BERLIN – Town officials say a variety of factors impacted recent charges for Berlin Electric Utility customers.
Though some residents took to social media in recent days to express concern about increased PCA charges on their electric bills, town officials stressed this week that the town’s electric utility was a not-for-profit entity and that the PCA charge, which increased on the most recent bill, was primarily based on purchased power costs.
“If the cost of power for the town is higher, the PCA charge will be higher,” Finance Director Natalie Saleh said.
On Friday, several Berlin residents expressed alarm with a significantly increased PCA charge on their most recent electric bill. Some said the PCA charge accounted for nearly half of their electric bill.
According to the town’s website, the cost of fuel the town uses for generating electricity is subject to variations.
“The Power Cost Adjustment Charge (PCAC), is a calculated dollar amount per KWH to be added to or deducted from the customer’s billing each month, reflecting the increase or decrease in the fuel cost of generating or purchasing power that can be passed on to the customer,” the website reads. “The Maryland Public Service Commission reviews the PCAC calculation and collection on a monthly basis. The amount that results from this calculation is the PCAC applied to each kilowatt hour used and is shown on your bill each month.”
In an interview Monday, Saleh said the PCA charge was reviewed not only by the Public Service Commission but also by the town’s electric consultant. She said the PCA charge was essentially the cost of purchasing power.
“We buy the power and basically resell it,” she said. “If we buy it at an elevated cost the PCA will be higher.”
She said the PCA charge was applied to each kilowatt hour used and so the more electricity a home used, the more its PCA charge would be.
“People are staying home more, using more appliances, and it’s been colder,” she said. “But at the same time in the colder weather the cost of power to the town is a little higher.”
She added that the December-January bill was for 35 days, a longer time period than the average bill.
At Monday’s town council meeting, Councilman Jack Orris asked if there was a way for residents to be notified of potential PCA changes to help with their budgeting. Saleh said the rate itself varied by a minute amount and that the increase in cost was driven by the amount of kilowatts being used by the household.
Mayor Zack Tyndall pointed out that the town did offer a budget billing program for people who wanted to avoid huge spikes in their bills. Residents who enroll pay a fixed amount each month based on previous usage.
“If anybody’s interested that is a program that we have,” Tyndall said, adding that residents could call town hall if they were interested.