Electricity bills for both Central Maine Power and Versant Power customers would increase under settlement agreements being worked out at the Maine Public Utilities Commission. File photo

Residential customers of Versant Power would pay roughly $5 more each month, an increase of 4%, under terms of a negotiated rate package announced Monday by the Maine Office of the Public Advocate.

The deal, which must be approved by the Public Utilities Commission before going into effect, calls for Versant ratepayers to shell out an increase that would start July 1 and total $15.1 million. A second increase of the same amount would begin in January 2024.

The announcement comes as the Office of the Public Advocate and other parties also are trying to find a compromise that would settle Central Maine Power’s request for a rate hike. Confidential talks are continuing, with a new session scheduled for Tuesday at the PUC.

Versant Power serves 164,000 customers, mostly in eastern and northern Maine. Parties involved in the settlement include AARP Maine, Aroostook Energy Association, Efficiency Maine Trust and Walmart. AARP was included in the negotiations because it represents thousands of seniors who are impacted by high electric bills. Likewise, Walmart was a party to the agreement because it has many stores in Maine and is a big power user.

“This settlement provides a significant benefit to customers by deferring half of the increase until January,” Andrew Landry, deputy public advocate, said in a statement. “That’s when we’re anticipating a meaningful decrease in standard offer rates, as well as competitive supply rates due to the recent drop in worldwide natural gas prices.”

A major driver of the company’s requested increase was a large capital investment program. Versant argued that it has made these investments to improve customer service, including a new metering system. To help ensure that such benefits are realized, the agreement includes a provision that could impose financial penalties if certain service quality levels are not achieved.  

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