The state wants to give low-income electricity customers a one-time credit against their bills this spring to ease the burden of higher rates.

The one-time, $90-per-customer credit would be issued by March 30, according to a proposal submitted to the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday. The program would cost $8 million and apply to 90,000 Mainers, according to Gov. Janet Mills’ office.

“Maine’s overreliance on fossil fuels, especially natural gas, is pushing up electric rates for Maine people, with a disproportionate impact on those who are low-income,” Mills said in a statement. “This program can deliver meaningful relief to those who need it most as we examine other ways we can tackle this growing burden.”

The credit is needed because of a recent increase in the “standard offer” supply rate for electricity delivered by Central Maine Power and Versant Power, according to the proposal. Rising natural gas and oil prices led to the higher supply rate, which took effect on Jan. 1.

The average customer is facing a $30-per-month increase in electric costs, on top of higher home heating costs that are also due to increases in oil prices, according to the credit proposal issued by Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, and Maine Public Advocate William S. Harwood.

The money would come from the Maine Housing Authority’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, state officials said.


The energy office and the public advocate jointly petitioned the PUC to approve the credit program. The PUC needs to approve an accounting order that would allow the utilities to avoid having any lost revenue from the credit program impact earnings that could affect future electric rates.

Harwood said the credit plan would “provide meaningful and immediate rate relief, without adding significant administrative costs to the utility or ratepayers.”

To be eligible, household income must be at or below 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. The utilities, with assistance from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, will identify eligible households.

The proposal from Burgess and Harwood said the credit plan “is a modest attempt to partially address a much bigger and long-term structural problem.”

The PUC should help look for “long-term strategies for relieving low-income customers of the burden of rising energy costs,” Burgess and Harwood wrote, mentioning as an example the commission’s recent approval of rebates for Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative customers who install energy-efficient heat pumps.

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