AUGUSTA (AP) – The Maine Public Utilities Commission has decided to explore alternatives to the New England-wide power supply system in an effort to lower the state’s electric rates.

The commission’s 3-0 vote Wednesday came a week after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved an auction system intended to increase the region’s power supply by encouraging construction of new generating plants.

PUC officials say the decision by FERC will result in higher energy prices for Mainers.

The PUC will examine the costs and benefits of continued participation in the New England Power Pool and ISO New England, which oversees the New England wholesale electricity market.

The Legislature earlier this year passed a resolve to seek out alternatives to the existing regional system of power generation and transmission.

PUC Chairman Kurt Adams said FERC’s decision will cost Maine energy customers more than $300 million with little benefit in return.

“The Legislature has voiced serious concerns with the fairness of the regional regime, and at their instruction, next month the public will have its chance to speak on the issue,” Adams said.

The PUC will accept public comment on the issue through July 10.

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