In late fall, when the tourists stop coming, Jane Liedtke closes down Bay Leaf Cottages and Bistro.

The retired college professor shuts off all the power to the 12 cottages and nine-room motel that make up the seasonal Lincolnville business for the winter, and often, on years when she goes back to Illinois or travels abroad, she does the same at her nearby condo.

Usually, the cottages and motel have almost no electric bill in the winter, but two years ago the meter showed them using kilowatt after kilowatt of power. The caretaker’s house got hit with an $800 bill one month despite no change in usage. A darkened office racked up a $250 bill another month.

“We were closed for winter,” Liedtke said. “We should have zero kilowatt hour use.”

She asked the Maine Public Utilities Commission for an audit when she filed a complaint last May.

Liedtke ticked off other CMP problems, too – her condo electricity usage doubled that winter and showed additional increases this winter, even though she wasn’t there and she uses gas for heat and hot water – but it was the business-usage spike that hurt the most.

She doesn’t want to pass the cost of what she believes to be inaccurate usage levels on to her summer visitors. When she bought the place in 2010, Liedtke made a decision to renovate but keep it affordable enough for families.

She’s not sure she could raise prices enough over a summer season to offset the surge, even if she were willing to.

“Mom-and-pop businesses end up losing big time,” Liedtke said. “If I raise rates, I get no business, no way to recover these extremely higher costs of doing business. Maine is a state of small businesses. We need a way to reduce our utility bills, not increase them.”

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