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Saturday, March 11, 2006

It's electric

Baltimore's electric rates are going up 72% in July. Hello, deregulation.

It's going to be very expensive to run our six window air conditioners this summer.

EDIT: It turns out that BGE and the Public Utility Commission decided to phase in the increase over several years. Everyone will still owe the increased rates, however, and the amount you haven't paid yet will accrue 5% interest. So when the phase-in is complete, people will be paying the higher rates PLUS any additional increases PLUS the deferred amount PLUS interest on the deferred amount. So very benevolent of them. (If you request to, you can pay the whole increase right away.)

I can whine all I want, of course, but it's really going to hit those who are on the edge of poverty, for whom the electric bill is already a significant chunk of their expenses.


lj said...

Holy god...how does something like that happen? What was keeping the price down / is driving the price up that much?

And how are they going to keep track of who owes what? Like you'll likely move out of Balitmore in year and a half...in several years are they going to try and track you down for your back interest and rates?

What the hell?

Also, I hope all that stuff in the last post turned out ok.

teague said...

From what I know, MD passed a poorly-thought-out deregulation law (like a lot of other states did) in the late 90s. It didn't do anything to make sure a competitive market actually developed, and it created price caps for the transition period. The caps expire in July, and that's when the 72% hits. But there's a particularly big rate increase in the area this year, because the caps have already expired in the suburbs and they're seeing a 38% increase in rates.

This has become a huge political issue, as you might expect. There are a bunch of angles, including that Republican governor Ehrlich eviscerated the staff of the Public Utility Commission in a partisan shakeup, making them deferential to the point of accepting the ridiculous 5% interest deferred payment scheme. Both parties are skittish, though, because it was the Dems who were in control when the deregulation was pushed through. The parent company of BGE is also making record profits and is involved in a big merger with a Florida utility.

Some in the legislature are making noises about mandating a true phased increase, and the governor (up for election this year, running against the mayor of Baltimore) has proposed state subsidies for low-income people who have trouble paying their electric bills.