The new rate is up $29 a month for CMP's average residential customer.
A Central Maine Power truck is seen in Windham in June 2019. Credit: Lori Valigra / BDN

Most Central Maine Power residential customers will see their electricity bill rise by $29 per month starting in January, the Maine Public Utilities Commission said Wednesday.

The rise is for the standard offer electricity supply, which represents about 60 percent of a residential utility bill. Customers can choose their own electricity supplier or use the standard offer price, which the commission chooses after a competitive bidding process.

The commission attributed the rate rise to escalating prices for natural gas, which is used to produce electricity. Half of the electricity produced in New England is from natural gas, a percentage the commission said needs to be reduced to assure a sustainable electricity supply.

“Over the long run, supply prices should decrease as we bring on more renewables,” commission Chair Philip Bartlett said, “and utilities will be making significant investments in distribution in the years ahead.”

Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat who has opposed rate hike requests, said the standard offer prices accepted by the commission are the result of Maine’s overreliance on fossil fuels and the unprecedented volatility in global energy markets since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I have directed my administration to examine every solution possible to this crisis, and we will be preparing a proposal for the Legislature’s consideration next month to help Maine people with the significant hardship caused by high energy prices this winter,” she said.

The new supply rate for CMP customers, effective Jan. 1 through 2023, is 49 percent higher and means a customer using 550 kilowatt hours of electricity per month would see their total bill rise 26 percent to $154.58. About 88 percent of CMP customers take the standard offer price for electricity, a company spokesperson said.

The commission also set standard offer prices for Versant Power’s Maine Public District, which includes customers in Aroostook County and a small section of northern Penobscot County.

Standard offer prices in the district rose 34 percent, or $19 extra per month, for the average residential user of 500 kilowatts of electricity monthly. That means their total monthly bill would rise 18 percent to $121.99. Almost all district customers, about 99 percent, use the standard offer price for their electricity, a Versant spokesperson said.

The hikes come the day after the commission approved standard offer rates for Bangor Hydro District that are 40 percent higher than last year’s. That means the average customer using 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month would pay a total of $24 per month more to $138.55. That includes the other half of the electric bill, the distribution charge to get electricity to homes.