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Electricity Maine risks getting license revoked over skyrocketing rates

In this Oct. 14, 2010 file photo, a new Central Maine Power "smart meter" displays electricity usage at a business in Freeport.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
In this Oct. 14, 2010 file photo, a new Central Maine Power "smart meter" displays electricity usage at a business in Freeport.

Maine's public advocate is calling for the state to revoke the license of a competitive energy supplier over allegations that it hiked customers' electric rates without their consent.

Electricity Maine LLC is one of the state's competitive electricity providers, offering an alternative to the standard electric supply offer.

But in testimony filed with the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the Office of the Public Advocate says that over a four-month period, it received more than 100 phone calls from the company's customers, complaining about their electric supply rates skyrocketing — up to about 40 cents per kilowatt hour, which is more than double the state's standard offer.

The office said the hikes came after customers were switched from a fixed to variable-rate contract. OPA Senior Counsel Brian Marshall said that many residents indicated they were never made aware of the rate hikes.

"[Electricity Maine] claim that they sent some notices. A lot of customers told our office, told the PUC, that they never got any notice. And even if you read the notice that was provided, it didn't provide the price that was going to be charged," Marshall said.

"So this came, as you can expect, as a total shock to these customers, whose electric bills just tripled in the middle of the winter. You know, when a lot of Mainers are already struggling, their budgets are squeezed that time of year, paying high heating costs," Marshall said.

The office is now recommending that the PUC permanently revoke Electricity Maine's license, and require it to issue refunds to all affected customers.

In an email, Electricity Maine said that it "does not provide comment to the media on ongoing legal and regulatory matters," but it referred to a filing from October, in which the company said that the Public Advocate's testimony "fails to assert" that any of the company's conduct "violated any applicable provision of Maine law."

The Maine Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to hold a technical hearing on the case in November, and the case could continue well into 2024.