The Senate passed SB 844, legislation reregulating Maryland’s electricity markets, by a vote of 27-19 last week. The Maryland Chamber is urging the House Economic Matters Committee to oppose this legislation.
While the legislation was amended to exempt certain commercial and industrial customers that purchase their electricity from competitive suppliers, it imposes a non-bypassable surcharge (a new energy tax) on large commercial and industrial customers. “We are disturbed that this tax was inserted into the bill at the last minute, without discussion during the March 23 Senate Finance Committee hearing,” Maryland Chamber President and CEO Kathy Snyder said.
As currently drafted, the legislation would impose the cost of Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered utility build on all customers, even those served not by utilities but by competitive providers. The legislation also grants the PSC broad discretion to order utilities to build new power plants instead of requiring utilities to hold a competitive procurement for energy, with the possibility of subjecting Maryland customers to billions of new expenses with no assurance that it is the cheapest option.
This legislation would end the electricity purchasing cooperatives being formed by many local chambers of commerce. These cooperatives are being formed to help the employees of member companies save on their energy costs. The members of the first Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce purchasing cooperative saved 31 percent over the three-year contract period. Local chambers, and members participating in the purchasing cooperatives, should contact your delegates, particularly if they serve on the Economic Matters Committee.
The Maryland Chamber believes the PSC has sufficient flexibility to address the needs of Maryland electricity consumers. In addition, the PSC along with its expert analysts thoroughly studied the issue of reregulation and have recommended against it.
The bill would return the risk of building, owning and operating power plants to Maryland’s electricity customers and inhibiting businesses’ ability to control their electricity costs, negatively impacting businesses’ economic viability.