CMP is eating our lunch

By Susan Reider | Jul 18, 2019

When I first read that Central Maine Power was asking for a rate hike again this year, I almost laughed. After all, it bungled the rollout of its new billing system the weekend before a major October 2017 storm and then took 10 days to fully restore power. The outages and problems with the new billing system caused a flood of calls to the customer service department, but the company made no effort to improve its customer service. An independent audit found that during January through March of 2018, all customer bills contained errors. Still, we heard no explanation from the company until July.

Maybe it’s because, in order to save money, Spanish parent company Iberdrola forced CMP to outsource its billing and other general services to its U.S. holding company, Avangrid. Even the Maine PUC, which under former Gov. Paul LePage seemed quite friendly to utilities, noted that service degraded when some functions were consolidated and operational decisions were no longer made locally. The new billing system was rolled out in a hurry, cutting 13 weeks of testing, with little or no training for employees, who struggled with the deluge of customer complaints. According to market research firm J.D. Power, the company’s residential customer satisfaction was first among large eastern utilities before the Iberdrola takeover, but fell to 12 out of 16 last year.

But it didn’t cut costs because it was losing money. In 2018, CMP generated $130 million of Avangrid’s $600 million in profits for Iberdrola. Who is benefiting from these profits? Iberdrola is 66 percent owned by “foreign investors,” according to its 2018 annual report filed with the Spanish government. Among the largest investors are the Qatari government and Wall Street powerhouse BlackRock, a “global investment manager.” It’s pretty obvious that CMP’s customers aren’t benefiting.

Adding insult to injury, we’re being victimized in another way: according to Good Jobs First, a government accountability watchdog group, Iberdrola and its subsidiaries have received more than $2.2 billion in local, state and federal subsidies. Those are our tax dollars, folks. We pay them at the front end to install smart meters, protect the environment, invest in green power; and then CMP charges us again for all that and more in our electricity rates.

The mendacity of investor-owned utilities is probably surpassed only by that of health insurance companies, but that’s a subject for another day. After receiving a rate hike of 18.4 per cent in January 2018, CMP has the unmitigated gall to tell the PUC — which is to say, us – it needs another hike of 10.65 percent. Your “Dear Customer” letter says the company needs to pay for increased operating costs and new grid investments. It’s going to – wait for it – add front line staff in Electric Operations and Customer Service! It’s going to increase funding for power restoration after storms!

This is after it told us in 2010 that the new “smart meters” would enhance accurate billing and show us how to save money by doing our laundry at 3 a.m., when rates are low. But our bills went up anyway. The only one who saved money was CMP, which let 85 meter readers go and pocketed $8 million. Until very recently, according to the Bangor Daily News, the company’s payroll has remained flat, from $65 million in 2007 to just $74 million in 2018, which is actually a 5 percent decrease when adjusted for inflation.

So, it appears that in order to sustain its 10 to 12 percent profitability, we hapless customers will have to fork over more for less. Why are we putting up with this? We don’t have to. There is another answer. We can put electric power in the public domain and take it out of the hands of faceless international companies that are interested only in shareholder returns. I suspect that many CMP workers from the bottom to the top would agree.

I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to write to the PUC about the proposed CMP rate hike. You can file a public comment here. The case number is 2018-00194.

Comments (12)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jul 22, 2019 05:40

Oh Kevin, I think I'll stay around for a while just to aggravate people like you and all the other leftist, tree huggers. It's so much FUN! As to my manifestos, somebody has to let people know what is really going on in Belfast that affects our tax dollars. I hear Calais is a nice place to live since it's so close to Canada, where you can escape across the bridge.



Posted by: Kevin Riley | Jul 21, 2019 19:59

Eric,

As to continuing up Route 1, NO!



Posted by: Kevin Riley | Jul 21, 2019 19:57

"do us all a favor"
So you speak for all the residents of Belfast now. How special. Or better, how arrogant.
Oh and there's that holier-than-thou, I'm smarter than all of you, everyone shut up and listen to my, smartest guy in the room Eric.
Funny, your posts read so much like that people you complain the most about, Democrats and liberals. You complain so much about them yet you do the exactly the same thing. The only difference you’re far more dogmatic and hostile.
Every post of yours reads as the Eric manifesto. Only you know what is good for everyone in the midcoast area. One of the things Mainers hate the most is people from away that move in and then start telling them how to live.
What I read from your post is it looks like you should just get the hell out of Maine before they all drive you insane. Because clearly the residents are driving you in that direction. They certainly don’t meet you high standards so why should stay and force yourself to deal with them. After all you’re such a superior human specimen.
And you trigger so easily I don’t know how can stand it. I mean really, a few spelling or grammer errors drive you bonkers.



Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jul 21, 2019 15:24

Please Kevin Riley, do us all a favor and keep on going up US1 to Bucksport and beyond. We've got enough anals in Belfast to last a lifetime, present commenter excluded. We don't need another one that doesn't have the discipline to proofread a comment before hitting the Post button. The more "born and bread" Mainers I run into, I now understand why Maine is leads most states in just about every negative category. Poverty, drug abuse, political corruption, tree huggers, arm chair climatologists, women with a BMI of 30 or more and the list goes on. Find me a resident that gives a rat's xxs about people and I'll show you someone that is "from away".



Posted by: Kevin Riley | Jul 21, 2019 07:40

And, when we do move to Maine we are moving to Belfast.
Really nice harbor and airport.



Posted by: Kevin Riley | Jul 21, 2019 07:33

Eric,

You’re mistaken or are making this up in your head. I don't chime in about local issues on these boards. CMP is not a local issue it’s a state issue.
I chime in on the national and international political issues all the time.
And since you are so anal about the occasional spelling or grammar mistake here, and are incapable of figuring out what someone was trying, I’ll fix it for you.
Born and bred as in I was born in Maine and Maine will always be home. See how that works?
As to “open forum sunshine” I’m shocked you can’t figure it out. Sunshine is referring to you and it’s not a friendly reference.

.



Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jul 20, 2019 17:34

Well, there must be another Kevin Riley that likes to chime in about our local issues all the time. Born and "bread" here? What is an "open forum sunshine"?



Posted by: Kevin Riley | Jul 20, 2019 17:07

Eric,

We don't live in Maine, home, YET. Born and bread there.

Open Forum sunshine anyone from anywhere can post here.

BTW I've posted almost nothing about anything local to midcoast.

You trigger entirely too easily.



Posted by: Eric Schrader | Jul 20, 2019 15:21

So Kevin, according to your comment, you don't even live in Maine, yet you opine about nearly everything local here? Let us know where you live so that we can put our two cents into your local community.



Posted by: Kevin Riley | Jul 19, 2019 07:44

We line in a county with a Rural Electrical Cooperative (not Maine). Our rates are lower than the surrounding areas that get electricity from the big corporations, we rarely lose power, and if we do, it’s for a few minutes. They have cogeneration plants and are building solar farms. They keep the technology up to date.
I can see when we move to Maine (home) we will be dealing with a completely different animal.
I hope we can afford to have solar with storage.



Posted by: Harold Bryson Mosher | Jul 19, 2019 05:36

I like Seth Berry's idea of a consumer-owned utility replacing CMP.



Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 18, 2019 14:52

With tongue in cheek, perhaps customers should go back to the candle and battery operated radios. Perhaps they could find a battery operated TV?  Seriously, the rates are not affordable and should be regulated to protect the average income worker.



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