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Business and Economy

CMP Under New Ownership in Iberdrola Merger

Central Maine Power has a new U.S.-based parent company called Avangrid. But utility officials say its local customers won’t see any difference in service.

Before last month, CMP was owned by Spain-based energy giant Iberdrola SA. But as of Dec. 16, a new, U.S.-based company is CMP’s corporate owner. Avangrid merges Iberdrola’s U.S. companies, including CMP, electric utilities in New York and a wind-energy company called Iberdrola Renewables, with Connecticut-based United Illuminating, which operates electric utilities in Connecticut and gas companies in western Massachusetts.

“We really want to define it as a full-service and diversified energy company that is trying to lead the transformation to a clean energy future here in the U.S.,” says CMP’s John Carroll.

Carroll says Iberdrola has a majority stake in the new $30 billion company, with more than 3 million customers and 7,000 workers. The company is now trading on the U.S. stock exchange under the symbol AGR.

So why the name Avangrid?

“In many languages, avant, avanti — avant means forward movement, progress,” Carroll says. “And ‘grid’ is intended to mean in the broadest sense all those resources that generate electricity all the way to the end user and all the parts in between. So it’s a coined term, and it’s going to be for us to define."

One industry observer says the merger is part of a larger trend among utilities that want to hedge against rising interest rates and energy market volatility by diversifying their assets.

Richard Sedano is a principal partner at the Regulatory Assistance Project. He says Avangrid has the opportunity to experiment with new energy strategies.

“And in these times we have a lot of innovation opportunities, and utilities are needing to try out different ideas, and they can perhaps do that better than if they had one large utility in one large state,” Sedano says. “In this case they can try something in New York, try something different in Connecticut, try something different in Maine.”

One case in point: CMP was an early adopter of so-called smart-grid technologies, which enable real-time metering of individual electricity usage — providing technologies and lessons that can now be applied to the proposed deployment of similar efforts in other states, states where Avangrid is now a big player.