- Where is natural gas service offered in Maine?
- Northern Utilities d/b/a Unitil currently serves customers in the greater Portland area, Lewiston, Auburn, Biddeford, Saco and Kittery.
- Bangor Gas serves customers in Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, Orono and Veazie, and is installing pipeline to serve Bucksport.
- Maine Natural Gas currently serves customers in Windham, Gorham, Bowdoin, Topsham, Freeport and Brunswick, and is installing pipeline to serve in Augusta.
- Summit Natural Gas of Maine, Inc. is authorized to serve customers in towns throughout the Kennebec Valley region, from Richmond to Augusta to Madison and is currently installing pipeline to bring service to several of these municipalities. Summit has also been selected by the Towns of Cumberland, Yarmouth & Falmouth to provide natural gas distribution service.
Each of these companies may expand to serve additional municipalities as new customers request service. Companies typically choose to expand when the revenues from new customers cover the costs to provide service. Often a utility will expand its mains to a large, "anchor" customer and then seek to add small customers located along the main.
For more information, please check out natural gas distributors.
- Does the MPUC regulate propane?
The MPUC does not regulate propane rates but is responsible for conducting safety inspections on all “jurisdictional” propane facilities. Jurisdictional propane systems are those serving ten or more residential customers, or two or more customers served in a public place, from a single or a manifolded-tank system.
- How can I compare the price for natural gas with the price for oil or electricity?
Heating fuels are measured in different units, making cost comparisons difficult. For example, electricity is sold by the kilowatt hour, fuel oil is sold by the gallon and gas is measured by the cubic foot or therm. In addition the efficiency that these fuels are burned at varies greatly with the equipment design and condition. To make a meaningful comparison of energy commodities, you must convert physical units of measure and the energy content of each fuel to comparable units. You can read more about this on the Department of Energy’s web page at http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/infosheets/apples.html.
- What is the “Winter Disconnect” period?
Special payment arrangements available for customers of electric and natural gas utilities during the Winter months
It is the Commission's policy that during the winter months, when severe weather conditions can pose a threat to health and safety, residential customers of electric and gas utilities should not be disconnected because of their inability to pay the entire amount owed by the due date of a bill.
During the period November 15 through April 15, customers who cannot pay their utility bill because of reasons that may cause their households to be deprived of food, medicine, heat or some other necessity can declare eligibility for a Special Payment Arrangement. Customers whose income does not exceed 150% of federal poverty guidelines or who are eligible to participate in one of the following programs may qualify for a Special Payment Arrangement:
- Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
If you have any questions regarding options for avoiding the threat of winter disconnection of your electric or natural gas service, please call the Maine Public Utilities Commission's Consumer Assistance Hotline at (800) 452-4699 or (207) 287‑1597. You can also reach the Maine PUC at (800) 437-1220 (TTY Relay), (207) 287-1039 (fax), or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Special Payment Arrangement can be an arrangement that allows the customer to pay less than the amount of each current bill during the winter months. At the time of the March billing, the utility adds the estimated amount of bills from April through September to the March account balance and divides by 7. The result is the amount the customer will pay in 7 equal monthly installments by the billing dates from April through October. This arrangement requires that the customer pay the account balance plus all future bills through and including the September bill by November 1.
A Special Payment Arrangement can also be an arrangement that allows the customer to pay a levelized amount each month. This arrangement is similar to a budget arrangement in that the account balance owed at the time the arrangement is established is added to estimated bills through the following September. The total of these figures is divided by the number of monthly payments that will be made to bring the account current by November 1.
There are two benefits to these Special Payment Arrangements. First, the customer is assured that payments during the winter months will be affordable and the danger of winter disconnection is avoided. Second, as long as the customer makes and keeps a Special Payment Arrangement, the utility is prohibited from assessing late payment charges on the overdue amount.
- What Low Income Assistance Programs are available?
Low Income Assistance Programs
Financial assistance may be available to help qualified low-income consumers with their electric, gas, telephone or water bills. Special payment plans or assistance may be also available through your electric distribution utility and local telephone provider. Funding for some State and Federal programs has been augmented through the CARES Act due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and may only be available for a limited time.
Statewide Electric Low-Income Assistance Plan (LIAP)
The MPUC and the Maine State Housing Authority administer a statewide Low-Income Assistance Program (LIAP), which disburses more than $7 million annually to assist qualified low-income customers with their electric bills. Qualifying customers receive a credit on their electric bill that is based on their income and electricity usage. Eligibility to participate in the LIAP is based on a customer's eligibility for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Customers can apply for the LIAP either through their local Community Action Agency or their utility. A full list of CAP agencies can be found here: https://www.mainehousing.org/programs-services/energy/liheap-agency-contacts
Arrearage Management Program (AMP)
Central Maine Power Co. and Versant Power each operate an AMP that assists eligible low-income residential customers who are in arrears on their electricity bills. Customers who are eligible for LIHEAP and have an arrearage of $500 or more that is at least 90 days old are eligible to participate in the program. Participating customers will have 1/12 of their arrearage amount, up to a maximum of $300, forgiven every month that they pay their current bill on time. To enroll in an AMP, customers should contact either their local Community Action Agency or their utility.
Heat Pump Program
Maine State Housings heat pump program pays for the cost and installation of a heat pump for eligible Maine homeowners. Heat pumps are a popular and efficient tool to help heat homes in cold climates and can help save on heating costs.
Telephone-Link-Up and Lifeline Programs
The Link-Up Program provides qualifying low-income households reduced installation costs for new service hook-ups. The Lifeline program provides qualifying households with a significant credit for the basic service portion of local telephone bills or internet broadband service. These programs together help Maine lead the nation in percentage of its households with local telephone and internet broadband service. Some local phone and internet broadband companies offer these programs, others, do not. For more information on these programs, or if you think that you might qualify, contact your local telecommunications company or your local Community Action Agency. If you still have questions after speaking with these groups, contact the Commissions Consumer Assistance and Safety Division at 1-800-452-4699.
Customers of Northern Utilities, Inc. d/b/a Unitil, Bangor Gas and Maine Natural Gas receiving service under the residential heating and non-heating rates may be eligible to receive a 30% discount on their delivery and gas supply rates. The discount will apply to all customers identified by the Maine State Housing Authority as eligible for LIHEAP. Once enrolled, customers will receive the discount for 12 consecutive months.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), administered by the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA), provides assistance to low income homeowners and renters to help pay heating costs. Eleven Community Action Programs distribute the funds throughout Maine. The program is not intended to pay for all heating costs, but to assist in paying the heating bills. LIHEAP assists those who heat with oil, propane, natural gas, electricity and other sources. Customers can apply for the LIHEAP through their local Community Action Agency. A full list of CAP agencies can be found here: https://www.mainehousing.org/programs-services/energy/liheap-agency-contacts
The energy crisis intervention program (ECIP), part of LIHEAP, also administered by MSHA and distributed through CAPS assists customers who are in imminent danger of disconnection. Customers must have an active disconnection notice to qualify.
Maine State Housings Weatherization Program provides grants to low-income homeowners and renters to reduce energy costs by improving home energy efficiency. Maine Housing offers this program to consumers through Community Action Program agencies, who screen people for eligibility as part of the HEAP application process.
General Assistance (GA)
You may qualify for GA if you dont have the income or resources to meet basic needs for you and your family. GA can help with fuel and utilities, among other things. You can apply in person at your local municipal office. If you are unable to reach your local GA office or you have questions or concerns, call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-442-6003.
For those who have exhausted all resources and need assistance with utility bills, 211 Maine may be able to help find local resources. 211 Maine is a free, confidential resource that helps connect people in Maine to needed health and human services. On a limited basis, through the Keep ME Warm Fund, 211 Maine is able to provide financial assistance to low income families in emergencies.
- How is Natural Gas Service for Residential Customers regulated?
While residential natural gas consumers in some states may choose who supplies their natural gas, in Maine natural gas supply and distribution service for residential customers is a monopoly service and these customers receive both their natural gas supply and distribution service from their local gas utility.
The Commission regulates the rates and service quality of Maine’s local natural gas utilities. The rate for the natural gas supply is adjusted each season to reflect changes in the underlying cost of natural gas. Service quality is regulated using a variety of methods. For example, the Commission requires Northern Utilities to follow a service quality plan with performance targets in all areas where the utility interacts with customers, e.g., meter reading, billing, contact center performance, and overall service. If Northern Utilities does not meet its service quality targets, the Commission may assess penalties based on the degree to which the service quality targets are missed.
- What is Competitive Natural Gas Service?
All Maine commercial and industrial natural gas customers may choose the company that supplies their natural gas – a service sometimes referred to as commodity gas service. Natural gas companies can compete to provide this service to commercial and industrial customers in Maine. A customer who does not wish to purchase commodity gas service from a competitive supplier, or who cannot find an attractive supply alternative, automatically receives their service from the local gas utility.
Natural gas service for commercial and industrial customers in Maine – regardless of who supplies it – is delivered by the local natural gas utility. This gas distribution service is sometimes known as transportation service.
Currently, those commercial and industrial customers who wish to purchase their commodity gas service from a competitive suppler must purchase a special meter that tracks their daily usage. For some customers, especially small customers, the cost of this “telemeter” offsets much of the potential savings from buying their commodity gas service from a competitive supplier. This requirement is being reviewed and may be modified for customers in some utility service areas, making purchases from competitive suppliers more attractive for smaller customers
- How do I choose a Competitive Natural Gas Supplier?
Commercial and industrial customers who want to shop for their natural gas supply (commodity gas service) from a competitive supplier instead of their local gas utility may want to review the Commission’s list of registered natural gas suppliers. The appearance of a supplier on our list does not guarantee that they are willing or able to provide service when asked. Please contact us if you have difficulty reaching these suppliers using the information listed to assist us in keeping the list up-to-date.
If you purchase your natural gas supply (commodity gas service) from a competitive supplier, you will need to purchase transportation-only service from your local gas utility. This service is available according to the terms in each gas utility’s Terms and Conditions of Service.
You may also choose to receive both transportation and commodity gas service as a bundled product. Terms and conditions for this service can be found in each gas utility’s Terms and Conditions of Service. These Terms and Conditions of Service are approved by the Commission and available through our Case Management System or on each utility’s web pages.
- Is Transportation Service for Commercial and Industrial Customers?
Transportation or distribution service is available from Maine’s local gas utilities for those customers who purchase commodity gas service from a competitive natural gas supplier. Transportation service is available to all commercial and industrial customers according to the specific terms of Maine’s four gas utilities’ Terms and Conditions of service. See the natural gas “industry” pages for information on the location of these provisions in your utility’s Terms and Conditions.