By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(May 2, 2019) Tim Lawrence, director of Berlin’s Electric Utility, received a certification from the American Public Power Association in Washington, D.C. at last Monday’s meeting of the mayor and Town Council.
The electric department was ranked in top 14 percent in the public power industry for six consecutive years. Lawrence said the department was certified in 2016. He added that each certification lasts three years, and Berlin’s utility was again certified for 2019-2022.
Among several council members to sing Lawrence’s praises, Councilman Dean Burrell “echo[ed] a congratulations to Tim for the outstanding achievement.”
However, Lawrence said he couldn’t take all the credit.
“It’s not just me, it’s a team effort,” Lawrence said.
As town officials discuss struggles associated with the water, stormwater and sewer utilities, Lawrence noted his department does not rely on the general fund.
“Well, [the] electric department is totally funded by the rate payers,” Lawrence said. “Our revenue, our expenses, our benefits, our vehicles, and all [of] that is supported by the amount of electricity that is sold and demanded.”
Lawrence said the electric utility services about 2,850 customers, and is a “nonprofit entity governed by the Public Service Commission.”
Lawrence began working for the town’s electric utility in 2010, and said “we had some of the highest rates in the state of Maryland.”
He added he’d often receive “calls every day and [would] even get stopped on the street … because I mean it was a … big problem when I first got here. And after about, I think it was 2014 somewhere in there, I stopped getting those calls.”
Lawrence said customers were paying roughly $77 per megawatt from 2009-2010, and currently pay about $56 per megawatt.
“It’s a big decrease,” Lawrence said. “We are actually lower than Choptank [Electric Cooperative] and Delmarva Power.”
Lawrence said kilowatt-hours is the measurement of energy consumption and that a home could use between 1,000-2,300-kilowatt hours per month.
In 2018, Lawrence said for using 1,000-kilowatt hours, a monthly bill for a Berlin resident was $125.79. Delmarva Power charged $139.42 and Choptank Electric Cooperative cost $144.48.
He said the effort involves working with the department personnel, town officials and a consulting firm out of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Lawrence also reflected on a time nearly five years ago when the department joined the American Municipal Power Association, an organization out of Columbus, Ohio.
“Basically you’re joining a larger group of municipalities that let a company … handle their purchase power agreements,” he said.
Lawrence said having that backing allows for more choices when vendors bid on contracts.
Lawrence went on to say how it’s all about finding solutions to help save money.
“During the winter and summer months, when the demand is really high, we start our generators up, which in turn cuts the peak demand during that time frame because that’s when your transmission congestion charges are the highest that you’re buying from your purchase power contract,” Lawrence said. “So by leveling that void basically, you’re cutting those expenses off the top when it’s the highest, which in turn saves the town … around $450,000 a year.”