Increased Electric Bills Not Sparking More Complaints

BERLIN – The town of Berlin electric company may charge the highest rates in the state of Maryland, but most customers are enduring the burden rather than complaining, according to town staff, and appear content to wait for the professional electric rate survey proposed in late July.

Staffers met with prospective consultants on the electric rate survey this week and could have a cost estimate for the study before the Berlin Mayor and Council in early August.

The consultant will also look into wind power purchasing for Berlin.

“It needs professionals to deal with that type of direct negotiation when it comes to rates and long-term commitments to wind,” said Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary.

Meanwhile, a few Berlin electric customers have questions on their bills, chiefly over the Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) charge, which has recently begun to equal the general charge, which takes care of infrastructure and maintenance.

“More people are noticing that the PCA is equal to or greater than the other amount that shows up on the bill,” Bambary said. “It’s become more obvious to the customer, but I wouldn’t say we’re getting more complaints.”

Town offices get about four to five complaints over electric bills each month and that number has held steady despite increased costs.

The PCA is the charge related to actual power costs. The PCA rate is adjusted quarterly, a practice begun a year ago to more accurately reflect real costs and smooth out increases. Previously, the PCA was applied annually.

Bambary said she has two written requests on her desk now to explain the PCA and fielded another PCA question at Monday night’s Berlin council meeting.

“I try to do that as simply as possible,” said Bambary.

Berlin resident Debby Sulhoff questioned the PCA charge on her bill Monday night.

Sulhoff told the council during public comments that she is being billed the same for usage and for PCA.

“I’ve got a problem with that,” Sulhoff said. “It’s out of control.”

Council Vice President Ellen Lang told Sulhoff, “Our power supply is in line with everyone else.”

“It’s a direct result of the high cost of gas and oil,” said Bambary.