A Central Maine Power truck in Windham in June 2019. Credit: Lori Valigra

Central Maine Power said Monday it is asking for a 10.65 percent hike in its electricity delivery rate for residential customers.

That’s about $5 per month added to an average residential customer’s bill for using 500 kilowatt hours a month. Distribution rates are a component of overall delivery rates.

The rate hike comes as the utility is under fire for continuing high bill and customer service complaints. Thousands of customers received what they claimed were excessively high bills after the October 2017 windstorm. The storm coincided with a new customer care and billing system CMP installed that some customers have blamed for the high bills.

The Maine Office of the Public Advocate last week asked regulators to delve deeper into the ongoing billing problems.

“CMP recognizes that these rate proposals come at a time when the company has come under scrutiny for the rollout of its SmartCare system in 2017 as well as questions about our handling of customer concerns at that same time,” Doug Herling, president and CEO of CMP, said in a prepared statement.

“The rate changes reflect a host of factors, most of which are aimed at assuring reliable customer service, improved customer care, improved storm resiliency and better response time during storm outages,” he said.

He said CMP is working to regain the trust of customers.

In a letter to CMP employees dated July 1, Herling said that he has been named as a defendant in a class action lawsuit against CMP.

“We cannot publicly discuss these issues as they are in litigation, but rest assured that our legal team is working hard to defend the company, and I trust their expertise,” he wrote.

The letter was released to the Bangor Daily News by a legislator who received it in an email from CMP director of government affairs Kathleen Newman.

CMP revised its October 2018 rate case with the Maine Public Utilities Commission to seek the hike in the electric distribution rate. The company said it has been five years since the PUC, which regulates the utility, changed the rate.

The PUC is scheduled to rule on the distribution rate in October.

Meantime, CMP said it will work with the PUC to minimize the distribution rate increase to about $3 per month by applying savings from the federal 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act.

CMP said it will mail a letter to customers about the proposed rate request by order of the PUC.

The PUC also plans to hold three public meetings to address CMP’s proposal to change the distribution rate and ongoing complaints about CMP’s high electricity bills following the October 2017 windstorm.

Separately, CMP also said the PUC has allowed an annual rate adjustment of overall electric delivery prices for all Maine CMP customers that will add 85 cents per month to the average residential customer’s bill. The rate is effective July 1.

The adjusted rate comprises distribution costs, stranded costs, Efficiency Maine Trust assessments, low-income program assessments and transmission costs.