In Maryland, as across the nation, we are on the cusp of a giant leap forward in the way families and businesses use technology to monitor and manage energy consumption. The capabilities of smart grid are transformational and will rival the advances we have seen in information technology, telecommunications and life sciences – all of which have put our state on the map from a business and investment standpoint.

The benefits will be substantial, as smart grid brings customers reliability and service improvements at lower operating costs. It will allow BGE to instantly pinpoint power outages as they occur. Smart grid will speed the introduction of home area networks that will allow consumers to better control their heating and cooling systems and appliances, track and manage their usage via web applications, mobile devices or in paper reports, based on their individual preferences. It will enable the integration of smart energy pricing and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles into a system that finally allows customers to connect the market price of electricity to its actual cost on a near real-time basis – something not possible until now.

BGE has been working hard for the past four years to drive this innovation, innovation that utilizes technology critical to our state’s and our nation’s efforts to address energy costs, energy independence, and clean energy, while at the same time, creating hundreds of new jobs. The scale of these challenges requires an effort of equal scale.

Time is running out for BGE to take advantage of a $200 million federal stimulus grant, which would cover half the initial customer costs of BGE’s smart grid project. We cannot afford to walk away from this incredible opportunity.

Though it remains effective and dependable, the power grid that drives much of our economy today was designed for an analog era in which energy was taken for granted. But the global competition for scarce resources, rising energy costs and concern about climate change have made us more aware of our energy use and how it affects our world.

At BGE, we’re focused on building an energy system that is equal to the challenges we face in our economy and our environment. Our smart grid proposal, revised and re-submitted on July 12, provides the foundation necessary for building this innovative, highly sophisticated system. Just as computers and the smart phone transformed communications, smart grid technology is where megawatts will meet megabytes, fundamentally changing how we think about and use energy.

June’s ruling by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) on our original smart grid proposal raised important questions and concerns. While we are disappointed with this ruling, we are not ready to give up on the promise of enhanced electric reliability, dramatic energy conservation and more than $2.6 billion in savings to our customers over the 15-year life of the smart grid project.

In our most recent filing, we respond to the PSC’s concerns, strengthen what we believe was an already robust plan and make every effort to retain an important $200 million stimulus grant from the Department of Energy (DOE), which would cut in half the costs to residential customers of our smart grid project.

Make no mistake that this innovation will come, and in fact, is already operational in homes and businesses across the country and around the world. More than 16 million “smart meters” are already deployed, a figure projected to double by the end of next year. These utility customers collectively are saving billions of dollars on energy costs and dramatically reducing their contributions to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

We support the O’Malley administration’s EmPOWER

Maryland goal of a 15 percent reduction in statewide energy usage by 2015. Smart grid puts that goal within reach at less cost for our customers. It will facilitate the growth and integration of renewable energy technologies into our network – both for businesses and residences. And it will send a clarion call to investors and entrepreneurs across the nation that Maryland is the best place for growing the green energy industry of the future.

Kenneth W. DeFontes is president of BGE.