November 3, 2016
As temperatures dip and winter quickly approaches, I would like to provide you with important information about BGE’s preparations for winter, customer communications and the resources designed to help customers weather the winter 2016-2017 heating season.
Prior to winter, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) has completed a number of major infrastructure enhancement projects, as well as a comprehensive review of its natural gas and electric systems. This is part of a more than $850 million investment BGE is making this year in the energy systems serving our customers. The winter preparedness system upgrades, inspections and maintenance will help to ensure the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas and electric service for BGE’s 1.25 million electric and 650,000 natural gas customers throughout the winter heating season. In addition, BGE makes many options available to residential and commercial customers year round to help them better manage their energy usage, ultimately minimizing energy costs and helping customers to manage their winter bills.
One major component of our winter preparations is helping customers who may be challenged by winter energy costs. Assistance may be available for those BGE customers with limited household incomes who need help in paying their energy bills. Just as BGE prepares in advance for the winter heating season, the company encourages all customers to prepare their homes and businesses for the colder winter months as well. Customers may visit bge.com/WinterReady for tips and information on saving energy, even on the coldest days.
For your information, we have included links to several helpful resources for customers:
(1) BGE’s press release on winter preparedness, which features information and tips on preparing homes and businesses for the colder temperatures, as well as information on saving energy and money, even on the coldest days. In addition, the press release includes information and links to resources for energy assistance.
(2) BGE’s 2015-2016 Community Resource Guide, which is a collection of resources and information about assistance programs of all kinds – federal, state and local, as well as programs from BGE and non-profit providers. English and Spanish language versions of this resource are available at bge.com/energyassistance.
(3) The BGE Smart Energy Savers Program® website at bgesmartenergy.com lists all of the energy efficiency and conservation programs available to BGE customers, including appliance rebates, lighting discounts, and free Quick Home Energy Check-Ups.
In addition to these resources, BGE conducts a comprehensive customer communication and education campaign. We reach out to customers through schools, churches and community-based organizations and utilize various communications channels, including our Connections newsletter, paid advertising (radio, TV, online, print, billboard), website and social media postings, and traditional outreach to local news media organizations.
During the colder months, heating systems typically account for more than 40 percent of customers’ energy bills because extreme weather generally triggers significant increases in energy use at home. Even when the thermostat is kept at the same temperature, heating units must work harder to maintain the set temperature. Without taking steps to save energy during these times, energy bills will reflect additional usage and will likely be higher than in months when temperatures are more moderate. BGE encourages all customers to think about simple steps they can take in their home to save energy each day, no matter the temperature outside.
The WinterReady section on bge.com is specifically designed to help customers weather the cold temperatures that affect central Maryland each year. The following are steps that all customers can take to reduce energy consumption and lower heating bills:
Manage your thermostat. Consider a programmable thermostat, which can save 10-25 percent in energy costs all year when programmed to lower temperatures when no one is home in the winter. When used properly, a programmable thermostat with its four temperature settings can save approximately $180 a year in energy costs.
Inspect your Furnace. Have the furnace checked by a licensed professional to be sure it is operating efficiently and seal any leaks in furnace ducts. BGE offers rebates for these and other home efficiency improvements through the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program®.
Schedule a BGE Quick Home Energy Check-up or a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.
Change the furnace filter regularly. A dirty filter forces the furnace to work harder.
Insulate your water heater. Install an approved insulation blanket around the water heater and insulate the first three feet of water pipe (keep insulation at least 6 inches from the flue on gas water heaters).
Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees F and conserve hot water when you can. Heating water is the second largest energy user in your home in the winter months.
Caulk and weather strip windows and doors to keep cold air out.
Check/add attic insulation to reach a level of R-38 or 12 inches.
Wash clothes in cold or warm water and rinse in cold water to reduce water heater usage.
Shopping for a competitive third-party supplier, bge.com/energychoice, combined with the offerings of BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program®, at bgesmartenergy.com, provides customers with many options for managing energy costs this winter.
BGE also holds smart energy management and energy conservation workshops in communities throughout the year. BGE provides customers with its Consumer Reference Book, which is mailed to customers by request and is also available on bge.com. Customers can also learn about energy efficiency and conservation from the Maryland Energy Administration at www.energy.state.md.us.
BGE offers innovative programs to help customers manage their energy use, BGE recognizes that there are some customers who may still be challenged to pay their heating bills. In addition to the resource links in this letter and available at the Energy Assistance section of BGE.com, customers may also consider BGE’s Budget Billing program, which evens out payments over a 12-month period so customers are not as affected by increases in usage triggered by extreme weather conditions. BGE encourages customers notto wait until they are in crisis to ask for help but rather to contact their local Office of Home Energy Programs online or by calling 1-800-352-1446.
I hope that you and your constituents find this information helpful. If you would like to discuss these issues further or would like additional information on any of the above resources, please call me at 410.470.1215.
Government & Legislative Affairs Director
Contact: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE)
BGE Systems Ready to Provide Safe and Reliable Service this Winter
BGE is investing more than $850 million in the electric and natural gas systems serving customers with safe and reliable energy
BALTIMORE (Nov. 3, 2016) – As temperatures begin to drop, BGE has been hard at work to complete projects necessary to ensuring the company’s natural gas and electric systems are ready to meet the energy needs of customers this winter. BGE asks customers also to prepare their homes and businesses for cold weather that can cause heating systems to work harder and use more energy to maintain comfort. While last winter brought a record setting snowstorm, it also saw unusually mild temperatures. The forecast for this winter calls for a return to more normal and colder temperatures.
“Reliably meeting the energy needs of our customers is always important, particularly during the cold, winter months,” said Stephen Woerner, president and chief operating officer of BGE. Our dedicated employees work safely year round to ensure that our systems are ready when customers need them, no matter the weather. We appreciate the steps our customers take to be ready as well, including exploring ways to use energy more efficiently to reduce energy costs that can rise when temperatures drop.”
In 2016, BGE has invested approximately $260 million in the natural gas system to provide safe and reliable service for customers. This work includes equipment inspections, repairs and replacements, and preventive maintenance. The company regularly installs new gas pipelines to meet customer demand, such as the recently completed, four-mile Route 32 gas main installation in Anne Arundel County and the one-mile stretch of new gas main along Old Montgomery Road in Howard County. Major gas system reinforcements were also installed in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Harford and Baltimore counties in the past few years.
In addition to adding new pipelines, BGE is replacing existing gas mains with durable new pipes that will deliver gas safely and reliably to communities well into the future. So far this year, approximately 36 miles of aging gas mains have been removed from service as part of BGE’s ongoing upgrades to its gas system. This includes replacement of cast iron and unprotected steel mains at an accelerated rate under BGE’s STRIDE gas system modernization plan. In addition to modernizing equipment, the company has also secured natural gas contracts and filled its storage facilities to help ensure it has the gas supply necessary this heating season for those customers who purchase natural gas from BGE.
Electric system upgrades and maintenance have also been underway in preparation for winter weather. This seasonal readiness work is a part of the approximately $590 million BGE is investing in the company’s electric system in 2016. BGE is inspecting nearly 6,000 circuit miles of overhead power lines and more than 38,000 utility poles this year. The company also takes steps to minimize the threat to power lines by trees weakened by heavy snows and winter storms by spending $27 million trimming vegetation near overhead lines this year.
As BGE prepares for winter, customers are reminded to prepare as well by following these tips:
Test your heating system and have it inspected by a qualified technician. Regular service will ensure the heating system operates safely and efficiently for the season ahead.
Schedule a free BGE Quick Home Energy Check-up, where an energy efficiency professional will walk with you through your home to provide valuable tips for increased efficiency.
Save an average of two percent on your energy bill for every degree you lower your thermostat.
Lower the temperature on your water heater and conserve hot water when you can.
Seal holes and seams in your ductwork and gaps around doors, windows, and outlets.
Ensure you have 12 to 15 inches of attic insulation, or an R-38 level.
Open curtains and drapes during the day, to let the sun warm your home. Close them at night for insulation.
Know where your natural gas appliances vent to the exterior and ensure the vents are clear. Some high efficiency gas appliances, such as water heaters and furnaces, vent along the foundation of buildings. If these vents become blocked by snow or ice, exhaust may back up resulting in carbon monoxide build-up or a release of natural gas.
Customers should also explore the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program® to identify new ways to save energy, money and the environment. During colder weather, heating systems work longer to keep homes warm. Help in paying winter bills is available to income-qualified customers. Call (800) 352-1446 or visit http://www.dhr.state.md.us and click on “Services.”