Eric Stinneford (middle), vice president, controller and treasurer of Central Maine Power, said the company's smart meter system did not crash during the October wind storm, as has been previously reported. Credit: Lori Vilagra

AUGUSTA, MAINE — A Central Maine Power Co. executive disputes a December report that the company’s $200 million smart meter system crashed during the October 2017 wind storm.

Speaking Tuesday before a state legislative committee about the October storm, Eric Stinneford, CMP’s vice president, controller and treasurer, said the comment by a company spokesman that the system had flatlined was “unfortunate and uninformed.”

The smart meter system helps CMP track outages, among other functions. On Monday, Oct. 30, the second day of the storm, “It stopped climbing and it was pretty clear we weren’t getting any more information from it,” CMP spokesman John Carroll told Maine Public last December.

“The system did not crash,” Stinneford said in a heated exchange Tuesday with Maine Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “At the worst of the storm it was working at 50 percent.”

He said each part of the smart meter system is powered by electricity, and as customer power was restored, so too were their smart meters.

Berry grilled Stinneford about why it took a month after the last customer’s power was restored to admit the system had failed.

Stinneford said the smart meter system is not the only source of information about outages that the company placed on its website. He added that CMP is adding resiliency and backup capabilities to the smart meter system.

“One lesson we learned is that the event [storm] did expose some weaknesses in our network,” he said.

The exchange was part of a full afternoon meeting at which CMP, Emera Maine, the Maine Public Utilities Commission and other parties commented on the storm outage response before the committee.

Separately, the PUC is reviewing outage reports by both utilities and investigating how they responded to storm outages.

Stinneford also said a map on CMP’s website didn’t accurately show the outages, and when the company realized that, it put a notice on its website.

Berry said the situation was serious because schools in Bowdoinham and Bath had no power but weren’t listed on the map.

He also asked about possibly inaccurate electric usage readings on smart meters that were out of service for a few days.

“We overestimated usage during the outage event, and that got reconciled during the next billing cycle,” Stinneford said.

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Lori Valigra, investigative reporter for the environment, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...