Berlin Weighs Options For Electric Supply

BERLIN – The Berlin Utility Commission (BUC) met with the Mayor and Council Wednesday to discuss the future of Berlin’s energy supply.

Dwight Davis, Vice President of Financial and Strategic Services at Booth and Associates Inc, addressed the BUC and the council on the possibility of joining PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that handles electricity supply.

Before further delving into PJM, the council took a brief look at the current power situation. This year there was an over collection of around $60,000. Mayor Gee Williams explained that it was normal to have a discrepancy at the end of the year. The over-collected funds will eventually become credits over the next 12 months, effectively reimbursing residents.

After hearing the status report, Williams opened the discussion on what should be done as far as contracting energy for Berlin in the future. He made it clear that the town planned on taking a different approach to negotiations.

“If we want to drive rates down, we need to be more aggressive this time,” Williams said.

According to Davis, joining PJM would give Berlin the ability to mix up the way it purchases energy, allowing them to either buy it as a long-term contract, in short-term chunks, or some combination.

“PJM membership would give the town more flexibility,” Davis said.

Arnold Boughner, who serves as Electrical Department Manager for the town of Easton, spoke about the benefits of joining PJM, as his town has been a member since 2001.

“You get rid of the middle man,” said Boughner, referring to the fact that PJM distributes energy wholesale.

BUC President Erik Quisgard expressed uncertainty over some of the risks and fees involved.

Joining the PJM would require Berlin to pay a $5,000 annual fee, though the first year that fee would be prorated because the town wouldn’t join at the start of the year. There would also be a one time $1,500 credit application fee to consider.

For now, Davis and Tony Carson, the town administrator, will gather as much hard data as possible to deliver to the BUC, who are expected to make a recommendation to the Mayor and Council later this month.

If Berlin decides that it doesn’t wish to join PJM, there are at least two other options. According to Carson, the town could either request formal bids from energy suppliers or conduct a reverse auction.

“Choices and competition usually get you the best rates,” Carson said.