It’s no secret that supporting renewable energy projects is a major priority for me. Climate change has become a real and immediate crisis here in Maine, and it’s vital that we do all we can, as individuals and as lawmakers in Augusta, to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. For me, supporting renewable energy projects is about protecting our natural resources, moving toward energy independence, and adding good-paying jobs to Maine’s economy. But I’m also keenly aware that these investments are meant for the long term. Right now, we’re still very reliant on fossil fuels to power our cars and heat our homes.

This year, I am sponsoring a bill to help ensure more Mainers can afford to keep their homes warm and their lights on. During this particularly cold winter, it feels more important than ever. The bill, LD 1913, “An Act To Review Strategies for Improving Utility Rate Affordability and To Provide Utility Relief,” has two major parts to it: The first part of the bill directs the Public Utilities Commission to create a relief program to help low-income families pay for their energy bills, including bills from this winter, and any late fees that might have accrued. The PUC is also directed to work with Efficiency Maine to create an education program, to help more Mainers learn about energy-efficient upgrades they can make as well as financial relief programs they might qualify for. The second part of the bill would create a commission of stakeholders to review utility rates and come up with a plan to ensure Maine people will be able to afford their energy bills as the state transitions to using all renewable energy.

The unfortunate fact is that while we’re investing in energy independence, we’re still at the mercy of fossil fuel companies. Increasing or fluctuating energy costs are especially difficult for low-income families, seniors and those with disabilities who are on fixed incomes. I strongly believe the measures in this bill will provide real relief to those who need it the most. A public hearing for this bill has not yet been scheduled, but I’ll be sure to share information about when it is, for those who are interested in sharing their thoughts and testifying about how this bill would impact them. As a reminder, because legislative committees are working remotely right now, you can testify before Maine lawmakers via Zoom right from the safety and comfort of your own home, without having to make the drive all the way to Augusta.

In the meantime, there are existing programs to help you if you’re struggling to pay your utility bills. The Home Energy Assistance Program and the Low Income Assistance Program are both available to help Mainers who are income eligible — both homeowners and renters — pay for their heating and electricity bills. Additionally, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program can help renters who may be struggling to pay for their utilities or rent. To learn more about these programs, you can visit MaineHousing’s website at, or call them at (207) 626-4600. You can also reach out to Midcoast Maine Community Action at, or call their Bath office at (207) 442-7963. As always, 211 Maine is another excellent resource to help you connect with both local and statewide services — and you only have to dial 211!

I look forward to sharing more information about this bill with you. If you have any questions about this bill, or would like help connecting with services to help you and your family, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at or by calling 207-287-1515.

Eloise Vitelli is a state senator representing District 23, covering Sagadahoc County and Dresden.

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