The Maryland Public Service Commission took the action to avert "a potentially disastrous scenario in which an unacceptably large number of households face termination of their gas and/or electric service in the near future," according to the commission's order.
The commission has said that nearly 84,000 Baltimore Gas & Electric customers and nearly 43,000 Pepco customers face potential service terminations starting April 1, when restrictions meant to protect customers during cold weather months are no longer in effect.
The order creates a work group that will recommend ways for customers to pay their delinquent bills "in a fair and realistic manner and in a fair and realistic time.
The work group will present its findings at a hearing April 7, after which the commission will decide whether to continue the delay in service terminations. The commission noted in its order that any further delay could harm the utilities' financial health.
The commission received a rash of complaints from customers this winter about skyrocketing utility bills. BGE and Pepco blamed a variety of factors for the increases, including colder-than-normal temperatures and rising energy costs.
The order noted that the commission has not yet reached "definitive conclusions" about the spike in utility bills.
Robert L. Gould, a spokesman for BGE's parent, Constellation Energy Group Inc., said the utility was reviewing the order and declined further comment.