The Maryland Public Service Commission
will hear proposals Aug. 7 on where to spend the $113.5 million fund created to benefit Baltimore Gas and Electric customers following its parent company's sale to a Chicago energy company.
By the June 15 deadline, 19 organizations had submitted 100 proposals, among them Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., as well as nonprofit organizations like Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative, Fuel Fund of Maryland and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
The proposals for the Customer Investment Fund include energy efficiency projects and support for low-income residents. Maryland's Public Service Commission approved Constellation Energy Group Inc.'s $7.9 billion sale to Exelon Corp. on the condition that it pass on some of the cost savings to customers.
PSC spokeswoman Regina Davis said in an e-mail reply to inquiries about the hearing that it doesn't offer comment on the record for matters that are before the PSC. Davis also says that the PSC has not given a deadline for its final decision.
Fuel Fund Executive Director Mary Ellen Vanni calls the PSC initiative “unprecedented.” Says Vanni, “This is the first time within Maryland that the PSC has put out a request on how to spend settlement money.” The Fuel Fund has requested almost $20 million for low-income aid.
However, there are several unknowns regarding the PSC hearing. Vanni says the organizations that submitted proposals have not been told if the hearing will go on for more than one day or if the PSC has a timetable to make a decision. Vanni says she does not expect a PSC decision before December 2012, given the number of proposals submitted.
The PSC has not indicated how the money will be allocated, she says. “The PSC can do whatever they want,” says Vanni. “They can decide to give all the money to one or two organizations or divide it among several groups. They can also say to us [the Fuel Fund], ‘You asked for $20 million and we’ll give you $10 million.’”
Paula Carmody, People's Counsel of the Maryland Office of People's Counsel, agrees with Vanni. The PSC set up the fund, asked for proposals from the community "and they can do what they like." She expects the PSC to pick a certain nimber of proposals that they like, then ask that further work be done on them to "firm them up." The Office of People's Counsel has requested $36.3 million for multiple programs, including establishing a model for greater rate affordability for low-income customers that can be used throughout the state.
Aleeza Oshry, manager of the sustainability initiative of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, says that most of the proposals are intended to enhance and/or expand existing programs.
That is the case with the two separate proposals Associated submitted. One proposal is from Associated itself for $2.7 million to extend its existing Green Loans Fund Program to northwest Baltimore nonprofits for interest-free financing for energy upgrades. The second is from CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., an Associated agency, for $2 million for its existing residential weatherization program in northwest Baltimore.
“We are the only faith-based organization that has submitted proposals” to the PSC, Oshry says.
Other organizations that submitted proposals, some for multiple-year funding, include:
Abundant Power Solutions, $5 million;
American Council for An Energy-Efficient Economy, $111 million, multi-programs;
Baltimore City, $55 million for its Green & Healthy Housing Initiative;
Baltimore Community Lending;
Baltimore County, $20 million to $50 million, multi-programs;
BGE, $54.7 million, multi-programs including small businesses and schools;
Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative, $10 million for an e-vehicle workforce;
Community Assistance Network, $1.7 million;
Green Renewable Earth Energy Corp;
Maryland Alliance for Fair Competiion;
Maryland Clean Energy Center, $5 million, seniors and veterans;
Maryland Energy Administration/State of Maryland, $113.5 million, multi-programs;
National Housing Trust; and
Public Technology Institute, $3.8 million, nonprofits and counties.
Sources: Regina Davis, Maryland Public Service Commission; Aleeza Oshry, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; Mary Ellen Vanni, Fuel Fund of Maryland, Paula Carmody, Maryland Office of People's Counsel
Writer: Barbara Pash