Electricity prices here exceed national average

The Baltimore Sun

January was the first time in a decade that average Baltimore-Washington electricity prices exceeded those of the nation, says a new government report. Blame deregulation and a shortage of generation in central Maryland.

A kilowatt-hour for Baltimore-Washington consumers cost 12.3 cents in January, 6 percent higher than the national average, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Baltimore Gas and Electric residential customers paid half a cent more.)

Price caps kept electricity artificially cheap for the area in the early 2000s, but those have expired. Now BGE and other utilities must bid on the open market for juice, whose price has been elevated by high fuel costs and charges to import it from other regions.

Baltimore-Washington customers also pay more than the nation as a whole for natural gas, but that gap has narrowed, the report said. The region paid 15 percent more for gas than the country did in January - the smallest premium in 10 years. Last year we paid 21 percent more than the nation; in 2006, 24 percent more.

Local natural gas prices depend on inventories and weather. Apparently a relative glut of supply and lack of demand kept local prices more in line with national ones. Increasing pipelines and regional liquefied natural gas ports could shrink this difference even more.

jay.hancock@baltsun.com

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