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Maine Legislature Considers Bill to Cap Energy Costs

January 28, 2016 By Cheryl Kaften

A bill that would limit the amount Mainers pay for their electricity to a maximum of 10 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) will go to a vote in the state legislature’s Energy Committee this month.

If approved, that residential standard offer service rate would be the lowest nationwide outside of Arkansas, based on data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And that’s what the sponsor of measure LD 1339, Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport), is going for.

Indeed, under the terms of the new legislation, If the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) does not receive a bid to provide standard offer service for less than 10 cents/kWh for a certain customer class (e.g., residential, commercial, or industrial), all bids will be rejected. The state will then suspend its renewable portfolio standards (RPS) – which mandate that a certain percentage of electricity generated must come from a particular, renewable technology – and issue a new request for proposals.

In the next round of bids, the measure orders that, if a generator puts forward a proposal that is less than the 10 cents/kWh cap for that customer class, the suspension of the renewable portfolio standards will remain in effect for the duration of that standard offer period.

While Maine’s standard offer rates already are below 10 cents/kWh for most ratepayers in the state, Thibodeau told the Bangor Daily News that his bill would provide more assurance to businesses and homeowners alike.

“I look at this bill as a relief valve,” Thibodeau said, adding, “I am not opposed to renewable energy sources; however, when my constituents and the people of Maine are forced to pay higher energy costs because the government has decided to grant an industry special preferences, that is wrong.”

Carried over from 2015, this bill represents the second attempt by Maine legislators this year to ensure lower costs for electricity. Earlier this month, the Energy Committee reviewed a bill proposed by Sen. Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon) that would reduce the rates paid by Maine’s commercial and industrial electricity customers.

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