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Maine utilities commission approves Versant rate hike

The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday approved a rate hike for customers of Versant Power.

The increase in distribution rates results from a settlement negotiated with the Office of the Public Advocate, AARP Maine, Efficiency Maine Trust, the Aroostook Energy Association, and Walmart Inc.

The increase will come in two steps, said PUC chair Phil Bartlett, of 14% and 12%.

"This translates to about $5 per month for the average residential customer in July, with another $5 increase in January," Bartlett said. "Versant will be required to meet certain service quality metrics for three years, including reliability metrics with improvements required over the next three years. Failure to meet those metrics will result in penalties of up to $3 million per year."

The increase includes funding for infrastructure, smart meter upgrades, and inflation. The commission will soon be considering a similar rate increase request for customers of Central Maine Power. And in June it expects to take up another proposed rate increase by Versant over so-called stranded costs.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.