Low-income Mainers may get help with electricity rate increases after Public Advocate William Harwood petitioned the state on Friday for a break on consumers’ energy bills.

Harwood asked the Maine Public Utilities Commission to approve a one-time $75 credit in January for each of the roughly 25,000 Central Maine Power and Versant Power customers currently enrolled in the state’s Low-Income Assistance Program.

Rate hikes for CMP and Versant customers are set to take effect in January.

“Mainers are barraged by multiple, alarming economic stressors that challenge their ability to keep current with household bills,” Harwood said in the filing.

The increase in the average electricity rate from June 2021 to August 2022 in Maine was one of the 10 highest across all states. Between 2020 and 2021, most customers of CMP and Versant saw the supply portion of their rates increase 8% and 88%, respectively, Harwood said in the filling.

Beginning on Jan. 1, new “standard offer” supply rates for home and small-business customers in CMP’s service area will rise from 11.8 cents per kilowatt-hour to 17.6 cents, a 49% hike. Electricity supply makes up roughly 60% of a total monthly bill. When delivery charges are added, the total bill for a typical customer using 550 kWh will go up $31.98 a month, from $122.59 to $154.58, a 26% increase.


CMP serves 636,000 customers in the southern and central parts of the state.

In his petition to the PUC, Harwood estimated that the program would cost about $1.9 million and that the utilities could recover the cost in higher distribution rates “at some future time when supply prices are not so exorbitant.” Harwood went on to point at that at current rates, the $1.9 million would represent less than 0.5% of CMP and Versant’s combined revenue of approximately $425 million.

The PUC in November approved a new supply rate for Versant customers. The new rate will increase the bill for a typical household using 550 kWh of electricity a month by nearly $24, from $114.78 to $138.55. Versant serves about 159,000 customers in northern and eastern Maine.

“Maine customers need immediate relief. Providing a $75 bill credit will help low-income customers to purchase needed electricity and thereby avoid late fees, reduce the utilities’ bad debt write off, and reduce the number of customers facing disconnection,” Harwood said.

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