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Updated: October 5, 2022

Mills fights Versant Power on proposed rate hike

Versant Power truck File photo Versant Power is Maine's second-largest electric utility, with 159,000 customers in northern and eastern Maine.

Gov. Janet Mills is fighting another proposed increase in the price of electricity, this time from Versant Power.

At her direction, the governor's energy office is intervening in Versant Power's planned 32% increase in its distribution rate for electric, which is under review by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

If approved, the rate would cost residential customers an extra $13 a month, or $156 a year, starting next summer, according to Mills. The Democrat is running for reelection this November against Republican Paul R. LePage, who was Maine's governor from 2011 to 2019.

"I have directed my energy office to intervene with the PUC [Public Utilities Commission] to oppose Versant's request because Maine people are already grappling with high electric bills and this request would only make matters worse," Mills said. "I agree with strengthening our electric system, but the timing must be balanced against costs now facing Maine people and businesses today."

She added that the proposed increases by both utilities "are not in the best interest of Maine people, and my administration opposes them."

Bangor-based Versant Power, formerly Emera Maine, serves 159,000 customers in northern and eastern Maine.

"We understand that no one wants to see their electric bill go up, but Versant Power has a responsibility to deliver reliable service to our customers," Versant spokeswoman Judy Long said in an emailed statement.  

"Our request for a distribution rate change is composed of thoughtful investments in our electric system so that we can continue to reduce the number and impact of outages, protect the grid from increasingly severe storms, and provide the level of service our customers deserve."

Planned projects include replacing Versant's metering system, cables and other equipment along with an aging substation in Machias, and bringing service to island customers, Long said. 

"There is no 'fat' in this request," she said, "because we realize our responsibility to deliver reliable service to our neighbors, friends and family in a cost-effective way."

Long said the request will be subject to nine months of review before any change can take effect, "and we expect a rigorous review of our request."

The Mills administration is also opposing Central Maine Power Co.'s proposal to raise rates by about $120 a year over a three-year period via an intervention announced in August.

CMP, an Augusta-based subsidiary of Orange, Conn.,-based AVANGRID Inc., (NYSE: AGR) is Maine's largest electricity transmission and distribution utility. The company provides services to 646,000 customers in central and southern Maine.

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