WERU News Report 3/19/14

Producer/Host: Amy Browne
With a winter as long and cold as this one has been, many low income Mainers may find themselves facing electric bills they can’t pay, and possibly the disconnection of their electrical service next month. Utility companies in Maine are banned from disconnecting electricity due to nonpayment during the cold months, between November and April 15th. If consumers are unable to agree to a payment plan after April 15th, their electricity may be shut off by the utility company. A bill that aims to address this problem, had a public hearing before the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee in Augusta today. LD1825 “An Act To Assist Electric Utility Ratepayers” would require transmission [utility companies] to implement [payment] programs to assist eligible low-income residential customers who are in arrears on their electricity bills. The program [would also] include measures to help participants reduce their energy consumption, including a free electricity usage assessment and the requirement that transmission and distribution utilities work with the Efficiency Maine Trust to provide complementary energy efficiency programs for program participants. It also has a provision that [utility companies would] recover in rates all costs of the program except [any past due amounts] that [were] forgiven and written off as bad debt.
Today, on this last day of a record-breaking cold winter, we listen in on the debate