D.C., Maryland Electric Rates Set to Fall

Article excerpt

Electric rates for nearly 1.8 million customers in Maryland and the District will start falling in January.

D.C. residents would be the first in the area to benefit from changes brought on by industry deregulation if the regulatory agencies in the two jurisdictions approve Potomac Electric Power Co.'s proposal by the end of this year.

Pepco's 220,000 residential customers in the District will see initial rate cuts of 2 percent Jan. 1 if the D.C. Public Service Commission approves a plan the company filed this week. The public service commission regulates public utilities.

Pepco's residential customers pay average monthly bills of $48, the company said, and its plan to cut rates 7 percent gradually would save those consumers $3.36 a month.

Businesses will receive an initial rate cut of 3.5 percent Jan. 1.

Deregulation of electric utilities is occurring in 23 states as state governments open the electricity business to competition.

All residential customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Maryland's largest utility, will receive a rate cut next summer in the wake of a decision Wednesday by the Maryland Public Service Commission.

"The PSC's decision provides Marylanders with electric competition at a fair price, and enables BGE and Constellation Energy Group to prepare to compete and win in a deregulated market," BGE Vice President Robert Fleishman said. Constellation is BGE's parent company.

Consumers in Virginia won't have competing electric providers until 2002.

As part of that plan, the Virginia General Assembly in March agreed to let Virginia Power and other utilities already doing business there put a cap on rates until 2007.

Under the plan approved by the Maryland PSC, BGE's 1.1 million residential customers will get a 6.5 percent rate cut beginning July 1.

The BGE settlement will freeze rates for the company's residential customers for six years.

Wayne Harbaugh, BGE's executive director of price strategies, said the rate freeze will save the average BGE residential customer from $65 to $70 a year. The Maryland People's Counsel, a state consumer-advocacy group, endorsed the plan.

He said yesterday that the approval is among the last major steps to be taken before customer choice begins in Maryland July 1.

The Maryland PSC still must work out the details of a program to help poor families pay utility costs. …