Maine PUC solicits standard offer proposals

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has issued Requests for Proposals for retail electricity standard offer service.  At stake is the right to supply default electricity service to customers of Maine's two largest utilities -- as well as the price those customers will pay for power.

Maine restructured its electricity sector in the late 1990s.  Formerly, utilities owned both power plants and the wires and other infrastructure needed to supply consumers with electricity.  But as of March 1, 2000, investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities may own and operate wires, but generally cannot have a financial interest in or otherwise control generation or generation-related assets.  Power plants became "deregulated" from the perspective of state retail rate regulation, and were sold off by the utilities.  At the same time, Maine law created a new kind of entity called a "competitive electricity provider" to perform the role of supplying electricity as a commodity.

Customers can choose among supply offers from competitive electricity providers.  Suppliers can offer specific types of product (e.g. 100% renewable power, locally-sourced) or particular contract terms (e.g. pricing schedules, payment terms).  Most large industrial energy consumers choose competitive electricity supply under this option, as do many commercial accounts and some homes.

If a customer does not choose a competitive electricity provider, that customer is placed on "standard offer service" by default.  Maine law requires the Maine Public Utilities Commission to arrange for standard offer service though a competitive bid process, and to ensure that standard offer service is available to all customers in Maine.

The pending RFPs cover retail electricity standard offer service for calendar year 2016 for all customer classes in the territories of Central Maine Power (CMP) and Emera Maine-Bangor Hydro District.  Collectively, CMP and Emera Maine deliver approximately eleven million megawatt hours annually, of which about 45% currently comes from standard offer service.

The RFPs and related materials are available on the MPUC website.  Initial proposals are due on October 6, 2015. Following negotiation of non-price terms and a submission of final bid prices, the Commission is expected to select one or more proposals,  Service terms will begin on January 1, 2016.

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