Unregulated electric power, like heating oil, is subject to the whims of suppliers and the market. Deregulation largely benefits suppliers, but frequently not consumers.

For example, FairPoint Energy increased its April electricity bill by more than 250 percent, from 5½ cents per kWh to nearly 17 cents. My bill increased from approximately $73 to $183.

We had no prior statement or notice that the rate was introductory and would increase radically. FairPoint Energy was not sympathetic to a plea of no notice and refused to adjust its greedy increase unless there was an agreement to pay a rate higher than the standard offer.

A Maine Public Utilities commissioner advised that FairPoint Energy, as an unregulated electric power supplier in Maine, can charge whatever it likes. It was enlightening to hear there have been numerous complaints about electricity price gouging.

According to at least one analyst, the promise that deregulated competition in power generation would bring lower prices has not happened, especially in the Northeast. “The average rate in states that did not deregulate was 10.05 cents/kWh. The average rate in states that were deregulated was 14.59 cents/kWh (41.1 percent higher),” says William B. Marcus, principal economist for JBS Energy Inc.

Maine electricity rates are among the highest in the nation. States with the lowest rates continue to regulate electric power. With deregulation, Maine consumers must read and understand complicated deregulation references and scan lists of providers to find the lowest price for electricity. Those without the expertise to do research by computer on the Internet may find themselves paying much more than others do for electricity. A failure by unsuspecting homeowners to carefully read the fine print in contracts for electricity could be surprised by a huge increase in their bill.

Jim ChiddixWaterville

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