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Md.'s energy future bleak, ex-regulator tells Hagerstown crowd

September 11, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Maryland's energy future is getting bleak, a former state Public Service Commission chairman said in Hagerstown on Wednesday.

"We are running out of electricity, quite frankly," said H. Russell Frisby, a spokesman for Marylanders for Reliable Power, a coalition of 32 businesses and groups pushing for various changes, including expanded generation and transmission.

Frisby said a study has shown that, at the current rate, Maryland could face blackouts and brownouts by 2012.

A new $1.8 billion high-voltage transmission line has been proposed, connecting southeast West Virginia to Frederick County, Md. Part of the line could go through southern Washington County.

Marylanders for Reliable Power, which includes Allegheny Energy, favors an upgrade, but doesn't take a position on the route, Frisby said.

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Allegheny Power, a part of Allegheny Energy, and American Electric Power are working together on the transmission line project.

Frisby's talk Wednesday at Duffy's on Potomac was part of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce "Eggs & Issues" discussion series.

After he spoke, Frisby faced several questions from the audience, some challenging aspects of the project, the reasoning behind it and the path it might take.

Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said affected communities should get a chance to talk and work together on the transmission line's route.

Frisby answered questions by focusing on the demonstrated need for more electricity. He said the problem gets worse as Americans increasingly use widescreen TVs, cell-phone chargers and central air conditioning.

An answer, he said, is improving transmission and generation, developing more renewable sources of energy and conserving power.

Ignoring the problem could lead to a blackout like the one in 2003, which affected 50 million people and caused a $6 billion loss in productivity, Frisby said.

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