AUGUSTA, Maine — Versant Power residential customers who select the state's "standard offer" or default power supply will pay significantly more in 2022.
This class of consumers will see an 88.6% increase in standard offer rates, starting on Jan. 1. Those rates are increasing based on the power generation bids selected by the Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday.
Versant and Central Maine Power do not generate power and do not set these rates.
On Wednesday, the PUC commissioners will meet to choose a standard offer supplier in Central Maine Power’s service area.
"The bidding process was competitive, and we received multiple bids," Maine PUC Chairman Phil Bartlett said during special deliberations on Tuesday.
Three separate providers were selected, according to Bartlett, who told NEWS CENTER Maine after the deliberations that the PUC selected the lowest bids.
"I find these bids to be competitive and provide the best value to Versant standard offer customers," Bartlett said.
Exactly how the rates will increase is outlined in a press release from the PUC: "Residential customers who receive standard offer service can expect an increase of about 88.6 percent in their supply rates effective January 1, 2022. The new residential standard offer price amounts to an increase of about $30 per month on the total bill for an average customer using 550 kWh/month, or an increase from about $101 to about $131."
The rise in rates is a reflection of higher natural gas prices globally, according to PUC officials.
"This substantial increase is the result of wholesale market prices in the region, which are driven in large part by increases in natural gas prices," Bartlett said. "Electricity and supply in Maine is not regulated, but rather is procured through the competitive marketplace. In some years like the last two, we have benefitted from market conditions resulting in lower prices. Unfortunately, this year, the reverse is true."
PUC Commissioner Patrick Scully also spoke at the special deliberations Tuesday and said, "I agree with the selections. I think the size of the increases is terribly unfortunate, and it's going to impact a lot of people fairly negatively ... This is driven largely by the impact natural gas prices have on wholesale electricity prices, and I think for customers, as they look at what's happening at the gas pump and what's happening with home heating oil and the cost of heating your home with natural gas or propane, these are all driven by essentially the same factors this year, and it's painful."
Scully recommended customers look at competitive suppliers in the market as an alternative to the state's "standard offer."
"Those prices may not be substantially better in the near term, but I encourage people to look again a month from now, two months from now, or three months from now and see if they can achieve better prices in the competitive market," he said.
At the end of deliberations, Bartlett directed customers struggling to pay their energy bills to the Maine PUC website for resources.
The Maine PUC will deliberate the standard offer for CMP customers on Wednesday.