O’Malley Introduces Utility Surcharge Plan

Would fund power company upgrades

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Win McNamee/Getty Images
    You could see an extra charge on your electric bill soon, thanks to a new plan from Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    Maryland residents could soon see an extra charge on your electric bill, thanks to Gov. Martin O’Malley.

    O’Malley introduced a controversial plan that would allow power companies to add a surcharge to bills in order to fund much needed improvements. The hope is the money will lead to better reliability among the state’s utilities.

    It isn’t free money for the power companies. In exchange for the extra revenue, they would have to meet stricter reliability standards and rate hikes would also be tied to those standards.

    According to The Washington Post, O’Malley says the surcharge would add “a dollar or two” to most residents monthly electric bills. The governor wants that money to go straight to reducing the amount of time it will take the companies to complete improvements like tree trimming and power line burial.

    The Post reports that the plan would also change the way power companies are evaluated for future rate hikes and would measure the performance of companies both when the weather is clear and during storms, something not done in many other states.

    “We are urging the Public Service Commission to give the utilities some impetus and push and some greater predictability in accelerating the investments to the grid that would make it stronger and more reliable,” O’Malley told The Post. “The bottom line is we all may pay another dollar or two a month on our utility bills, but it will accelerate the investments that will spare us from having to throw away 400 bucks’ worth of food whenever a big event comes in.”

    There is already opposition to the plan, including from Montgomery County lawmakers in the General Assembly. They have a problem with handing more money to Pepco even though the company has ranked near the bottom nationally for its ability to restore and keep the power on.

    “I don’t think anyone disagrees that hardening the system is the most important task,” Del. Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery County, told The Post. “The question is, who pays for it? If [Pepco] has been able to make big profits by maximizing dividend and skimping on routine maintenance, to me the discussion should begin with, ‘How does the state recapture for ratepayers the money Pepco should have been spending on maintenance all this time?’ ”

    The Maryland Public Service Commission will have the final say on whether to approve O’Malley’s plan.