Philip Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, speaks with reporters at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in this July 16, 2019, file photo.

Maine utilities regulators announced Tuesday that they will delay a decision on a requested rate increase from Central Maine Power until after investigations into billing and metering issues end.

Maine Public Utilities Commission Chairman Philip Bartlett said the metering and billing case must be “thoroughly understood” before making a decision on the rate increase, saying the decision is in the interest of transparency and Maine ratepayers.

“Our experienced staff is devoting hundreds of hours to these cases, including hours spent with Maine consumers at public hearings and in assisting in the resolution of claims made by ratepayers. Mainers can be assured that their testimony will play a role in these cases,” Bartlett said.

A decision was originally due in the rate case in October, but that has been delayed until December, when a decision in the metering and billing case is expected.

CMP came under the microscope since the October 2017 wind storm, when consumers began receiving higher-than-expected electric bills. CMP has said it is working to resolve identified problems, but complaints to the utilities commission, public advocate and grassroots consumer groups persist.

At the same time, the company has asked the commission to raise its distribution rate as much as 10.65 percent. That’s about $5 per month added to an average residential customer’s bill for using 500 kilowatt hours a month.

The commission held three public hearings last month about CMP’s proposed rate hike and the billing and metering issues. A hearing in Portland on July 16 was sparsely attended, but drew vocal critics of the utility.

In reviewing CMP’s rate and revenue requirements, the commission’s hearing examiners proposed that the utility’s profit level be decreased with a “management efficiency adjustment” for ongoing poor service that started in 2016.

Commission staff in February recommended that CMP be penalized for its poor customer service performance by having its allowable profit cut $4 million to $6 million annually, according to the commission. Despite CMP’s rebuttal to the recommendation, the commission’s staff reaffirmed its recommendation in June. A final decision is pending and could affect the potential rate hike, commission spokesman Harry Lanphear told the BDN last month.