Maine's electric utilities do not generate electricity, they focus instead on delivery. Electric power supply is priced under the forces of competition. There is a wholesale market in New England and throughout the Northeast, and many suppliers who operate in that market obtained licenses from the Maine PUC in order to sell power at retail in the state. Many of Maine's large industrial and commercial providers buy their own power. For the most part, however, Maine's residential customers' supply comes through the standard offer.
Residential and small commercial customers are now seeing competitive retail supply offers from a variety of companies. We offer the following information to help customers understand this market and decide how to proceed.
Remember, customers who make no choice will continue to receive standard offer service. For those customers who choose to go with a competitive option, they need only make arrangements with their new supplier who will then work with the utility to make the switch, and the new service be put in place around the time of the utility's next monthly billing cycle.
Six Things to Consider When Choosing a Supplier
If you are considering choosing a competitive electricity provider (CEP) for your electricity needs, here are six things you’ll need to know.
- The Standard Offer price. Taking electricity service from a CEP will only save you money if its price is lower than the standard offer price. Determined by competitive auction, it changes March first of every year (in CMP and Bangor Hydro areas), with changes typically announced three months in advance. You can find the current Standard Offer price in the chart below. It is also posted on the PUC’s website: http://www.maine.gov/mpuc/electricity/standard_offer_rates/index.html
- The price offered by a CEP. This is the price you’ll compare to the Standard Offer.
- Whether the price fixed or variable. If the price is variable it may offer savings now, but could change to a higher price in future months.
- The term of the contract. If the price is fixed, find out for how long, so you know if the term will last beyond the next standard offer price change (March 1 of every year).
- Termination Fee. Some CEPs with fixed term offerings will seek an early termination fee if you move back to standard offer or to another CEP before the fixed term expires. Make sure you know what this fee is before signing up.
- Your rights. CEPs are subject to some oversight by the Public Utilities Commission, which has established rules to protect consumers. CEPs are required to provide you with their Terms of Service before enrolling you, and you may opt out of any agreement within 5 days of signing up. CEPs must notify you of an automatic renewal, or any switch to a variable term at the end of a fixed term.
This table lists CEP offerings as of November 7, 2013. Prices can change without notice, so we strongly urge you to go to the website or call the CEPs to confirm before signing up.
|Competitive Electricity Provider||Rate for CMP Customers (¢/kWh)||Rate for Bangor Hydro Customers (¢/kWh)||Term||Early Termination Fee||Telephone|
|Dead River Company||6.76||6.62||One year
|FairPoint Energy||6.50||6.50||6 Months||$50||866-842-1084|
|Gulf Electricity||7.9||7.9||One year||$75||855-485-3353|
|People's Power and Gas||8.499||8.499||6-12 Months||Variable||855-857-6937|
|C.N. Brown Electricity||7.79||7.79||One year||$100||800-296-2721|
|North American Power||6.69||6.69||3 Months||Variable||888-313-9086|
All of these entities have applied for and received a license from the MPUC to sell electricity. This means, among other things, that they have demonstrated that they have the technical and financial ability to sell electricity. The PUC does monitor CEPs for adherence to license conditions and to other applicable state laws, but CEPs are not regulated the way CMP and BHE and other utilities are. We do not have access to the CEP's business plan or profit numbers, for example. However, the price you get is shaped by competition so regulation is not necessary.
This table contains a summary of terms, and the offerings can change at any time; we strongly recommend that you check the current price and read all terms and conditions prior to signing up for any service. For example, some may require that you allow them to perform a credit check, or to report you to credit reporting agencies in the event that you fail to make payments. Keep in mind that the Terms and Conditions are sometimes not readily found on the website; sometimes you only see it as you get closer to actually signing up.
As indicated, there are a consumer protection provisions in state law (Title 35-A MRSA § 3203) and in Commission rules (Ch. 305). These include the following:
- A CEP may not terminate service without providing a minimum of 30 days' notice.
- A CEP must offer a minimum of 30 days service.
- A CEP must have a customer's authorization for service (no "slamming").
- A customer has five days to rescind his or her initial selection of CEP service.
- A CEP may not use unfair or deceptive business practices.
- A CEP may not release private customer information to anyone, unless allowed by law, or by the customer's consent.
- A customer may file a complaint with the Commission if a CEP has used "slamming" practices to obtain customers.
- If a CEP drops a customer, or if the customer seeks to be dropped and makes no other choice, the customer will automatically go back on standard offer service.
Commission Enforcement Authority
Although the Maine PUC cannot regulate the price of the electricity offered by competitive suppliers, it has the authority to investigate matters relating to service offered by CEPs. Depending on the offending actions of a CEP, the Commission may revoke a CEP's license, issue cease and desist orders, order restitution and levy administrative fines.