Standard offer to cost CMP residential, small business customers $6 more per month

Most electricity customers in Southern and Central Maine will see an increase in the supply-portion of their bills starting January 1.

STATEWIDE (WGME) -- Most electricity customers in Southern and Central Maine will see an increase in the supply-portion of their bills starting January 1.

The standard offer for Central Maine Power will cost the average customer another $6 per month.

"I try to make sure most things are off during the day," said Nathan Miller, a customer in Thomaston.

Miller keeps his home dark to keep costs down.

"I've been trying to cut back as much as I can," he said. "Better insulation, re-doing things that look like they could be an issue."

But he can only do so much. Miller is among the thousands of customers who will see the supply portion of their utility bill go up in the new year.

"Every year we conduct an RFP process where we go out and get the best bid possible for what's called standard offer service," said Harry Lanphear, spokesperson for the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

CMP serves about 600,000 customers. Nearly half rely on the standard offer, while the others shop around for suppliers.

Earlier this week, Maine PUC announced the lowest bid for CMP's residential and small business customers was 9 cents/kWh, a 14 percent increase.

Lanphear said it's a reflection of the market.

"In this particular case, in New England, it's the constraints of the gas market that's really driving these prices and that's kind of a recurring theme for the last couple years, unfortunately," said Lanphear.

CMP's standard offer for the same customers rose 18 percent in 2018, meaning most Maine households will be paying 30 percent more for supply than they were just two years ago. That translates to about 15 percent more in total on the bill.

"These increases are not at all proportionate to people's income, to cost of living," said Lori Parham, state director for AARP Maine. "Folks retirement savings aren't going up at this rate."

Parham called it "unacceptable." She said many members are on fixed incomes, some already struggling to make ends meet.

"We are going to raise our concerns with the Public Advocate and with the Public Utilities Commission," she said.

For now, all customers can do is brace themselves for those first bills in the new year.

"It cuts into everything," said Miller.

Some customers said they're frustrated because they're still waiting on results from a state investigation into CMP over record-high bills and usage. Lanphear said that investigation is completely separate from these rate increases.

The PUC encourages consumers to shop around among energy suppliers. You can find a list of current rates here.

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