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Maryland Pepco, BGE Customers Will See Bill For 24 Hours Of Lost Storm Income In Form Of Bill Stabilization Adjustment

7:52 PM, Jul 13, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) Some of you will see an extra charge in your next electric bill because Pepco and BGE lost money when they couldn't charge customers to deliver power during the storm outage.

Click here to see update showing billing ok'd under Maryland order intended to promote energy conservation.

"The storm adjustment kicks in automatically," said Maryland Public Service Commission spokeswoman Regina Davis. "The BSA (Bill Stabilization Adjustment) is calculated and applied by the companies, but checked by PSC staff and we make the utilities correct it if they get it wrong."

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Only regulators in Maryland allow utilities to recoup lost billings by invoicing customers directly.

"Not good. Not good at all, that's not a good thing," said Maryland power customer Alice Jenkins "I must call Pepco and ask them about that."

"It's the law," said Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey. "It's called bill stabilization."

Hainey asked whether this reporter was capable of understanding the online explanation at Pepco.com of the Bill Stabilization Adjustment and declined to comment when he realized he was on the record.

"I'm not talking anymore," Hainey said. "I hear you typing."

Hainey later called back and said he would ask Pepco officials how the charges would impact individual Maryland customers, but had not provided an answer by publication time.

BGE officials also couldn't explain what individual customers would see on their bills.

"I think what you're saying is accurate," said BGE spokesman Rob Gould. "I'm not sure how it applies to BGE customers."

Maryland People's Counsel attorney Theresa Czarski said the billings would amount to a tiny portion of the utilities' revenues and are intended to offset storm losses.

By statute the People's Chief is an independent agency that acts as advocate for residential utility customers.

"They will be compensated up to a fashion" " Czarski said. "They won't take a dramatic hit for this month for not collecting this. The hit is smaller to them for not collecting those revenues."

Czarski said the average customer would likely see a charge of less than a dollar for the adjustment.

"It's unfair," said Maryland power customer Marie Bernes. " I don't see anything else to say."

"They're getting paid when regular citizens are losing out," said Maryland power customer Brian Barrett. "I wasn't aware of that. I think that's pretty unfair. "

Maryland officials say utilities are limited to recouping lost billings from the first 24 hours of the outage only, and that, when spread across the utilities' customer base, that could be less than a dollar for the utility's average user.

 "To be technically correct, they can only adjust for that first 24 hour period," said Maryland People's Chief Paula Carmody. "After that they're not collecting any adjustment."

Carmody said regulators restricted the utility's ability to charge customers for their losses earlier this year.

"As a result of a Maryland Commission order issued in Janauary 2012, PGE and Pepco cannot collect any lost revenues resulting loss of power during a major storm, except for revenues lost during the first 24 hours after the beginning of the storm," Carmondy said.

Officials in the District and Virginia say the utilities can not charge customers for lost billings there - so this is unique to Maryland customers.

"One of the things we certainly wanted to guard against was compensating Pepco when they were out for some reason not associated with energy efficiency," said District of Columbia Peoples' Counsel Director Sandra Mattavous-Frye . "And it being a sort of double dip for them and a burden on consumers."

In 2010, Pepco recouped nearly $1.4 million for one storm alone, but since the state limited adjustments to the first 24 hours, officials say, it is likely to be less.

Neither BGE nor Pepco would explain how it would appear on customers's bills, but a state official said it would be rolled into the customer's delivery fee - without a line item identifying the charge - so many people won't even know what they're be charged.

If you know about questionable utility activity, government waste or corruption e-mail tips@wusa9.com.

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