Carol Dodson, VP, Customer Operations & Chief Customer Officer
At BGE, safety is a top priority in all that we do. In fact, safety is a core value of which we practice daily, no matter whether we are working on electric or natural gas equipment or running copies on a printer. We pride ourselves on providing our employees and our customers with information and tips on how to live, work and play safely.
Recently, utility customers across the nation have been targeted by imposters who pose as utility employees to gain financial information or access to homes and businesses. And unfortunately, these scams have also impacted BGE customers. Some imposters may even wear “official-looking” clothing and carry fake credentials. Customers should never open their door to someone they don’t recognize and should always ask for a photo ID through the door or window, especially if you did not request a visit from BGE. One of the simplest things you can do if you receive a visit or a call from someone claiming to work for BGE is to simply call 800.685.0123 to verify the credentials and to confirm whether a visit or a call is legitimate.
All BGE employees and contractors carry company identification badges, which should be visible at all times, displaying their name, photograph and identification number.
A recent telephone scam that has affected our customers is specific to pre-paid and “Green Dot” pre-paid credit cards. The callers claim to represent BGE and tell customers their service is scheduled to be terminated and that they should make a payment by purchasing a “Green Dot” Visa credit card. The customers are then directed to call another phone number where information is obtained from the credit card and the monetary value is removed from the card. This is a scam and the funds are not being used for a BGE bill.
BGE does not accept cash as payments in the field, therefore a BGE representative will never ask for cash to apply to your bill or for any work they perform. BGE offers customers safe, convenient ways to make payments, including calling the BGE customer contact center at 800.685.0123, online or by accessing bge.com from your mobile device, by mail and at authorized America’s Cash Express and Global Express locations. For any questions about accepted BGE payment methods, or to verify the identification of any persons requesting customer information or entry into a home or business, contact BGE at 800.685.0123.
BGE customers have the option of purchasing natural gas and electricity from third-party suppliers and representatives of these companies may contact customers in person, by mail or telephone seeking their business. Representatives of these companies may ask to see your bill as part of their presentation. Please note that they too should carry identification and we encourage you to verify their identification with their office. We encourage all customers to research any third-party energy supplier by visiting bge.com/energychoice or through the Maryland Public Service Commission website at www.psc.state.md.us.
BGE and other utilities across the United States are working with law enforcement and customers to help bring these scams to a stop. By getting the word out and asking customers to be vigilant and alert both BGE and local law enforcement anytime you witness suspicious activity, whether over the phone or in-person, we hope to increase awareness and help all of our customers safeguard their financial information, families, and homes and businesses.
Keep in mind that utility scams can take many forms – from electric and gas to your water, telephone, cable or internet. As we work to keep our customers informed on this matter, we urge our customers to share this information with their friends and family. If at any time, customers are concerned for their safety, they should contact 911. Again, please be vigilant about your own safety and whenever there’s a doubt, please verify with a call to BGE at 800.685.0123.
For more information on guarding yourself and family against utility imposters visit our Imposter and Theft of Energy Awareness page.
Bob Oberle, Principal Community Relations Specialist
Most customers are probably aware that their heating and cooling equipment are the largest energy users in their homes – accounting for nearly half of their annual energy consumption. Hopefully, we are all doing the right things to maximize operating efficiency . This would include routine checkups of the equipment, changing filters, adjusting our thermostat settings, and sealing air leaks at our doors and windows—to name a few. On bge.com, there are many useful tips on how to save energy, how to request a BGE speaker to give an energy conservation presentation to your community organization, and how to take advantage of a BGE Quick Home Energy Checkup as part of our Smart Energy Savers Program. All of the above are recommended actions for indoor energy conservation.
In addition to the above measures, strategic landscaping can also help decrease your energy usage. By properly positioning trees around your home
s to reduce the amount of sunlight striking your rooftops, walls and windows, you may be able to achieve up to a 25% reduction in your cooling costs. Also, since much of our heat loss in the winter is due to air infiltration, planting trees and shrubs can help create a windbreak and help reduce your heating bills.
Typically, a good first step is to plant trees and shrubs on the south and west side of the home, where they can block the majority of sunlight, particularly in the mid-afternoon. Deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves in winter, will block the sun in the summer, but will also allow some passive solar heating in the winter. Evergreen plantings on the north side will slow cold winter winds. Foundation plantings around the house help with shading in the summer; and, by keeping plants at least five feet from the house, you’ll create some dead air space to help establish an insulating layer which will reduce heat loss and infiltration from winds in the winter. If possible, shade your air conditioning unit with shrubs or small trees. Just be sure to keep 3-5 feet of open air to ensure proper air flow.
With some research and evaluation, you can identify suitable plants that can help in conserving energy. As always—safety first! Before you dig, call Miss Utility at 811 to locate all underground utilities. Finally, be sure to choose the right tree for the right place, keeping larger trees away from power lines and your house. You’ll find some useful information in the Safety & Reliability section of bge.com.
Jeannette Mills, Sr. VP and Chief Customer Officer Although temperatures this weekend were pretty frigid, overall our winter season has been significantly warmer than normal. For BGE customers, this means that heating systems can typically run less than what was required of them last year, which translates into saving money. In fact, when you compare gas usage of Nov. 2010 to Jan. 2011 with Nov. 2011 to Jan. 2012, the typical household used almost 20 percent less natural gas for this winter season. If the warmer-than normal temperatures continue, it’s expected that the total gas cost of an average residential gas customer from Nov. 2011 to March 2012 will be approximately $486 – about $100 less than the cost for this same period a year ago.
In addition to the help of warmer weather, lower commodity prices for natural gas and electricity are also contributing to customer savings. BGE’s average commodity cost for natural gas is currently estimated to be 58 cents per therm this winter compared to 62 cents per therm last winter. Likewise, the average price for electricity this winter has decreased to 8.9 cents per kilowatt hour compared to approximately 10 cents per kilowatt hour last season. This reduction has helped to lower the expected total winter electric bill to approximately $1,040 from $1,240 – a savings of about $200.
While higher temperatures and falling energy prices are helping customers save money, customers can still take measures to increase energy efficiency and savings in their own homes. Simple steps such as sealing gaps with caulk and weather stripping, replacing furnace filters monthly and lowering the thermostat can put more dollars in your pocket. Customers can also join the more than 260,000 people who’ve opted to purchase natural gas and electricity fromthird-party suppliers that may offer lower prices than BGE’s Standard Offer Service.
This winter season appears to be working in favor of savings. To learn more on how you can maximize your saving opportunities, visit our Ways to Save section or our WinterReady
Until Next Time,
Jeannette Mills, Sr. VP and Chief Customer Officer
Each winter season presents challenges for customers in managing their energy bills as colder weather typically means increased energy usage. Some customers who see their bill fluctuate may wonder why – especially when their thermostats remain at a set temperature. The reason for this fluctuation is that heating systems typically account for more than 40 percent of customers’ energy bills, and heating and cooling systems have to run longer to maintain a set temperature during periods of extremely cold (or hot) weather. In other words, your heating system has to work harder to maintain a 70 degree household in 30 degree weather than it does in 50 degree weather. So even if your thermostat remains at a set temperature, you will see an increase in energy usage during extreme temperatures.
While we can’t control the weather, we can take several simple steps to better manage our energy usage in both normal and extreme weather conditions. For example, you can improve the “envelope”
of your home by sealing drafts with caulk and weather stripping. Windows and doors can form gaps around the frames and sealing those gaps will help keep warm air in your home and cold air out. When you eliminate drafts and retain the warm air, your thermostat will not trigger your furnace as much and you’ll use less energy and save money.
Another tip is to check the insulation in your attic. Think of insulation as a winter coat. The thicker the coat, the warmer it keeps you. The more insulation you have, the longer it takes cold air from the outside to impact your home in the wintertime. Make sure the insulation is 12 inches thick and is R-38 grade or better.
Finally, every customer can practice conservation. This is an easy and simple way to have a positive impact on your energy usage and ultimately your energy bill. With no external changes and with all conditions being equal, the less energy you use, the lower your bill will be. BGE recommends setting your thermostat to 68 degrees (or lower if health allows). For every degree below 73 during the winter, customers can save two to four percent on heating costs. To help maintain this setting, install a programmable thermostat and program it to adjust to an even lower setting when the house is unoccupied and a higher setting just before your household returns from an outing.
Customers who heat with natural gas should consider setting the thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night. Customers who heat with electric heat pumps should only lower the temperature setting at night if the programmable thermostat is specifically designed for heat pumps.
There are many other steps you can take to increase efficiency and maximize savings. For a more comprehensive list of tips, visit our WinterReady
page, where you’ll find information on everything from Energy Star appliances to programs such as Budget Billing
and Energy Choice
, which can also help you better manage your energy bill.
As colder weather begins to make its way to us this winter, BGE wants to make sure all of our customers are prepared to save and stay warm.
Ruth Kiselewich, Director of Demand Side Management Programs
The lighting of Baltimore’s Washington Monument is one of Baltimore’s great holiday events. Now in its 40th year, the lighting of the monument has grown into an occasion that draws thousands of people to witness the illumination and officially welcome the holiday season to Baltimore.
For the third year in a row, BGE is proud to join the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore in providing the energy-efficient holiday lights that will decorate the monument. These LED lights truly are a gift that keeps on giving year-after-year by helping Baltimore City save energy and money – glowing brighter, lasting longer and using up to 90 percent less energy than the traditional bulbs which were replaced. Each of the 84 strands is more than 65 feet long, contain 200 LED’s, and use only 12 watts of energy per strand. (Click the Washington Monument image for more photos) By comparison, the lights on the monument in years past have used 1,200 incandescent bulbs (similar in size to the appliance bulbs used inside refrigerators) and typically consume 40 watts each or about 48,000 watts total. That’s a large energy saving. But these LED lights are not reserved just for big events like the lighting of the Baltimore Washington Monument. They are also available to consumers who want to make their homes a little more festive this holiday season.
ENERGY STAR® LED light strings are available at most retailers that sell holiday lights. ENERGY STAR LED holiday lights are available in a variety of colors, shapes and lengths. As far as economics, these lights are more reliable than the traditional incandescent bulbs, lasting 10 times longer – which means less cost to replace and maintain. Finally, another benefit to consider is safety. Unlike traditional bulbs, LED lights are cool to the touch, reducing the risk of fire and burns. For more information on energy efficient decorative lights, visit the ENERGY STAR website.
Providing the energy efficient lights for Baltimore’s Washington Monument is just one example of BGE’s commitment to helping customers save energy and money. BGE offers a host of programs through our BGE Smart Energy Savers Program® including discounts on CFL bulbs and select ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances, refrigerator recycling, limited income energy efficiency and much more. All of our programs are designed to support the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act, which aims to reduce per capita electricity consumption in Maryland by 15% by 2015.
With festive lighting, family visits, and large meals, the holiday season traditionally lends itself to increased energy usage, but that doesn’t have to be the case. We can all work together to save energy while still making the holidays ‘merry and bright.’
Jeannette Mills, Sr. VP and Chief Customer Officer
The price of natural gas and electricity continues to fall, which means potential savings for our customers. For the 2011 and 2012 winter season, the currently forecasted average natural gas commodity cost is about 60 cents per therm compared to last winter’s average price of 62 cents. Electric heating customers should be happy to know that the average price for electricity is 8.8 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) compared to 10 cents per kWh last winter season. With these reductions, the average gas customer’s total winter gas bill (Nov.1 – Mar. 31) should be about $556, compared to $584 last winter for the same gas usage; and the typical electric customer with an electric heat source will spend about $1,150 as opposed to the $1,240 cost of last winter for the same electric usage.
Anytime energy savings or increases are predicted, it’s important to know that several factors come into play, including weather patterns, your energy usage, and your home’s energy efficiency. Keep in mind, lower rates can still yield higher bills if usage is higher than normal.
This year, one factor that appears to be favorable for saving energy and money is the projected return to normal winter weather conditions. Do you remember last winter when we experienced a 5% colder–than- normal winter and record snow accumulations? According to WSI Weather Service, December alone was 58 percent colder than normal and the eighth coldest December since 1950.
Some of you may have recently heard that the Department of Energy is forecasting an increase in natural gas costs at the same time that BGE is projecting a decrease. Please understand that the DOE looks at the entire country and uses national data to determine its estimates, while BGE uses data specific to BGE’s service territory. If BGE’s service territory unfortunately experiences extreme cold or freezing temperatures, this will have likely have an impact on both prices and energy usage and heating bills will increase as a result.
So rather than rest on an expected normal winter, as a BGE customer, you can still further increase your potential for savings and energy cost management in a variety of ways including:
Our limited income customers may also qualify for assistance offered by state agencies and nonprofit organizations. Whatever way you decide to better manage your energy costs, we encourage you not wait until winter arrives to get started. Click the above links to learn more about our various programs or visit the Office of Home Energy Programs website or call 1-800-352-1446 to apply for energy assistance.
This winter, let’s not only take advantage of expected lower rates and forecasted normal weather to save energy and money, let’s also find ways we can work together to better manage energy costs, increase energy efficiency and maximize savings.
Laurie Duhan, Director, Choice Programs
Did you know that you have a choice when it comes to who supplies your electricity and natural gas? It’s true. You don’t necessarily have to use BGE to supply your electric and gas supply. In fact, more than 350,000 BGE customers have already switched to an alternative energy supplier that best meets their needs. And you can too!
So how do you begin the select a new supplier? Is it really as easy as comparing offers and making a decision? There are many approved energy suppliers that cover your area and you can learn about their offerings by visiting our Energy Choice
page, where we list links for each supplier that is licensed by the Maryland Public Service Commission and registered with BGE. From these sites, you can review rates, contract terms – even their ability to provide renewable energy such as wind or solar power. Once you’ve made your decision, all you need to do is contact the new supplier and they’ll help get you enrolled. They’ll even notify BGE on your behalf. If you do decide to switch suppliers, please know that BGE will remain at your service to maintain equipment, restore power during an outage or provide emergency service.
BGE is committed to keeping you informed of your energy supply options. In the coming weeks, you may notice some of our new advertisements to help promote Energy Choice. To learn more about Energy Choice you can visit our Choice Web page or take a quick read of my previous blog, where I talk about the difference between energy supply and energy delivery.
As always, if you have any questions about Energy Choice or comments you’d like to share, feel free to contact our Call Center at 410-685-0123 or post your question and comment here on our blog site.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Laurie Duhan, Director, Choice Programs
If you live in Maryland, you’ve probably received calls, letters and perhaps even a knock on your door from third party energy suppliers offering you the option to purchase energy from someone other than BGE.
Since Maryland is a deregulated state as it relates to gas and electricity, energy supply and delivery are separate and you have the right to choose your own energy supplier. This means you can choose to purchase your energy from a third party gas or electricity supplier or you can choose to purchase your energy from BGE. BGE actually encourages you to take the time to research the offers of third party energy suppliers who are licensed by the Maryland Public Service Commission and registered with BGE, and choose the supplier that best meets your needs. On the Energy Choice
section of our web site, you can view a list of authorized energy suppliers and information on how to choose and switch.
So, why is BGE committed to helping you discover energy suppliers? That’s a question we often receive. Here’s the answer. First, we value all of our customers and want them to be informed of their energy supply options and choose what is best for them. Secondly, as a distribution company, our most important responsibility is to safely and reliably deliver gas and electricity to your home. We do not generate electricity or produce natural gas; we purchase the energy and sell it to our customers. We are impartial as to whether customers purchase their energy from a third-party supplier or through BGE. Again, our goal is to make sure the energy you purchase, is delivered safely and reliably. If you are able to save money by purchasing through a third party – great. If we can provide you information to help you explore your choice options – even better.
Another question you might have is who will bill you if you change suppliers. The answer to that question is - it depends on the supplier you choose. Today, most residential suppliers place their gas or electric charges on BGE’s bill. In that instance, the supplier’s charges and BGE’s delivery charges will be on your BGE bill. But, some suppliers prefer to bill separately. If that’s the case, you will still receive a BGE bill with our delivery charges.
As of now, about 225,000 of BGE’s residential customers are actively shopping for energy. Some are switching to save money. Some are purchasing energy from those who are supporting renewable sources. Some are switching to earn different kinds of incentives. Whatever your reason for wanting to choose a new energy supplier, make sure you do your due diligence and research the different options and terms in order to choose the best package for your household or business.
Do you have questions about the Energy Choice program? Visit our Common Questions
page or post your question in the comment box of this blog. While we’re not able to tell you which supplier to choose, we can point you to information that might help you make your own decision.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
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