An Emera Maine truck in front of one of its operations centers in Maine. The utility has filed a notice to the Public Utilities Commission that it plans to request a hike in its electricity distribution rate in March 2019. Credit: Courtesy of Emera Maine

Emera Maine sent a letter to customers Monday saying it plans to ask the Maine Public Utilities Commission to increase its distribution rate, one of the five rates on a customer’s electric bill.

The current plan would result in a $5.75 per month increase for an average residential customer using 500 kilowatt hours of electricity, according to Emera spokesperson Judy Long. The numbers are an average across Emera’s entire service area.

That’s 25 cents less than Emera initially estimated in a PUC filing in late January. That regulatory filing was to inform the PUC of Emera’s intention to file for a rate request within 60 days.

The rate in the letter to customers represents an 18 percent increase in the distribution rate, down from the 19 percent in the Jan. 23 PUC filing, and a 6 percent increase in the total electric bill, down from 7 percent in the PUC filing.

Long said the proposed rates still might change before Emera makes its initial rate case filing to state utility regulators on March 25.

The letter said the rate hike is designed to produce approximately $16 million in additional revenues. Distribution rates cover the costs of delivering electricity over the local electric system to a home or business.

If approved, the new rate would take effect at the beginning of 2020.

Emera Maine’s net income for the full year of 2018 was down slightly to $32.98 million, compared with $34.48 million in 2017, according to the parent company’s most recent financial report released on Feb. 19. However, net income nudged up by $2.25 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 to $8.25 million, compared with the fourth quarter of 2017.

“We’re starting to see results from new measures to improve reliability, and we want to continue to make progress,” Long said. “We know we need to make improvements to meet our customers’ changing expectations.”

She said the request will be evaluated as part of an open and transparent process in front of PUC.

The letter to customers includes information about how they can stay informed and involved, she said.