Mills Administration, Public Advocate Submit Plan to Offer Utility Bill Credit to 90,000 Low-Income Maine Households

If approved, $8 million proposal would give low-income Maine households a one-time $90 credit to help with increased electricity rates

To help Maine people with electricity bills, the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) and the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) today submitted a proposal to the Maine Public Utilities Commission to deliver a one-time utility bill credit of $90 for low-income Maine households.

The total $8 million proposal was developed by the GEO and OPA in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services, Central Maine Power, Versant Power and MaineHousing. If approved by the PUC, the bill credit would be applied to approximately 90,000 Maine households served by CMP and Versant Power.

“Maine’s overreliance on fossil fuels, especially natural gas, is pushing up electric rates for Maine people, with a disproportionate impact on those who are low-income,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This program can deliver meaningful relief to those who need it most as we examine other ways we can tackle this growing burden. I thank everyone involved for their close collaboration on this important rate relief plan and am hopeful it will move forward quickly.”

“This program will provide meaningful and immediate rate relief, without adding significant administrative costs to the utility or ratepayers,” said Bill Harwood, the state’s Public Advocate. “As we prioritize further, lasting solutions to rising energy costs on Maine people, this effort will help those who need it most, right now.”

“When global markets cause fossil fuel prices to rise our electric rates can increase and, Maine people pay the bill,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “This initiative helps provide immediate relief for Maine people, as the work to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels moves ahead.”

The $90 bill credit would offset three months of the average household’s monthly utility bill increase this year, stemming from the increased standard offer electricity price approved by the PUC that took effect in January.

To be eligible for the credit, a household’s income must be at or below 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Utilities will identify households that should receive the credit with the assistance of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Funds for the bill credit are contingent upon the use of Federal funds delivered to Maine for the Heating Assistance Program, or HEAP, which is administered by MaineHousing. Use of these funds would ensure no additional costs to ratepayers to support the credit.

“This proposal by Gov. Mills to help 90,000 Maine households, who are likely struggling the most with these rapidly rising energy costs is admirable,” said MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan. “We are pleased to be able to offer a possible funding source for this important initiativeand look forward to presenting it to our Board early next week.”

“CMP is eager to participate in this collaborative program to offer electricity bill credit to low income customers. The supply rate of electricity – which CMP does not benefit from nor control – rose over 80% this year and we know this has had an impact on many Mainers,” said Joseph Purington, President of Central Maine Power. We are fortunate to operate in a state where the parties needed to make this happen could come together quickly and agree to a proposal that will make a difference.”

“Versant Power appreciated the opportunity to work with the Office of the Public Advocate, the Governor’s Energy Office, the Department of Health and Human Services and MaineHousing to identify how we can help customers struggling with recent supply price changes,” said John Flynn, President of Versant Power. “We urge customers to work with us to help identify ways they may be able to manage their electricity bills.”

The timing of the bill credit is dependent on the PUC’s approval of the proposal submitted today. Read today’s filing.