Recently I received my energy bill and, as I typically do, turned straight to the balance due section. The total balance due this month was $0.00.
I scratched my head for a minute, double-checked and then triple-checked. Still $0.00.
At this point I decided to give my light bill more than the usual twenty seconds of consideration and read the whole thing. Under the heading, “Important Information About Your Bill,” read the following:
“The CE bill credit of $100 per residential distribution customer account is a condition of the Maryland Public Service Comission’s approval of the transaction between Constellation Energy and EDF Group.”
This means, ostensibly, that my next two bills are paid because of a major corporate buyout. Being a relatively new resident here in Baltimore, I had no idea that I would be on the receiving end of such a credit. The only question remains: what should I do? For a moment, I considered sending a thank you note and a $100 check to BGE, but that moment was short-lived.
As decidedly non-liberal as it is of me to say, maybe this isn’t a bad thing, environmental issues aside. I’m the first person to say that monopolies are bad. I said a million times that the end result of the recession would be mass consolidation of banking power into even fewer institutions than had it in the first place. That is most certainly bad. When it comes to energy, however, I’m a little more tolerant.
A cautionary tale: natural gas used to be the cheapest commodity you could have in Georgia. Millions of residents went out of their way to heat their homes, dry their clothes, and cook their food with gas, not just because it’s better, but because it’s cheaper. Then somebody got wise to the fact that Atlanta Gas Light had a monopoly on natural gas in Georgia, so deregulation legislation was passed which would allow consumers to have a choice in who they chose as their natural gas provider. Unfortunately, no matter who you picked as your gas provider, they were getting the gas to your house through Atlanta Gas Light pipes. What was once an $11 a month bill became a $92 a month bill, since all of the new companies had to rely on AGL’s existing infrastructure.
Monopolies aside, I pay less for gas and electricity every month than I do for my cellular phone, less than I would for cable if I had it, and certainly less than most people my age pay for a credit card bill. Constellation wants to keep its customers, so I doubt prices are going up anytime soon. The nightmare future where the evil energy empire jacks up the prices for the consumer to the point that you have to decide whether your child freezes or starves to death this month could one day happen, but I’m willing to put my faith into our future selves that we won’t let that happen. For once, let’s just let this one slide.