
The utility company has traditionally built its own power plants and generated most of its own electricity.
But after a series of recent regulatory decisions, the state Public Service Commission ordered BG&E; to solicit bids from independent power producers. This was in keeping with federal regulations that require utilities to buy less expensive power from independent producers.
BG&E; is scheduled to send a draft of its request for proposals to 150 independent power producers on July 16. A final request for proposals will be sent in August, and bids are expected back by December, according to BG&E.;
The company said it expects the independent plant to be operating by June 1997.
The winning company would be the one that offers BG&E; the cheapest electricity.
Despite seeking bids from independent companies and a pledge from BG&E; that it has taken itself out of the bidding, there is some skepticism over whether BG&E; will be able to stay out of the contest.
"They are putting themselves in the position that they may be dragged into the bidding," said People's Counsel John M. Glynn, the state official that represents ratepayers.
The concerns of Mr. Glynn and independent power producers stem from another recent ruling by the PSC, which allowed BG&E; to build a $110 million combustion turbine generator at its Perryman site in Harford County. That plant would provide 140 megawatts of power starting in 1995.
Independent producers opposed that decision, but the PSC said time constraints prevented a bidding process for the Perryman generator.
Because it has already paid for such items as site preparation and transmission lines at Perryman, BG&E; might be able to provide the electricity cheaper than independent producers, Mr. Glynn said.
If that is the case, BG&E; should bid, he said.
But BG&E; has said it has no intention of bidding.
"We've given our word," said BG&E; spokesman Arthur J. Slusark. "We've made a commitment. We're not going to bid on this block of power."