The Governor’s Energy Office will formally oppose a rate increase being sought by Versant Power, Maine’s second-largest electric utility company.

Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday told officials to intervene in the Maine Public Utilities Commission case, in which Versant – which provides electricity to 170,000 customers in northern and eastern Maine – is seeking a 32 percent increase in the rate it charges to distribute power. The increase would raise the average monthly bill for Versant residential customers by $13.

Mills has criticized both the Versant rate increase and one being sought by Central Maine Power Co., which would raise that utility’s average residential bill by $10 a month. The governor told her energy office in August to intervene in the CMP rate case.

Both utilities said the increases are intended to cover the cost of upgrades to their equipment and to improve the energy distribution system in Maine.

Intervening allows the governor’s office to more directly participate in the PUC’s upcoming consideration of the rate hikes.

Mills said she opposes the rate hikes “because Maine people are already grappling with high electric bills and this request will only make matters worse.”

Mills said she understands the need to strengthen and improve the state’s electric system, “but the timing must be balanced against costs now facing Maine people and businesses today.”

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