Electricity rates can serve as one measure of national economic competitiveness. By that measure, Maine has improved its standing recently.

It remains to be seen whether rising transmission costs in New England slow that progress.

Monthly figures from the federal Energy Information Administration show Maine’s overall retail electric price fell at a faster pace over the past year than the national average.

Maine stood at 12.98 cents per kilowatt hour in April 2011 and dropped to 12.02 cents this April. By comparison, the national average eased from 9.62 cents to 9.6 cents over the same period.

These numbers reflect a trend in which Maine has been moving closer to the national average in recent years. Overall rates improved from 30 percent above the national average in 2010, to 28 percent in 2011, and 18 percent in 2012.

Falling natural gas prices are largely responsible for Maine’s ability to shrink the gap, but they are unlikely to undercut states that produce most of their power from low-cost coal or government-subsidized hydroelectricity. At the same time, transmission costs are rising in other states that also are upgrading their grids.

In the Northeast, however, Maine continues to have overall rates that are lower than every state except Pennsylvania, which benefits from coal and nuclear power, the federal data show.

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