Maine households and business are being rocked and socked by soaring electricity supply prices that jumped more than 80 percent beginning in January. At the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, we’re hearing from our members who are seeing their bills at home and work double and, in some cases, even triple.

Electricity supply is the amount we use each month. For most Versant and Central Maine Power customers, supply prices are set by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Versant and CMP do not supply electricity – they can only deliver it.

“Unfortunately, sharp increases in natural gas prices are resulting in higher electricity supply costs,” according to PUC Chairman Philip Bartlett. One of the reasons for these “sharp increases” in natural gas is that, to paraphrase an old Maine saying, you can’t get it here from there. Let me explain.

Across New England and in our state, natural gas is used to generate our electricity, heat our homes and offices and fuel our manufacturing. The region’s demand for natural gas is strong, yet supplies are scarce.

It’s an artificial scarcity driven by a lack of pipeline capacity, not a lack of supply. There’s plenty of natural gas to be found in the Northeast. It’s as close as Pennsylvania.

We just can’t get it from there to here. Access to domestic natural gas supplies is severely limited by bottlenecks in the pipeline transmission system that limit how much we can move into New England, especially when it’s needed the most, like during cold snaps.


That’s forcing the region – and all of us – to rely on imported liquefied natural gas to maintain the system’s stability. Right now, we’re using LNG from overseas for heat and power.

Sen. Angus King highlighted the region’s lack of pipeline capacity during a recent confirmation hearing for the nominee for assistant secretary of energy in the Office of Electricity at the U.S. Department of Energy. He explained the problem “is not gas supply, it’s pipelines” and asked how we “supply energy at a reasonable price and a reliable basis … if we don’t allow additional pipeline capacity to be developed.”

Sen. King also pointed out a concern that’s raised during really cold winters. There are times when pipelines are so constrained that the regional electric grid operator must call on other fuels to produce electricity. As the senator said, “If we don’t have enough natural gas, and we’re burning coal to make up the difference, that’s an environmental disaster.”

There is a solution to this dilemma – expand pipeline capacity in the region. It’s a challenge we need to address now. Projects like this take several years to be thoroughly reviewed by federal and state agencies, plus a year or two to be built.

Maine businesses are committed to finding ways to shrink our carbon footprint, and we support the goals aimed at lowering greenhouse-gas emissions. The Maine State Chamber has been a proud and supportive member of the Maine Climate Council. We’re also realistic about how long it will take to complete the transition to a totally renewable economy.

Until we’re at that point, it’s critical we have a steady supply of natural gas coming into the region to moderate electricity supply costs, keep homes and workplaces warm, power industries and, importantly, support renewables. Otherwise, we’ll keep getting rocked and socked.

Information and resources to assist ratepayers may be found on the PUC website’s home page at Worried about Energy Bills?

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