MAYS LANDING - Atlantic City Electric has asked the state to approve a 4.2 percent increase in the base rate for residential electricity.

If approved by the Board of Public Utilities, the $54.1 million annual increase would be the first hike in the base rate - what the company charges to cover the cost of distributing electricity - since 1992. Increases in so-called supply rates to cover the cost of buying electricity wholesale are far more frequent.

The base rate hike would increase a typical residential customer's bill $6.76 a month, from $161.18 to $167.94.

The company said late Friday that the rate hike is needed to cover higher costs of maintaining and improving Atlantic City Electric's distribution system to 547,000 customers in the eight counties of southern New Jersey it covers.

Atlantic City Electric is a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based energy company.