Utility companies in Maryland will need to beef up efforts to improve electricity service reliability and resiliency, according to an order issued by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
The order (No. 85385) requires utility providers to do the following:
- Figure out what needs to be done to restore electricity service to at least 95 percent of customers within 50 hours after an outage, with a focus on customers who may need electricity due to special medical needs.
- Distribute information to customers as soon as it is available during electricity outages, and update that information regularly.
- Analyze staffing to determine if there are enough trained personnel on staff or available through contractors or mutual assistance.
- File plans (by May 31, 2013) outlining measures that could be completed in the next five years to accelerate reliability improvements to the distribution system, along with cost and benefit analyses for each measure.
- Complete more detailed studies considering appropriate standards for distribution system resistance and resilience, and submit (by Aug. 30, 2013) studies to determine what needs to be done to reduce the number and duration of service interruptions after a major electricity outage.
- Submit a report (by March 29, 2013) on any improvements made to communications systems since the June 29, 2012, derecho.
- Submit another report (by May 31, 2013) on any further improvements planned, along with a timetable for completing the improvements.
- Participate in work group sessions with commission staff.
More than 760,000 of BGE's 1.2 million customers lost power at the peak of electricity outages after the derecho; some Elkridge customers were in the dark for a week.
The PSC is also investigating BGE's reliability in several Howard County neighborhoods as the result of a grass-roots effort led by residents who say they have dealt with unreliability for years.
In July, BGE requested a rate increase to make “essential upgrades, with an emphasis on modernizing our infrastructure for enhanced reliability and safety." Earlier the week, the PSC approved about 65 percent of BGE's requested increase.
According to a statement released by the PSC, the rate change will amount to a $3.33 per month increase in an average residential electric bill and $2.70 on an average residential gas bill.