Maryland power companies would help customers save electricity by providing discounted or free energy-efficient light bulbs.When I got my power bill, I called Allegheny about the surcharge and was told that it was for low-energy light useage. My family has started using the compact flourescent bulbs in our home, particularly in high use areas, like the living room, kitchen and bathrooms. Once you get past the fact that the color of light is a little green and dim at start up, they are great.
But consumers have discovered they're paying for the program - whether they use it or not - with a surcharge on every month's utility bills. And only a few stores offer the discount, which means inconvenience - if the consumer bothers to try to find the bulbs at all.
Allegheny ratepayers paid for the bulbs through a mandatory 96 cent monthly surcharge on their bills. Other utilities, including Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., are also tacking a small surcharge onto their customers' bills but working through retailers. BGE uses the money raised to reimburse a handful of retailers, such as Home Depot and Costco, that agree to sell the bulbs at a discount.
"Why should we all pay for a discount we may not be able to use because we can't get there or we may not choose to use?" said Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, noting the few participating retailers in the city.
This week, Del. Kevin Kelly, an Allegany County Democrat, is drawing up legislation to ban such programs if the cost is going to be passed on to consumers. And Allegheny Power officials will appear before the Public Service Commission Wednesday to respond to complaints about their program, which was approved by the PSC in September.
But I was not happy with the surcharge. Here I am trying to keep my energy costs down and the power company is charging me more to do so.