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State Investigates BGE Reliability in Ellicott City

Residents have been complaining of problems for years.

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.

Nonlinear June 02, 2012 at 06:13 PM
More fees that's what we need. How am I supposed to charge my electric car if there is no power? What about my 90 inch television. I think backup generators for all.
Nonlinear June 02, 2012 at 06:15 PM
We should all move to the eastern shore. Denton sounds like. Nice location. They are getting a Walmart. Isn't that exciting.
Madmachare July 18, 2012 at 07:48 PM
AMEN!! I am an Ellicott City resident and we lost power for absolutely no reason sometimes! Last week we lost it and when the power came back on it surged our dishwasher circuit board. It's fried and it was only raining outside........no rhyme or reason and BGE Is very unreliable. We live a street over from their hub and are always last to get power. Matter of fact there is a tree hanging on a power line right now that was called in 3 weeks ago and its BGE's property........gotta love it.
Retired September 01, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Every time we lose power, which is very frequently, the BGE trucks show up but do not know were the service line is that services our area. A lot good it does to have your power lines underground when the service lines are overhead coming through the state park. It is very evident that they do not do any mainenance on the lines until something happens. Living in Allenford is like camping out when a least little storm hits.

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