It's supposedly D-Day for Baltimore Gas & Electric. After the Maryland Public Service Commission rejected BGE's initial smart grid proposal, the utility resubmitted a revised proposal to the PSC just two weeks ago to keep $200 million in federal stimulus funds that the Department of Energy has reportedly threatened to revoke if the project does not move forward soon.
In a recent statement the utility prodded the PSC to action, noting "customers will fail to benefit from this significant savings if the PSC does not act favorably on BGE's smart grid proposal by July 30."
The PSC did, in fact, quickly set up a status conference and an expedited schedule to look over the new proposal. The timeframe called for BGE to file testimony in support of their revised project by July 19, according to Bryan Moorhouse, Special Counsel to the Chairman at Maryland Public Service Commission. Other groups, of which there are quite a few, need to file by August 2 and hearings will be set for late next week.
That might be about one week too late, depending on how the DOE defines favorable action. Moorhouse did not know how the PSC's timetable might affect the funding. Calls to BGE were not returned.
The original proposal called for rate increases to pay for the project upfront, as well as mandatory time-of-use pricing. The current plan still calls for some increases (about 30 cents per user per month according to the filing), but BGE claims that will be offset by an average customer savings of about $100 per year. Time-of-use pricing was taken off the table and the timetable for providing a web portal to customers was moved up in the most recent proposal.
BGE isn't the only utility taken to task for its smart grid plan. Earlier this week Hawaii's Public Utility Commission questioned Hawaiian Electric Co.'s reported $115 million smart meter installation. The PUC doubted the cost effectiveness of an extended pilot for meter testing and also said that HECO did not have a "robust justification" for choosing a mesh network.
However, the Hawaii's PUC did not flatly reject moving forward with advanced metering all together, but instead suggested that HECO's application should come with a full smart grid roadmap.
Back at BGE, it is unclear what happens at midnight tonight. With hearings still scheduled for next week, it appears on the surface that the DOE might wait for the PSC's ruling before recalling the funds.
There are probably at least a few utilities already crossing fingers that BGE gets push-back from its PSC a second time so that they can get a crack at the $200 million if it were to be shifted to another project overseen by the DOE. And shift it they will. BGE noted that DOE, if it reclaims the funds, intends to shift the money to a project "with a more certain outcome."