Northern Maine to see lower electric bills in 2024

3 months ago

Many Aroostook County residents will see lower electricity bills when the new year begins.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday accepted new standard-offer supply rates for Versant Power’s Maine Public District customers. The district covers much of Aroostook County.

Residential customers will pay 11.29 cents per kilowatt hour beginning in January. Medium consumers will pay 12.99 cents and large customers will pay 16.26 cents per kilowatt hour.

Average residential customers using 500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month will see their bills decrease from about $136 a month to approximately $118, about $200 per year, the commission said.

The rates were obtained through a competitive bidding process, commission chair Philip Bartlett said. 

The decision represents some inflation relief for ratepayers, who have seen utility costs rise sharply over the past couple of years. Electricity supply cost residential customers just over 6 cents a kilowatt hour in 2021. That nearly doubled to 11 cents in 2022, according to Public Utilities Commission data.

“We’re obviously very pleased to see prices drop meaningfully from where they were,” Commissioner Patrick Scully said. “They continue to be higher than before 2022.”

Rates increased in 2023 to 14.83 cents per kilowatt hour for small and residential payers, with medium and large consumers paying an average of 14.34 and 17.3 cents per kilowatt hour, respectively.

The standard offer supply rate is one part of an electric bill. Versant Power also charges for delivery.

The rates were selected as the best to ensure no significant impact on ratepayers, Bartlett said during the 5-minute meeting Wednesday, which was streamed online.

The commission also announced lower rates for Central Maine Power and Bangor Hydro District customers.

Standard offer prices are directly tied to the cost of natural gas, since natural gas powers about half of electricity generation in New England, Scully said. 

Scully and Commissioner Carolyn Gilbert said they’d like to see Maine reduce its dependence on natural gas, which could further drive rates down.