The Maryland Public Service Commission has begun an investigation into BGE after repeated complaints from Ellicott City customers.
At issue is what some residents of the Font Hill, Dunloggin, Valley Mede and several nearby neighborhoods have called “chronic reliability problems,” which they described in a formal complaint signed by more than 100 residents and filed in February.
One resident wrote on the Reliability4HoCo Facebook page that she had lost power 25 times in six years.
A status conference was held Tuesday to “establish a procedural schedule for conducting an investigation into the Formal Complaint, consider any petitions to intervene that have been filed, and consider any other preliminary matters requested by the parties,” according to documents filed by the commission, which sets utilities' rates and regulates public utilities in the state.
“BGE has been responsive to some extent,” County Council member Courtney Watson, who represents the affected Ellicott City neighborhoods, said after the status conference. “But the citizens definitely felt as though there should be more done and more quickly.”
At a Nov. 16 community meeting with BGE, organized by residents Jim Mundy and David Rubin, residents took turns asking questions and airing grievances about power reliability issues and two BGE representatives laid out a plan that they said will address reliability problems.
The first step of the company’s “reliability improvement plan,” early tree trimming, is scheduled to start this month, Mike Garzon, supervisor, customer reliability support said in a phone interview in November.
Then, he said, BGE would install reclosers and “smart fuses,” technologies that can replace extended power outages with “brown-outs” in the event that a branch or other object briefly interrupts a circuit.
Next, Garzon said, BGE would install underground cable to lighten the load on the existing feeder, which supplies the Font Hill neighborhood.
In the future, Garzon said the utility plans to increase the size of the wire that currently powers the Font Hill area so that it can handle a bigger load and, in the case of an emergency, automatically tie into another one so that service isn’t disrupted.
"Ensuring an open dialogue with our customers is equally [as] important" as technical enhancements, said Rachel Lighty, spokeswoman at BGE. "And we continue to openly communicate with our customers and welcome feedback on performance to track enhancements and overall reliability."
In the complaint, filed by Cathy Eshmont on behalf of Reliability4HoCo, she wrote that BGE should “not be allowed to define the scope for the problems it created, and it should not be allowed to help determine when enough has been done to address the problems.”
A firm timeline has not yet been determined for the BGE investigation, but a report by the commission should be complete by the end of the year, according to a PSC spokeswoman.
This article has been edited to correct information about the November meeting with BGE. It was organized by Jim Mundy and David Rubin.