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South Paris Energy Company Enters Maine's Electricity Market
12/28/2012   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

A South Paris, Maine energy company is the latest to enter the state's electricity market. CN Brown pledges it will offer competitive electricity rates throughout Central Maine Power and Bangor Hydro territory. It's all due to deregulation that took place 10 years ago, but it's taken nearly that long for the benefits of that change to catch up to residential consumers. Patty Wight reports.

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CN Brown is an energy company that owns and operates a number of gas stations and convenience stores. It also sells home heating oil, kerosene and propane. Getting into the electricity market, says Jeff Jones, president of the electricity division, is a natural addition.

"So our whole idea is, we have a really competitive rate on electricity, and let us save you money on your other energy needs, and give you a steeper discount because you are an electricity customer," Jones says.

Jones says CN Brown has been buying electricity competitively for its company offices and stores for a number of years. A couple months ago, it started offering electricity to the company's 900 employees. Now they're hoping to tap into their 30,000 home heating oil customers, or any other interested consumer.

The challenge, says Jones, is that many CMP and Bangor Hydro customers still don't realize they can make the switch.
"They go, 'Why would they let you sell through their lines and hurt their business?' They don't understand that it's deregulated and that we're allowed to sell through their lines now. And they just don't understand that concept, I guess."

Ever since electricity was deregulated in 2000, the market has been opened to competitive energy suppliers. But Ken Fletcher, director of the Governer's Energy Office, says suppliers targeted larger, commercial customers first because it was more profitable.

"There are a lot of customers who, by themselves, do not necessarily use a lot of electricity," Fletcher says. "So I think one of the impediments has been somebody really putting together a marketing strategy to go out and acquire a whole group of customers to get to a volume that is worth managing."

One particular supplier - Electricity Maine - is credited with marketing electricity options to smaller customers. Electricity Maine opened over a year ago, and co-owner Emile Clavet says they initially hoped to get 10,000 customers, but they now have nearly 190,000. As far as CN Brown entering the market, says Clavet, the more the merrier.

"It's a good thing because it helps validate that competition is finally here and is a valuable and timely thing for Maine residents," Clavet says.

Clavet says since Electricity Maine entered the market, overall electricity rates for its customers have been lowered by about 20 percent. He says having watched other states with competitive electricity markets, he foresees consumers in Maine will soon have even more choices for energy, including natural gas.

Click here for a list of electricity providers in Maine, and more information on market competition.


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