Electricity Companies Now Charging Customers for Power Outages

Posted by Mike Tirone - Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The Mid-Atlantic region was struck with one of the year's nastiest storm to close out June and welcome in July. The storms amounted in widespread blackouts across much of the eastern United States with heaviest hit being Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Residents were knocked off the grid for hours, days, and even up to a week without power as temperatures continued to hit triple digits the week following the storm. The region was up in arms with how poorly coordinated and organized the main electricity utilities responded to the storms and more hysteria looks to occur soon.

Now that the storm's aftermath has passed and power has been restored, the outcry of residents will pick back up once monthly bills are sent out to BGE and Pepco customers.

According to WUSA9.com, Maryland residents will see an extra charge in their electric bill because BGE and Pepco lost money when they couldn't change customers to deliver power during the outage.

To put it another way: these companies are punishing the customer. The same customer whom was already punished by sitting in their powerless home in 100-plus degree heat for days on end will be charged more on next month's bill. And why? Because they weren't able to get enough money out of the trapped customers during the week in which they didn't deliver electricity back to the residents in a reasonable time frame of 24 hours.

BGE and Pepco customers were hoping to be informed of their additional fees in this upcoming bill but no notification has been made. This additional fee is called a Bill Stabilization Adjustment (BSA) and the adjustment begins automatically once outages are recorded. The BSA is charged to Maryland residents only because utilities cannot charge customers for lost billings in the D.C. and Virgina regions.

Only regulators in Maryland allow for utilities to recoup lost billings by invoicing customers directly. Pepco spokesman Bob Hainey says it is the law to have bill stabilization but when asked how the charges would impact individual Maryland customers, he had no answer to give and declined to comment further on the matter as he did not want to be on record. BGE officials also could not explain what individual customers would see on their bills.

Maryland People's Counsel attorney Theresa Czarski says the billings would only amount to a small portion of the utilities' revenues. They are meant mostly to offset storm losses. She believes the average customer would likely see a charge of less than a dollar for the adjustment but even those figures don't seem to be trusted by residents. In 2010, Pepco recouped nearly $1.4 million for one storm alone. Since then the state has limited adjustments to the first 24 hours of the outage only, so this storm is said to not be making utilities as much money. But still the issue is that if you live in Maryland, you will be charged more, unknown to the customer, for when your power was out due to your electricity utility being unable to get your power back on within 24 hours.

According to reports, more than 146,000 Virginia homes and businesses remained without power five days following the storm and through the Independence Day holiday. Nearly 2 million people across the region were without power for more than five days.

And after all of this, residents are rightfully furious. They claim it is unfair and unjust. One resident who was unaware of the additional charges in his next month's bill said, “They're getting paid when regular citizens are losing out! That is unfair.”

Both BGE and Pepco could not explain even where the charge would be explained on the customers' upcoming bill. One state official has said that the BSA would appear on the customer's delivery fee portion of their bill, without actually identifying the charge, so customers still will not be aware of what was being charged to them.

*Will you be affected by these charges? What do you think about the electricity companies continuing to charge customers who were not receiving power? Let us know in the comments!

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