The Maine Public Utilities Commission has reformed the state's electric market to give customers a chance to save money on their electric bills through choosing an alternate electric supplier. Customers at Central Maine Power, Bangor Hydro-Electric, Maine Public Service and the electric cooperatives and municipal districts can shop for a cheaper electric supply rate.
The state's investor-owned utilities sold their power plants to open the market to competition, and now only own the transmission and distribution wires, while also providing "backstop" power to customers who do not shop for electricity. With the move to competition, the utilities have separated service into two parts:
- Regulated distribution of power, which is still only provided by the utilities, and
- Supply of the electric commodity, which is open to competition.
Customers can choose to receive their electricity supply from their utility, or an alternate electric provider.
Customers who do not choose an alternate energy provider receive default supply from the utility, or Standard Offer Service (SOS). How often the Standard Offer price changes depends on the utility, but the price generally lasts one year for residential and small commercial customers, and one month for medium and large commercial customers. Large commercial customers also must pay peak rates. The monthly changes in electricity prices, and peak rates, can be volatile, and customers can avoid this volatility by contracting with an alternative electric provider for electric supply on a fixed rate. The size cutoff varies slightly by utility, but generally small customers are under 25 kilowatts (kW) or 50 kW; medium customers are between 25 kW/50 kW and about 400 or 500 kW; and large customers are those above 400 kW or 500 kW.
Customers who choose an alternate electric provider still have their power delivered to them by their utility, and contact the utility for all outage reporting. Customers can choose to receive either a single bill from the utility for their delivery service and energy supply service, or can receive two bills, one from each company.