Berlin’s Electric Efforts Paying Off With Lower Consumer Rates

The chart compares the town’s electric rate from 2008 with current utility prices. Submitted Image
The chart compares the town’s electric rate from 2008 with current utility prices. Submitted Image

BERLIN – In spite of increases being implemented by some regional providers, Berlin officials want the town’s electric customers to know their rates will remain low for the foreseeable future.

A news release issued by the town this week reported the average monthly residential bill for a Berlin Electric customer was $128.74, roughly $10 cheaper than the average Choptank Electric Cooperative bill. The town reported that the average monthly Delmarva Power bill was $151.79.

“It’s what I’ve been telling everybody,” Councilman Troy Purnell said. “Hard work has gone into getting us there.”

Purnell says that while the town’s electric rates were exorbitant in 2009, efforts to address the problem have paid off. Work with an electric consultant and the diligent attention of town employees brought the town’s rates to a competitive level.

“We really delved into it to see what was possible,” he said.

In 2015, the town went even further and joined American Municipal Power (AMP), a wholesale power supplier headquartered in Ohio.

“Our membership in American Municipal Power enables the Town of Berlin to take advantage of the bulk purchasing power of multiple municipal systems, as well as drops in energy prices that occur from time to time,” Mayor Gee Williams said.

Through AMP the town entered into a purchase power contract in 2015 that reduced the cost of energy from 6.39 cents per kilowatt hour to 5.95 cents per kilowatt hour. Though that contract ends in December, the town has already lined up an agreement for 2018-2020 that is expected to decrease bills another 5 to 7 percent.

“Our rates are competitive now and will stay that way through 2020,” Town Administrator Laura Allen said.  “Since we joined AMP, we’re able to take an even more timely approach and faster response to how we purchase power based on changes in the power supply market.”

She said that because AMP monitored the market constantly, the town would know the best time to arrange a purchase power contract to serve the town when the 2018-2020 agreement ends.

“AMP has employees watching the market every day, so we’re able to take advantage of price decreases even more quickly than before,” Allen said.

Councilman Zack Tyndall agrees that AMP membership has benefited the town but also praised the town’s electric department employees.

“In addition to our AMP membership, electric utility director Tim Lawrence and his team at the electric department have done an amazing job updating our infrastructure,” Tyndall said.

He pointed out that the department was recognized last year by the American Public Power Association for achieving proficiency in reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement.

“Their experience and professionalism have also helped our town reduce our electrical rates and remain competitive with our peers,” Tyndall said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.