PARIS — Town officials intend to shop for electricity rates on the open market in the coming months to ensure they get the best prices when rates are expected to spike early next year.  

Shortages in the supply of natural gas in New England will cause electricity rates for small-size businesses to spike this winter as the state’s consumption during the cold-weather months soars and competes with demand from other states. 

The town’s energy purchases are split between low- and medium-consumption rates, according to Town Manager Amy Bernard.

A part of the town’s electricity bill comes from the Maine Public Utilities Commission annually set standard offer, currently at seven and a half cents per kilowatt-hour, and the fee for medium-size businesses, which is 14 cents and fluctuates month-to-month. 

The split on town prices isn’t uniform. For instance, streetlights are billed at the medium-size rate, but the electricity consumed by the fire station at the small-size rate, Bernard said. 

Though state regulators at the PUC won’t know what the new rate for small-size businesses will be until February, spokesperson Harry Lanphear expects it to follow market trends and increase. 

“Market prices have been trending up. Until we get the bids, we can’t formally predict anything for small business customers,” Lanphear said.  

The standard offer for medium-size businesses made the traditional rise with the approach of winter, from 6 cents in September to 8.6 cents in November and 14.9 cents in January.

Bernard said electricity price increases are budgeted, but the current projections “are unbelievable.”

“What we’re understanding right now is most of New England gets their energy through natural gas power plants. The supply can’t meet the demand, and it’s causing the rates to go up. Until the pipelines go in, we’re going to see the figures go up. We don’t think we’ll see stability until 2017. We’re not the only state trying to get a pipeline in,” Bernard said.  

Bernard said she is already looking into a new provider and wants to make a decision by the end of the year. 

Lanphear encouraged consumers to research competitors, but cautioned that initial buy-in low rates can expire after a period. Several licensed companies sell electricity separate from the PUC’s standard offer, but may charge additional fees for early termination.

“People should shop. But when you do, read the fine print,” he said.  


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