Smart meter file photo CMP PUC Central Maine Power Public Utilities Commission. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / AP

The Maine Public Utilities Commission said Tuesday that it is looking at whether to change how it measures electric utilities’ performance, in an effort to spark the companies to improve service while controlling costs.

The measurements would apply to companies, including Central Maine Power and Versant Power, that transmit and deliver electricity to homes and businesses. The commission, which regulates the utilities, is seeking input from the public.

The news comes about a week after thousands of customers were left in the dark, some for days, following the heavy wind and snow storm that blew through the state the first weekend of December.

Both CMP and Versant’s predecessor, Emera Maine, have been criticized in the past for not responding quickly enough to storm outages, including an October 2017 windstorm that knocked out power to some customers for up to a week and caused the commission to investigate.

Last month, J.D. Power ranked CMP the lowes t on its satisfaction survey of business customers of 88 electric utilities nationwide. It was the third year in a row that CMP was ranked last.

The commission is looking for comments regarding service reliability, quality and storm restoration, customer service, affordability and cost control, grid modernization, and energy and environmental policies.

The commission also plans to assess whether it should adopt metrics for consumer-owned utilities such as Kennebunk Light & Power District as well as investor-owned utilities including CMP and Versant.

“We hope to get input from a wide range of stakeholders,” Philip Bartlett, chairman of the commission, said.

Reliance on electricity is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years as more people use electricity to heat their homes and power their cars, he said, and this is a chance to align utilities’ incentives with customers’ needs.

CMP and Versant are evaluated now under a program called service quality indices that ties performance to financial consequences. CMP’s return on investment was adjusted downward recently because of inadequate performance, the commission said. And Versant’s results were used as part of the approval of Canadian company ENMAX Corp.’s acquisition of Versant’s predecessor.

Initial comments are due to the commission by Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Written comments can be submitted through the commission’s online filing system or by contacting the commission’s clerk at 207-287-3831.

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...