DOE-Backed Smart Metering Rejected in Maryland
The Public Service Commission of Maryland rejected implementation of “smart grid” metering proposed by Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) in June 2010. The commission based the rejection on fears of rate increases and tiered pricing that would increase costs for consumers.
Smart grid technologies have the potential to reduce strain on the power grid by increasing rates and thus decreasing demand at times of peak use, and even allowing utilities to reduce non-essential loads at those times. Reducing peak demand can reduce the need for new power plants, and reduce the use of dirtier, less-efficient plants that only come online to meet those demands. In areas directly affected by power plants, reduced smog can also be a benefit.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) saw Maryland as a large proving ground for smart grid technologies, and had promised a $200 million Smart Grid stimulus grant to BG&E in 2009, most of which was to fund the proposed smart metering program in Maryland. BG&E had expected $2.6 billion in benefits over 15 years. BG&E planned on charging consumers for the new meters through a surcharge; the Public Service Commission, charged with protecting consumers’ interests, is often reluctant to approve surcharges.
The commission has requested that BG&E’s proposal be revamped and resubmitted; its suggestions include in-home displays to warn customers of rate increases at peak times. However, DOE may take its funding to other states that can move faster, although the concerns being voiced in Maryland may crop up elsewhere.
Published July 12, 2010