A rate adjustment requested by BGE will mostly cover work that the utility company has already performed, according to a spokesman.
"In Maryland, that’s the way it works," BGE Spokesman Bob Gould said. "You spend the money and then you go back to the [Public Service] Commission and you ask them for recovery of the costs that you incurred."
BGE announced Friday evening that it had filed a request with the Public Service Commission (PSC) for a rate hike that, according to the utility, would add an additional $7.22 to the “typical” customer’s electric bill.
There are a few places where BGE will use some of the money going forward, Gould said, including vegetation maintenance.
"BGE customer bills will still be lower in total than then were in 2009, because we’ve seen a decline in the cost of the fuel." Gould said. "The price of natural gas has dropped 25 percent since 2009."
The rate increase announcement came two days after a hearing at which residents of several of Ellicott City’s older neighborhoods testified about what they described as unreliable electric service in front of a public utilities law judge.
The hearing was part of a PSC investigation into reliability issues in some of the older Ellicott City neighborhoods. Residents testified that outages led to expenses, frustration and, in some cases, serious health hazards. Many requested that additional lines be buried underground and that BGE trim more trees in their neighborhoods.
"This is only the second request for an electric distribution rate adjustment in 20 years," Gould said, "And the reality is that much of our infrastructure dates back to the 40s and 50s, and some of it even before that."
The utility will receive money via "bill stabilization" to cover some of the lost revenue from the derecho-related power outages. That one-time fee will amount to less than a dollar, Gould said.
"We urge that if BGE is permitted to increase their rates, that 100% of all revenue generated from such an increase be ordered by the PSC to go directly towards upgrading their infrastructure," Rubin wrote, "to include burying lines and investing in 21st century technology."
Gould noted that BGE has been working on a reliability plan in the Ellicott City neighborhoods that are part of the investigation. Some lines have already been buried and BGE has adjusted its tree-trimming schedule, doing maintenance ahead of its previous schedule. That plan, he said, is still moving forward.
"Any monies we get in the adjustment is largely reinvested back into the infrastructure,” Gould said.
The PSC has also scheduled a public hearing to investigate BGE's performance during the derecho storm that swept through Howard County and the region in late June after officials across the state criticized the utility's openness with its data.