Maine regulators on Wednesday approved an increase in electricity delivery rates for both residential and commercial customers that will push monthly bills from Central Maine Power up by 11.5 percent, starting next month.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission’s hands were tied on the largest portion of the rate hike: federally mandated tariff increases set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to help pay for new high-voltage transmission lines and maintenance on existing lines in New England. But the PUC decided to spread out another part of the rate increase that will be used to pay for repair and restoration work caused by last year’s harsh storms.

The rate hike will increase the average monthly bill for a CMP residential customer, currently about $87 a month, by $9.90 a month, according to a PUC analysis. The average small-business customer, who currently pays $133.00 a month, will pay $14.50 more each month because of the higher rates, it said.

The PUC can’t regulate the federal tariff hikes, which are assessed on nearly every electric utility in New England and are passed through to customers. But it can address the bill for the repair work, and CMP’s customers are responsible for $26.5 million of that $70 million tab.

The three-member PUC unanimously decided Wednesday to spread that bill over two years to help mitigate the impact on customers’ bills. It considered spreading the cost over four years, but members objected to the idea of deferring full repayment for that long, especially in an era when climate change is causing more frequent severe storms that could lead to even higher customer bills in subsequent years.

“Deferring too many costs can lead to a piling-up of costs,” PUC Chairman Philip Bartlett II said.


Bartlett had said he was looking to hold the rate increase to about 10 percent, but on Wednesday said the 11.5 percent increase was acceptable.

Other board members said that the PUC’s options were limited.

“We have no good choices today,” Commissioner Patrick Scully said.

The rate increase is on the portion of a customer’s bill for delivery of electricity. Customers also can choose their electricity generator and pay a separate fee for that service, although customers receive bills for both parts of their electricity service together.

The rate decision came a day after Gov. Janet Mills vetoed a bill that would have put Maine on a track to possibly replace CMP and Versant Power, the utility serving northern Maine, with a consumer-owned utility. Mills said she wants legislators to slow down and consider more thoroughly the ramifications of the proposal.

State Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, the leading proponent of a consumer-owned utility, said some of the rate hike might have been avoided if the state had approved a forced buyout of CMP and Versant Power. He said consumer-owned utilities are eligible for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for some restoration and repair work, lowering the amount that must be passed on to customers.


Berry also said a state utility’s nonprofit status might allow it to pay a lower rate to FERC for the transmission lines, based on recent rulings by the commission.

CMP issued a statement late Wednesday saying it “has worked creatively to mitigate other costs where we can manage them through a variety of rate-making tools, primarily the collection of storm costs for 2020, which we proposed to defer over four years; the PUC opted for two.”

The utility said its initial proposal would have resulted in an impact of about 10 percent or $8.65 on an average residential customer.

CMP said its shareholders have assumed more than $40 million in storm costs since 2017.

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