Baltimore Gas and Electric Company has recently requested a monthly surcharge on gas customers to cover part of the cost of replacing old pipes ("BGE asks for monthly gas-bill surcharge," Aug. 2).
This in addition to a prior BGE filing in May for a rate increase and electric surcharge to accelerate work on its electrical infrastructure. That rate increase application quickly followed the previous increase granted in February.
While the merits of the pending rate proposals will be considered before the Public Service Commission, BGE customers who have not yet selected an alternate retail supplier can counter the impact of these increases and significantly reduce their utility bills by choosing a competitive retail supplier that offers lower rates than BGE's Standard Offer Service.
The Office of People's Counsel, which is the state office that represents the residential customer class before the PSC, maintains within its website a chart of competitive retail suppliers in each utility service area of Maryland. It shows 31 retail suppliers within the BGE electric service territory and 13 retail suppliers within the BGE gas territory as well as price comparisons and links to the retail suppliers customers can use to get further information and sign up with the competitive supplier.
Not all competitive suppliers rates are necessarily lower than BGE SOS rates. However, some are clearly much lower, and residential customers choosing an alternate supplier can realize significant savings on their utility bill.
For example, BGE electric SOS rates are .10445/ kWh until the end of September, then drop to .09726/kWh from October through May 2014.
By contrast, one of the competitive retail electric suppliers provides an even lower fixed rate of .0799 through July 2014 or a slightly lower rate of .0795 for a longer contract through May 2015.
This means that a customer who uses 1,000 kWh per month would pay for the electric supply portion of the bill $104.45 to BGE for each of the remaining summer months of 2013, and $97.26 per month from October 2013 through May 2014.
In contrast, that same customer using 1,000 kWh would pay $79.50 per month for electric supply under the May 2015 contract term, for a savings of $24.95 per 1000 kWh in each 2013 summer month and savings of $17.76 per 1000 kWh for each month between October 2013 through May 2014. For those customers with usage greater than 1,000 kWh, the actual dollar savings will correspondingly be higher.
The BGE rates will change beyond May 2014, but in all probability will still exceed the rate of .0795 locked in with the competitive supplier to May 2015.
Also, if one chooses an alternate supplier, BGE still is responsible for delivering the service, and the billing also remains the same with the supply charge included on the BGE bill. The supplier charge is specified on the BGE bill, and BGE bills also detail the customer charge per month paid to BGE as well as the distribution charges paid to BGE for delivering the service and other charges paid by all customers.
While residential customers choosing alternate suppliers has been increasing, the vast majority of customers have not switched from SOS service. It would be in customers' best interests to review the competitive suppliers to SOS, as several clearly provide much lower rates.
Choosing an appropriate retail supplier for those who have not already done so will enable residential customers the opportunity to decrease their total utility bills even during this period of rising distribution rates.
Joel Bright, Columbia