Central Maine Power is proposing a multimillion-dollar effort to improve the resilience of its electricity distribution system in Maine. And the company will make some early investments in northwestern Maine after a complaint was filed by customers in the area.
As part of a request to state regulators for a new, five-year rate plan, CMP is proposing an aggressive “ground-to-sky” tree-trimming program along its 12 worst-performing circuits. It’s also proposing other investments to “harden” those lines, such as stronger poles, coated wires, and additional feeder circuits to hedge against failures related to storms.
The Public Utilities Commission has yet to weigh in on the merits of that plan, and a budget. But this week, the commission did approve a sort of down payment on the program — some $7 million for five years of worth of work between Jackman, Caratunk and Dover-Foxcroft.
The Rev. Darien Sawyer, a Jackman pastor, initiated the complaint that got the ball rolling. He says he is hopeful that CMP’s response will end an era of frequent outages in the area.
“I’m concerned for those elderly people and people on breathing machines and things like that, because these logger outages really take a toll on them,” he says.
As part of its plan, CMP will trim back “hazard trees” outside of the utility’s right of way on land, through an agreement with the Weyerhauser company, the adjoining landowner. And it will make other investments as well.
“And that will be a big improvement. They’re also going to upgrade the wire to what they call tree wire, so that if a little branch falls on it, it won’t shut the power off. It’s insulated so it can keep on going,” Sawyer says.
State regulators agreed to CMP's proposal to use unspent funds in its tree-trimming budget to cover some of the effort. But how the rest of the Jackman area work or the rest of CMP's budget for the overall resiliency proposal will be financed won't be determined until after the work is done. Only then will the Public Utilities Commission determine whether the investments were "prudent" and, if so, CMP can then recover the costs from its customers.
Originally published Oct. 25, 2019 at 4:10 p.m. ET.