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Is solar the best option to reduce your CMP electricity bill?

What makes CutMyBill better than other solar cost and savings calculators for CMP customers?

There are three key reasons that our CMP solar cost and bill savings calculator is far better than any other solar calculator or solar estimate website on the net for CMP customers;

  • Firstly, whilst most solar panels calculators are really good at forecasting the electricity production you can get from installing solar panels for your home (because they all rely on the solar production data) most of them just use a single generic state wide unit cost for electricity in their calculations. Our CMP solar cost and bill savings calculator actually uses our database of each of the available CMP electric rates plans to use more specific electricity cost data. Therefore we can generate much more accurate solar savings analysis.
  • The second reason is that we use DOE (Department of Energy) electricity usage patterns for the CMP service territory, and some very basic questions we ask you about your home to estimate how you use power over the course of a day and the seasons of the year. This allows us to accurately forecast solar savings where time of use electricity plans are available to you. We estimate your electricity usage for each hour of the year and then overlay the known production of solar panels in your area for each hour of the year. Without this level of detail solar panel cost and savings calculators on are inaccurate; and
  • Lastly, before we even consider solar savings, we look for any savings that can be achieved simply by swapping to a cheaper available CMP rate plan. Our software looks for any available CMP rates plan that works our cheaper for your estimated usage pattern. Generally speaking savings from swapping to a cheaper CMP rates plan are only available to those who have larger monthly electric bills but given it only takes a phone call to achieve these savings it is by far the quickest and easiest bill cutting option where it is possible.
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Will installing a solar power system or swapping rate plans save me the most on my monthly CMP payment?

There are almost always far greater cost savings to be obtained from installing solar panels than swapping rates plans but this doesn't mean possible savings from swapping rate plans should be ignored. The other reason we search for your cheapest rate plan is that to forecast total possible savings you could get on your bill you need to take into account both savings that may be available from swapping to the cheapest rate plan and also savings that come from swapping your generation source for some of your power usage to your own solar power.

Compare savings from swapping rate plans to solar savings


How accurate is the CutMyBill estimate of my power usage pattern?

The CutMyBill electricity usage profile estimator is a key part of the technology of why CutMyBill can forecast solar and bill swapping savings so accurately without requiring you to enter your kilowatt hour electricity usage for each month of the year or to upload 12 months worth of power bills.

The way we do this is we use electricity use profiles collected by the Department of Energy for each building type at each weather station across the CMP service territory. Some of the characteristics of your home such as your average monthly power spend and the square footage of your home are used to refine this analysis.

This gives a fairly accurate estimate but it is not an exact estimate. The best way to get an exact estimate of your solar savings and whether or not there are possible savings from swapping rate plans is to speak to one of your local solar companies. Whilst solar companies are experts in solar they also become experts in knowing the cheapest rate plans (both before and after solar) from their local utility companies.

Estimate my power usage pattern over a day and over the seasons of the year


Three Best Ways to Cut Your CMP Bill

Did you know you can cut your home's energy bill by using flashlights instead of overhead lights? Did you know you can cut your energy bill by doing a home energy audit each hour?

Yes, those are silly questions. Fortunately, you don't need to sacrifice comfort to cut your energy bill by 20% or more. And it could be quick and easy to do.

We hope this article helps you make a solid game plan to cut your CMP energy bill. If you haven't already, we suggest you first read our article on how your energy bill works.

Introducing the Gray family

To illustrate ideas, we'll show numbers based on typical energy usage for a single-family home in Portland, ME (the most populous city in CMP's territory).

Meet our typical family from Portland: the Gray family. If you look closely at their picture, you'll see that the dad is also reading this article. The mom and daughter are saving energy by just pretending their tablets are on.

family on couch with devices

Let's see how the Gray family cut their energy bill by 26%, or $39 per month.

What's a "time of use" rate plan?

As we wrote in the How Your Energy Bill Works article, you could voluntarily switch to one of CMP's three optional time-of-use rate plans.

With time of use, the energy rate varies over the course of the day. How much money you save (or lose) on the time-of-use rate plan depends on when you use energy — and how your energy usage pattern matches up with CMP's rate pricing.

Why does CMP offer time-of-use rate plans?

We could compare the energy grid to the freeway — it can be smooth sailing or bumper-to-bumper depending on the time of day. It's easier and cheaper for CMP to provide energy outside the "rush hour traffic," so time-of-use rate plans signal CMP customers to use more of their energy during other hours.

CMP understands that some customers would respond to time-varying rates while some customers wouldn't — the time-of-use rate plans are optional for the more price sensitive among us (who take control and cut it).


Find out how much you could save with time-of-use. Get personalized results with the Cut My Bill calculator. It's free and easy.


What are the time-of-use rates and time windows?

Here are the rate details for CMP's three optional time-of-use rate plans:

Plan Name: Residential - Time of Use, Savings Plus (A-TOU-OPTS Plus)
Last Update: July 1, 2016
Fixed Charge: Service Charge: $10
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.122
Peak: $0.215
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 7am, Noon to 4pm, 8pm to midnight
Peak: 7am to noon, 4pm to 8pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: All hours
Plan Name: Residential - Time of Use (A-TOU)
Last Update: July 1, 2017
Fixed Charge: Service Charge: $10.24
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.131
Mid-Peak: $0.186
Peak: $0.186
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 7am, 4pm to 4pm, 8pm to midnight
Mid-Peak: Noon to 4pm
Peak: 7am to noon, 4pm to 8pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: All hours
Plan Name: Residential - Time of Use, Super Saver (A-TOU-OPTS)
Last Update: July 1, 2017
Fixed Charge: Service Charge: $10.24
Rate per kWh
Off-Peak: $0.112
Peak: $0.264
Weekday Times
Off-Peak: Midnight to 7am, Noon to 4pm, 8pm to midnight
Peak: 7am to noon, 4pm to 8pm
Weekend Times
Off-Peak: All hours

The A-TOU-OPTS Plus rate plan above is the best time-of-use option for the Gray family (we'll discuss why below). We'll focus on this rate plan going forward (to keep this article under control).

Who's the A-TOU-OPTS Plus time-of-use rate plan best for?

Five of the nine expensive weekday peak-time hours are in the morning (the peak window is 7am to noon), so it's better for families that head out early. It's not as good for those who enjoy leisurely morning soaks in the electric jacuzzi.

Should we switch to the time-of-use rate plan?

Let's figure out whether the Gray family would save money on the featured time-of-use rate plan (A-TOU-OPTS Plus)— which should help you determine for your home. This starts with estimating how much of their energy they're likely to use during the expensive peak window (the more they use during peak, the higher their time-of-use bill).

While many utilities now offer their customers hour-by-hour historical energy data (commonly called "interval" data or "Green Button" data), CMP doesn't. If available, we'd use this historical energy data to confidently estimate the Gray family's energy bill on the time-of-use rate plan. We'll instead base our estimate on the energy profile of a typical family in Portland.

Let's consider the Gray family's energy usage during summer weekdays, in the context of the time-of-use rate plan.

They more energy per hour during the discounted off-peak hours (that's good for their bill). On top of that, there are more off-peak hours in the 24-hour cycle (also good). The time-of-use rate plan is sounding good!

It gets more complicated, because the time windows are different on weekends — and the Gray family uses energy differently across the week.

Here's how the math works out: The Gray family's average monthly bill on their current rate plan (code name: A) is $147. Their average bill on the featured time-of-use plan (A-TOU-OPTS Plus) would be…drum roll…$150.

…Hmm, the Gray family would pay an extra $3.17 for energy on the time-of-use rate plan. We'll still switch them to time of use, because it'll work out better after upcoming energy changes.

cut dollar bill

Find out how much you could save with time-of-use. Get personalized results with the Cut My Bill calculator. It's free and easy.


Is it worth adjusting our energy habits?

Time-of-use rate plans give you more control over your energy bill. You can save more money if you're willing to adjust how you use energy. For example, you could set an alarm for 3am to get up and run the dishwasher. Just kidding. Let's consider a reasonable way to adjust energy, and decide if it's worthwhile.

Recall that on the featured time-of-use rate plan (A-TOU-OPTS Plus), the summer weekday peak window (with the most expensive energy) is from 7am to noon. The Gray family runs the dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer around 10am. At the peak rate of 22¢, the combined cost for cleanliness is $19 per month (not including water heating).

After reading this article, the Gray family sets the washing machines to start at 8pm. The new charge is $11 per month — a $8 bill reduction. Is it worth it? It is for the Gray family!

Hello, "Smart Home"

The idea behind a Smart Home is that your internet-connected home appliances can be partially or fully automated to reduce your energy bill while also improving comfort. The dishwasher knows when the off-peak window starts and turns itself on then, the air conditioner learns your preferences and patterns to avoid over-cooling, etc.

While the Smart Home is clearly the future, it isn't quite the present — we're looking forward to Smart Home devices playing better together (in other words, better technical standards).

How do we switch to a time-of-use rate plan?

To change to a time-of-use rate plan or get CMP's take on it, you can.

Is it worth using less energy?

We won't rally behind former President Jimmy Carter and tell you to put on a sweater and turn down the thermostat. We'd rather not see our breath in the living room. But it's probably worth taking 5 minutes to consider whether energy is wasted in your home (in other words, is energy used that doesn't improve your family's well-being).

The Gray family children have been politely asked to turn off lights when leaving rooms about 17 trillion times. They're generally respectful, but for whatever reason this one doesn't stick. How much money would the Gray family save if the children always turned off their lights?

Three 30-watt lights get left on in empty rooms 2 hours per day on average. That's 5.5 kilowatt-hours per month (3 x 30 x 2 x 30.4) — which costs 87¢. Is it worth continuing the effort (or trying a smart-home solution)? Nope. The parents will let this one go for now.

What about energy efficiency?

There might be one or more basic energy-efficiency investments you can make that'd cut your energy bill while not reducing comfort or adding day-to-day complexity.

The Gray family got a new refrigerator a decade ago, and plugged in their previous 1990s-era fridge in the garage (for those three sports drinks). Refrigerator efficiency has come a long way since the 1990s. In fact, their garage fridge uses over twice as much energy as their new Energy Star fridge. It'll cost them $13 per month to run it on their new time-of-use rate plan (or $13 per month on the standard rate plan).

Should they replace the old garage fridge with a basic $500 Energy Star fridge? They'd save $6.98 per month on their energy bill, but the related financing payment would be $9.55 per month ($500 borrowed, 5-year term, 5.5% interest). Their net loss in the first month would be $2.57. With the financing cost, the new fridge would pay for itself in 7 years (followed by years or decades of pure bill savings).

The Gray family decided they don't even need a second fridge. That's a $13 monthly bill reduction!

The Gray family's game plan so far

The Gray family has felt the pain of high energy bills for years. Thanks to this article (we have no shame), they're now ready to take control and cut it. Sounds like fun!

Their current average monthly bill is $147. Here's their game plan:

  • 1. Switch rate plans
  • Switch to a time-of-use rate plan (code name: A-TOU-OPTS Plus).
  • When: Right after reading this article and making their game plan.
  • Bill Increase: $3.17
  • New Monthly Bill: $150
  • 2. Adjust energy usage
  • Run the dishwasher and laundry machines during off-peak hours.
  • When: Once they switch rate plans.
  • Bill Reduction: $9.54
  • New Monthly Bill: $141
  • 3. Reduce energy waste
  • Unplug the garage fridge (and schedule a recycling-center pick up time).
  • When: This week.
  • Bill Reduction: $12
  • New Monthly Bill: $129

One week later, the Gray family's new monthly bill is $129. They cut their bill by 12%!

They're excited, and in their enthusiasm they're wondering if they can cut their bill even more. That's when little Suzy got a bright idea. "Hey Mom and Dad, what about solar energy?"

Yeah Suzy, what about solar energy?

"Hmm…it's probably too expensive." The Gray family wanted to at least consider it, so they connected with a few local solar installation companies through Cut My Bill. They were happy to hear that solar energy is affordable — in fact, it's less than half the cost it was just ten years ago.

They learned that 17 solar panels would fit nicely on the sunniest part of their roof (at 250 watts per panel, that's a 4.25 kW system). Their solar system would bring their average monthly energy usage from 853 kWh down to 496 kWh. And it'd bring their monthly CMP energy bill from $129 down to $54.

A federal tax credit would cover 26% of the solar system's cost.

They were pleasantly surprised to hear that their energy bill savings from solar would be higher than the net payment on a home-equity loan used to purchase the solar system ("net" because the loan interest is deductible). In other words, solar would start saving them money immediately. Their $54 new energy bill plus a $54 monthly net loan payment would put them at a $108 per month net energy cost (vs. $129 before solar).

With the loan, their solar energy system would save them $21 per month. That's a 16% bill reduction over their energy bill after the other changes! And their savings would increase over time because energy rates go up while the loan payment doesn't.

The Gray family totally went solar.


See how much you can save with solar energy. The Cut My Bill calculator gives you customized best-in-class results.


Gray family conclusion

If they took no action, the Gray family would be paying $147 per month for energy. The rate plan change and energy adjustments got their bill down to $129 per month. With solar energy and the loan payment, the Gray family's new net energy cost is $108 per month. All together, they cut their monthly energy cost by 26%, or $39.

The Gray family is feeling good! Here they are monitoring their real-time solar production and utility energy usage.

family on lawn with devices
Energy bill reductions = tax-free income

That $39 of extra cash is actually worth $54. What? The Gray family has to pay income tax on money used for personal expenses (including their energy bill). Since they no longer need to pay $36 in taxes on the $93 they're not giving CMP, that $93 is essentially worth $129 (an extra $36). After the solar loan payment, their net tax savings is $15. You're a champion for getting through this paragraph.

The simple take home is that, dollar for dollar, energy bill savings (money not spent) is more valuable than the return on conventional investments such as stocks and treasury bonds (taxable income).

Your game plan

We hope this article convinced you that you can have your cake and eat it too — you can save money, improve your family's well-being, and help out the planet. We wish you the best with your upcoming power moves (pun intended).

Find more about Central Maine Power electric rate plans.