Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has ordered the state’s utilities to find ways to generate more power to avoid shortfalls and possible brownouts or blackouts predicted to hit the state between 2011 and 2012.

In 2007, and this past May 2008, PJM Interconnection, the region’s grid operator, told the PSC that Maryland could face electricity shortages—and possibly blackouts or brownouts—on hot summer days beginning in 2011. The PSC had warned utilities in August that it could require them to look for more ways to boost capacity.

On Thursday, it issued an order (PDF) after determining that new transmission lines would not be built in time.

“If we fail to undertake some combination of finding or building new electricity generation, increasing the capability of the transmission system to deliver more electricity into Central and Eastern Maryland, or reducing consumption—the very real threat of rolling blackouts or brownouts will remain,” the PSC said in a news release.

Experts estimate that Maryland is using 30% more power than it generates. According to state records, in 2007, electric power generated in Maryland primarily came from coal (45.1%), oil (10.9%), gas (10.1%), hydro (4.9%), and nuclear (27.6%).

But the utilities are not in a position to generate more power on their own, because in a1999 deregulation deal, generation plants were sold to other firms. Industry analysts say that to comply with the order, the utilities will have to enhance their capacities by bringing in power from elsewhere.

The utilities have until Dec. 1 to submit proposals to the PSC.

Source: Maryland PSC