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Business and Economy

State utility regulators lift penalty against CMP, and launch investigation into its management

Central Maine Power
Robert F. Bukaty
In this Tuesday, May 28, 2019 photo, power lines converge on a Central Maine Power substation in Pownal, Maine.

State regulators are lifting a penalty against Central Maine Power that's cost it millions of dollars. But the Public Utilities Commission is also expanding its investigation of the company's management practices.

Two years ago the PUC reduced the monopoly utility's allowed earnings on its investments in Maine. That was punishment for customer service failures, such as botching the rollout of a new billing system. Since then the reduced return-on-equity, or ROE, has cost shareholders about $12.5 million in lost profits.

Now CMP has improved its performance on several service quality metrics long enough to meet the bar the Commission set as condition for raising the ROE back up. But the commission also voted for an expanded investigation into whether CMP's parent company, Avangrid Networks, is too focused on profits and at the expense of Maine customers.

William Harwood, who directs the state Office of the Public Advocate, supports the investigation, saying Maine needs proof that CMP is being run by staff here in the state.

"The board of directors of CMP back in the old days was a group of highly-respected, successful folks from Maine who had successes in other business ventures and were there to help guide the utility. As far as I can tell the board of directors today are all employees of Avangrid," Harwood says.

Ultimately, CMP and Avangrid are both controlled by a holding company in Spain called Iberdrola. A CMP spokeswoman says the company has consolidated its operations under Maine-based leaders, and formed a new community relations department.