The Maryland General Assembly Friday passed legislation to openthe state’s retail electric industry to competition. Gov. ParrisGlendening is expected to sign the bill into law next week. Thelegislation will phase in residential customer choice over athree-year period beginning with one-third of residential customersJuly 1, 2000. Residential customers choosing to keep their utilityas supplier would get rate cuts of 3% to 7.5% to be determined bythe Public Service Commission. The rate cuts would last four yearsand then rates would be deregulated.

Six utilities serve Maryland. They are Allegheny Power,Baltimore Gas and Electric, Conectiv, Potomac Electric Power,Choptank Electric Cooperative, and Southern Maryland ElectricCooperative.

In January 1998, Maryland utility regulators said they wererolling back their aggressive schedule to restructure the state’sretail electricity markets by more than a year due to the”magnitude and complexity” of the issues facing them. The move wasprompted by a filing of the Maryland Office of People’s Counselthat questioned the authority of the Maryland Public ServiceCommission to implement the electricity restructuring order itissued the previous November. That order would have allowed as manyas a third of the state’s electric customers to shop for competingproviders by April 1, 1999. The new order called for the firstphase of competition to begin July 1, 2000.

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