Maine electricity rates going up

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: I really enjoy your column and find it very helpful. I’m hoping you can help me out.

On Oct. 1 I received a letter from Electricity Maine LLC in Auburn saying our so-called low rate will be increasing from 7.98 cents to 11.394 cents effective December 2014. This will be about a $30 per month increase in our bill, which will be a fixed rate for two years.

I don’t have a computer, so I don’t know if there are any other companies that would be less for the contract period. They only give us 10 days to cancel from the Oct. 1, which is not a lot of time.

I hope you get this in time to respond. We’re seniors and on a fixed income. I’ll greatly appreciate your concern to this matter. — No Name, Jay

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ANSWER: Sun Spots is very sorry that she didn’t notice your letter had a deadline so she could respond sooner. She answers letters in the order that they come, but does glance through them to see what the topic is, in case it’s timely or ties in with another letter.

Unfortunately, she didn’t read far enough to see the date in yours. (Writers in a hurry might note any date sensitivity at the top of their letters or email.) She is sorry.

Hopefully, her delay didn’t cost you. She was surprised to hear about the contract required by Electricity Maine, but sure enough, it’s right there on their website. You can cancel by paying $100, but that would be pretty painful.

Sun Spots found a site comparing all the current electricity prices and their contracts and fees at www.maine.gov/meopa/utilities/electric/supply.html. Electricity Maine is not the cheapest, nor the most expensive. At this time Central Maine Power’s standard offer is the cheapest at 7.56 cents, but that rate is only in effect until March.

Recently, the Maine Public Utilities Commission announced that the standard-offer business rates would be jumping considerably, from about 6 cents to 15 cents in January. The new rates for residential service haven’t been announced yet, but are expected to go up as well.

A news release from Maine officials (maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=puc-pressreleases&id=629128&v=article08) said that “the principal cause of these electricity price increases is the high cost of natural gas delivered to New England in the winter months, which translates into higher prices for the region’s gas-fired electric generators, or use of more expensive generators powered by other fuels such as coal and oil.  Until a long-term solution is in place, short-term efforts will be needed to moderate the impacts of these price increases.”

There is a lot of information online to help consumers decide what deal is best for them, but many people, like No Name, don’t have computers. This disadvantage isn’t fair, but it’s here to stay and why Sun Spots encourages everyone to learn the basics of using a computer.

However, she does understand that it isn’t feasible for some seniors to tackle this new technology alone. If there are no relatives on hand to help, the library is an option. Ask the librarian to bring up www.maine.gov/meopa/utilities/electric/supply.html. It lists all the basic information about each of the offers for power in Maine, including the companies’ phone numbers for follow-up questions.

If you didn’t cancel your contract, don’t worry too much. The standard offer that is the best deal now will probably go up considerably in March, and in the end you may wind up having a good deal.

Readers might also look into ways they can be more energy efficient. Efficiency Maine offers expertise, rebates and loans to help reduce energy costs. Call 866-376-2463 or visit efficiencymaine.com.

And you might look into an electric lap blanket, very useful for staying cozy while sitting without turning up the heat. They use lots less power than a space heater. It’s an especially great Christmas gift for any senior or someone who is ill. Sun Spots’ father loved his and actually wore it out.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: Whoever lost their dental partial at Flagship Theater in Auburn may retrieve it at the ticket counter. — RAC via email

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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