Energy Official Tells Berlin To Keep Power Plant

BERLIN – An official from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) encouraged Berlin to keep its electric power plant Monday night during a Berlin Town Council meeting devoted to the electric system and use the power plant to help make Maryland more energy self-sufficient.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley pushed for more local, smaller scale power plants in his keynote address at the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) convention in Ocean City in August, said Robert Howatt, of MEA’s planning staff during this week’s meeting.

 “We want generation,” said Howatt at the Monday night Berlin meeting. “There’s no generation we really want to give up in Maryland.”

Local governments can apply for MEA grant money or loans, according to Howatt, for power plant studies or improvements.

Some of those funds have been set aside expressly to create new generation. Thurmont, Md., in Western Maryland, is using state money to pay for a feasibility study for a 30-megawatt biomass plant. Economic development funds are also available for power plant work, according to Howatt.

While there is no state money to build a power plant, there is money for plant improvements and repairs, Howatt said.

“I think you have a very interesting opportunity here,” said Howatt. “In Berlin, I think you need to take advantage of the generation you have.”

Howatt held up Easton as an example. Easton generates power and sells it to the national electricity grid, then uses the profits to purchase power for townsfolk, which saves customers money.

The governor is also calling for more use of renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels.

“It’s expensive, but there are some grants available,” said Howatt. “These are things people should be looking at, individually as well as towns.”

The governor is also supporting smart meters, which show energy market prices as they change, and smart pricing.

 “Throughout the day, energy prices actually fluctuate based on electricity usage. And with smart pricing, consumers are charged less for electricity during non-peak times. Smart meters also give us all the power to lower our electric bills by choosing to run the dishwasher or the clothes dryer during off-peak hours,” according to O’Malley’s MACo speech.

“All of that helps the town,” Howatt said Monday night.