July 01, 2022

Maine PUC OKs reduced rate plan Pine Tree Zone businesses targeted

BANGOR – Businesses in Pine Tree Zones soon will be eligible for discount electricity transmission rates. But there’s a catch – they’ll have to show their companies are growing through new jobs or increased orders to qualify for the lower rates.

For some businesses, such as manufacturers, the discounts can amount to a 40 percent reduction in their overall transmission rates, according to John Carroll, spokesman for Central Maine Power Co.

“We’re deferring income in the short term for what we see as a longer-term benefit,” he said.

Currently many businesses in Maine can negotiate special rate contracts with the state’s three utilities. Those are based on the amount of power a business uses annually.

But the Pine Tree Zone plans are different because of the business-expansion clauses in them.

Last week, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved CMP’s Pine Tree Zone rate plan, and the rates go into effect on Wednesday. In April, the commission agreed to the plan offered by Maine Public Service Co.

A Pine Tree Zone rate plan for businesses in Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.’s service territory will not be submitted to the PUC for approval until later this year, according to Bangor Hydro spokeswoman LuAnn Ballesteros.

MPS and CMP have different economic-growth factors in their special rate contracts.

For businesses located in MPS territory, the discount contract says the company must prove it has added at least 15 new employees before the reduced rate is applied to monthly bills, said PUC spokesman Phil Lindley.

Existing businesses located in CMP’s service territory will have to give the utility a document from the state Department of Economic and Community Development that shows it is certified as a Pine Tree Zone business. Then, the business will have to increase its power usage by at least 10 percent – an indicator of business growth, Carroll said.

For manufacturers, the discounts are 1.5 cents off per kilowatt-hour transmission rate during the first year, 1 cent off the second year and a half-cent off in the third and fourth years, he said.

“If we can help spur growth, we can get some [financial] benefit immediately,” said Carroll, noting the increased amount of electricity businesses will use.

Lindley said residential and business users not located in Pine Tree Zones will not see an increase in their rates to cover expenses from the Pine Tree Zone rate contracts.

“It’s not going to cost anybody anything,” Lindley said. “It’s just like any special contract.”

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