They use propane to heat their home and cook their food. At night, they unplug everything but the fridge and two lamps. In winter, they cover their doors and windows with blankets to keep the cold out of their small Wilton home, which was winterized a few years ago. 

Christie and Bob Decker don’t even use a water pump. Instead, the disabled retirees who live on their Social Security benefits use a camping hack to bathe, heating their bath water on the propane stove and a using a pump garden sprayer as their shower.

“Something is wrong here,” Christie said. “I don’t know what, I don’t know how, but this is wrong.”

In the winter of 2017-18, the Deckers’ average daily electrical consumption skyrocketed – from 33 kilowatt hours in November to 59 in December to 63 in January. The year before, they used only 20, 16 and 22 kilowatt hours on an average day in each of those respective months.

That February, their monthly bill came to $370. They called CMP for help, but none came. They filed a complaint with the Maine Public Utilities Commission last year and joined a CMP ratepayers class action suit. She’d like to move off the electric grid, but the initial investment required is too high.

Decker likens her CMP bill to extortion and worries that her fixed income leaves her with no stretch in her budget to cover continued increases. In the meantime, she asks for things such as solar-powered lanterns and alarm clocks as Christmas gifts and hopes for the best.

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