AUGUSTA – Help may be on the way for Mainers struggling with skyrocketing electricity bills, at least if Republicans can get Democrat Legislators to work with them on proposals aimed at lowering rates.
In response to news of additional rate increases being approved by Janet Mills’ appointees on the Maine Public Utilities Commission, Maine House Republicans today released a statement announcing they will be introducing legislation to address electricity costs in the coming session.
“Republicans will offer several bills that will lower energy costs for consumers and address anticipated additional increases of 20-30% by the end of 2023 due to net energy billing,” Rep. Steven Foster of Dexter said in the statement.
““Mainers are getting crushed by rapid price increases for everyday goods due to high energy costs,” Foster, who serves on the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “Winter is upon us, the situation is going from bad to worse, and we need to act. Lowering energy costs is a top priority of legislative Republicans. State policies favoring solar and wind at the expense of family budgets need to be changed.”
Foster’s reference to Net Energy Billing highlights one of the major problems with Maine’s energy markets. Net Energy Billing essentially distorts the energy market by guaranteeing higher rates for solar electricity and driving up overall costs, at the expense of residential electricity customers.
The Net Energy Billing law was passed by Democrat Legislators and signed by Governor Janet Mills despite warnings it would drive up electricity costs.
The Maine Legislature convenes in January for the start of a new session. It is unclear if Democrats are willing to reverse or modify their energy policies for the sake of reducing rates on Maine families.
Across the Canadian Border, customers of Hydro-Quebec continue to enjoy some of the lowest electricity rates in North America, with published rates as low as 6.319 cents (CA) per kWh. In contrast, Maine’s rates with recent PUC decision will rise to 16.44 cents per kWh, up from 11.68 cents, a 41% increase.
Maine PUC Commissioner Phil Bartlett, who was appointed by Gov. Janet Mills also confirmed that Maine’s recent Standard Offer increase provides 1.5 cents per kWh in fees to ISO New England as a “Security Initiative” add-on, according to the Republican press release.