Central Maine Power Co. is out with a new state-mandated plan to improve its local management structure after an independent audit pointed to systemic problems that could hurt customers.
The utility is under scrutiny by the Maine Public Utilities Commission after mishandled billing and poor customer service led to $9.9 million in fines as well as the third-party audit.
In ordering the new report in September, the PUC raised concerns about the management of CMP by its parent company Avangrid, owned by Spain-based energy giant Iberdrola.
The utility’s improvement plan, filed late Tuesday, aims to stave off a larger state investigation of those management practices and of the sustainability of changes the company has made so far.
“This plan solidifies our commitment to continuing those improvements and builds in accountability,” CMP CEO Joe Purington said in a news release. “Our focus will continue to be how we can best serve our customers into the future, and help the state achieve clean energy goals with a commitment to reliable power delivery and quality customer service.”
The changes CMP says it intends to make include a new vice president for Maine in Avangrid’s C-suite, a new community relations branch and customer “listening council” for CMP, and a new seat for a Mainer on Avangrid’s board of directors.
The plan says this new board member will be added by the end of March 2022, to “provide a voice disconnected from the demands and concerns of the Avangrid parent company but directly connected to the concerns and needs of Maine customers, thereby providing fresh perspectives and strong local insight into the needs of CMP.”
Avangrid’s new VP for Maine will supervise electric operations more directly, leading a daily meeting on the status of the CMP system. The executive will also oversee areas like transmission, distribution and vegetation management, which were previously housed in other departments.
“This Plan is neither CMP’s first step nor its last, but rather it is one step in its continuous improvement journey,” the plan says. “CMP strives to do better every day.”
CMP’s plan includes stern words about the independent audit, questioning its interpretation of the companies’ board structures and its criticisms of CMP’s staff turnover rates and the depth of Maine experience among managers.
“The audit report is backward-looking,” the plan says. “CMP respectfully suggests that the Commission need not be concerned about the current leadership team given its extensive operational and utility industry experience, and connection to Maine.”
CMP also asks the PUC to carry out the utility’s main solution to concerns about sustainability of company finances. It says Maine should follow the example of other states with aggressive clean energy goals and set its rates on multi-year timescales instead of annually, which the utility says would be a better system to set up accountability measures and incentives.
The PUC declined to comment on a response to CMP’s plan, except to say they had received it and would “determine the additional procedural steps necessary to fully assess the plan and ensure that it addresses the performance issues that have been identified.”
Gov. Janet Mills’ energy office also said in a statement that it was reviewing the plan.
“We expect the Public Utilities Commission to hold Maine’s electric utilities accountable and to ensure Maine people and businesses have safe and reliable electric services at just and reasonable rates,” the statement said.
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