PSC wrong on BGE rate hike

When will the PSC get smart about BGE's smart meter ripoff?

Weary, weary, oh so weary from the latest Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. rate hike just approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission to cover the cost of this Tsunami of a smart meter program ("State regulators agree to another BGE rate increase, though less than utility wanted," June 3). BGE sought an outrageous increase, and the PSC came back with one that was just grossly unfair.

The original sales pitch back in 2010 was that these new meters would help customers significantly reduce energy consumption with great savings to all, and surely customers would then happily subsidize the program. But unfortunately, smart meters have failed miserably to live up to those claims.

The Office of People's Counsel showed that for every dollar spent on smart meters, customers only get 82 cents. And those numbers were arrived at using an overly generous 10-year life span for a smart meter when, according to industry insiders, smart meters last only 5-to-7 years! But BGE came in with their inflated numbers and claimed a $2.50 benefit to customers for every dollar spent on smart meters (although somehow, these ethereal savings never seem to make it to our monthly statements). The PSC chose to grant BGE about half their requested rate hike.

For sure, smart meters make sense for BGE: There is a nearly a 10 percent return on each new meter plus a $200 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and then customers foot the remainder of the bill. Hey, why not rake it in, BGE? Oh, and let's not forget that BGE is still collecting a return on the still-useful analog meters they needlessly discarded.

And what about those of us who opted out? We never asked for a smart meter, adamantly don't want one and have to pay a hefty sum to keep one off our homes. And now the PSC is forcing us to pay for the smart meter program.

So where can we turn? The PSC feels it's doing right by granting just half the requested increase. Our elected representatives have left us high and dry year after year by killing smart meter bills that were favorable to the public. OPC expert witnesses tried valiantly to unravel BGE's spin, but the PSC all but ignored them in its final decision. The one ray of hope is that the PSC approved the rate increase by just a 3-to-2 margin. Only continued public pressure will make a difference.

Kate Kheel, Baltimore

The writer is president of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness.

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