Friday, November 6, 2009

Constellation deal makes Md. quest for affordable energy tougher,0,221160.story

Constellation deal makes Md. quest for affordable energy tougher

11:54 AM EST, November 4, 2009

Approval of the transaction between Constellation and Electricite de France (EDF) leaves significant questions unanswered that are more fundamental than the timing of the $100 credit to BGE ratepayers, the location of EDF's new U.S. headquarters and whether Constellation Energy will still build a visitor's center at Calvert Cliffs ("CEG to act quickly on EDF deal," Nov. 4).

The deal that expands EDF's influence over Constellation Energy does little to address Maryland's exorbitant electricity cost. Nor does it set Maryland on a clean energy path to meet its future needs.

To be sure, Maryland's quest for affordable and clean energy just got tougher.

A one-time $100 credit to BGE ratepayers, regardless of when it is granted, does little to counter the 85 percent rate hikes that have burdened ratepayers since Maryland deregulated its electricity sector. On the contrary, breaking up Constellation Energy further by spinning off assets to French state-controlled EDF will make meaningful re-regulation of the state's electricity sector that much more daunting.

Moreover, the deal leaves the door open for the pursuit of a prohibitively expensive new reactor that would expose ratepayers to even more costly power. The average BGE residential customer pays 11.97 cents per kilowatt/hour for electricity. An August 2009 study by the California Energy Commission projects that the cost of electricity from a new nuclear reactor coming online in 2018 -- about when Calvert Cliffs 3 could come online -- will be 34.24 cents per kilowatt/hour-nearly three times more. Clean energy is much cheaper.

Not only does pursuing nuclear commit ratepayers to higher electricity bills, but it thwarts efforts to develop a clean energy sector. Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member and utility expert Peter Bradford rightly noted that the popular "all of the above" approach to our national energy portfolio does not necessarily play out well at the local level: "Sometimes solutions [to energy demand] drive out other solutions. If a region commits to a 1,600 megawatt reactor, then there is little motivation to do energy efficiency or renewables."

The approval of the transaction between Constellation and EDF guarantees nothing more than the same old deal for Maryland.

Allison Fisher, Washington

The writer is an energy organizer for Public Citizen and a member of the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition.

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