Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative's (SMECO's) new Standard Offer Service (SOS) rate was approved December 8, 2004, by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC). Normally, all customer usage appearing on January bills would be charged at the new rate; however, the Cooperative has chosen to ease the transition by including a credit on customers' January bills. In effect, any December usage reflected on customers' January bills will be charged at the lower 2004 rate. All customer bills rendered in February will reflect the new 2005 rates for all electricity used after the first of January.
According to Kenneth Schisler, Chairman of the PSC, "The SMECO Standard Offer Service retail prices approved by the Commission reflect competitive prices in a market that is driven by today's very high costs for the fuel sources used to generate electricity. I am comfortable that SMECO is taking appropriate steps to prudently manage its supply portfolio in the best interests of its members. While no one likes to see supply price increases, these changes are necessary in order for SMECO to remain financially strong, providing safe and reliable electric service to its members."
SMECO's president and chief executive officer, Joe Slater, added, "We have worked hard to deliver these competitive rates from reliable suppliers in a very challenging energy market. We will continue to diligently pursue opportunities that will benefit our customer-members."
Residential customers who use 1,200 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month will see an increase of approximately $21 on their monthly bill. SMECO's Web site has the approved schedule of rates and a Price to Compare page in the Customer Choice section of the site; a calculator, which will help customers estimate their energy costs, is included. Customers can review the information at www.smeco.coop/choice/ptc.
SMECO's Price to Compare is the SOS rate plus the Purchased Power Cost Adjustment (PPCA). Customers who are interested in comparing SMECO's rates to those offered by other power suppliers will need to know the Price to Compare and how much energy they use. Energy usage information appears on SMECO's monthly bill under the Service Information and the Current Billing Information sections.
The Cooperative offers a number of services that will help customers better manage their monthly bills. SMECO's Even Monthly Payment Plan allows customers to pay the same amount each month, which reduces the bills for high usage months. The Bill Extender Plan automatically extends the bill's due date, allowing customers 30 days to pay their bill. The Bill Extender Plan is designed for customers who are 62 years of age or older and customers who receive Social Security benefits or other financial aid through government-sponsored assistance programs that constitute the main source of income for the household. SMECO's PowerWise program helps homeowners save money by installing energy-saving devices in homes that are more than five years old. In addition, low-income customers may apply for grants through the Electric Universal Service and the Maryland Energy Assistance programs.