Veteran utility lawyer William Harwood will leave Verrill Dana to join the Governor's Energy Office in September to become a senior adviser for regulatory affairs. Credit: Courtesy of Verrill Dana

An energy lawyer known for his regulatory and policy knowledge in the utilities industry will join Gov. Janet Mills’ energy office as its new point person on high-profile cases before the state’s energy regulator.

William Harwood, currently at Verrill Dana, has more than 30 years of experience representing utilities before state and federal regulatory agencies, including more than 50 cases before the Maine Public Utilities Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He has handled rate cases, management audits, merger approvals, permit requests and rulemaking proceedings.

Harwood declined to discuss further details until he is in his new role as senior adviser for regulatory affairs in September. The Governor’s Energy Office develops state energy policies and programs energy and Harwood is expected to assist in policy development and represent the office on working groups.

The move, praised by a top lawmaker who has battled the Democratic governor on energy issues, comes as Maine’s utility regulator considers a raft of crucial cases and the electricity landscape in Maine faces a challenge from backers of a consumer-owned utility.

“With the administration continuing its important work on energy issues, including regulatory work surrounding the oversight of utilities and the growth of clean energy industry and technology, we’re pleased to have Bill’s considerable expertise and experience serving Maine people,” Anthony Ronzio, a spokesperson for Mills’ policy office, said.

Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, welcomed the news, saying Harwood is among the most experienced people in the state in rate-making and brings enormous knowledge to the table.

Berry is a frequent critic of the public electric utilities in the state and a key backer of a bill to establish a consumer-owned utility that was vetoed by Mills this year. Harwood and his firm were consulted by the Mills administration as it reworked a controversial lease for part of the $1 billion hydropower corridor being constructed by a Central Maine Power Co. affiliate and Hydro-Quebec, a 2020 agreement that is being challenged by corridor opponents in court. Harwood also helped maneuver the sale of the former Emera Maine, now Versant Power, to ENMAX.

“I’m pleased with the news and hope he can contribute to more informed and robust policy coming out of Augusta,” Berry said.

Former public utilities commissioner David Littell said Harwood has decades of experience with the utilities commission and can make a substantial contribution to the energy office when it appears before regulators.

He said Maine is in the middle of an energy transformation with more renewables and distributed resources coming into the energy system, and he hopes Harwood can help the energy office bring together the worlds of conventional energy and renewables “in ways that put Maine in the forefront, so we’re not catching up.”

Harwood has negotiated long-term alternative rate plans that include automatic inflation adjustments, service quality penalties and cost recovery, according to his Verrill Dana biography. He has also negotiated long-term special rate agreements between utilities and specific industrial consumers.

Harwood also was involved in the restructuring of the Maine electric utility industry, including representing utilities in the sale of their generating assets, recovery of stranded costs and providing standard offer service.

He also has served as adjunct law professor at the University of Maine School of Law teaching utility regulation and administrative law and has long been on the board of the Maine Gun Safety Coalition, a group that supports gun-control measures.