The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently voted to take a closer look at the irregularities that have popped up with Central Maine Power’s billing practices after complaints began rolling in from frustrated ratepayers who believe they were being overcharged on their bills.
Energy prices in Maine have been an issue for a long time. High electricity costs have been a tremendous burden to the people of Maine, as well as Maine businesses, especially during the winter and extreme cold spells we Mainers have grown accustomed to during the winter months.
Over the past month, I have received numerous complaints from my constituents regarding the sudden and unexplained spikes in their Central Maine Power electric bills. Now it appears this problem is not isolated to just the Midcoast, as thousands of similar complaints have flooded into the Public Utilities Commission, Office of the Public Advocate, and media outlets like the Portland Press Herald and WGME.
I’ve also seem some bizarre issues with my CMP bill. I own a seasonal business that isn’t open during the winter months. Typically that means my electric bill for that business is almost nonexistent during the winter months. So you can imagine my surprise when I received electric bills for that business totaling more than $200. It makes no sense that a business that isn’t even open and is using almost no electricity would somehow have racked up hundreds of dollars in electrical bills.
It is my understanding that CMP has begun using new billing software and there may be an issue with it. According to media reports, CMP switched to the new billing software late last year and that software operates with longer billing cycles, which leads to higher electric bills. The Portland Press Herald also listed a number of issues that could be causing the billing issues.
CMP claims the use of power increased three to four times above normal consumption during this time. Does this mean CMP bought three times the power from ISO New England? Would a prolonged power outage like we had last October damage the smart meters?
I have yet to see anything that explains why a seasonal business that is not even open would use hundreds of dollars’ worth of electricity. It also doesn’t explain the massive overbilling that I’m hearing about from many of my constituents.
I’m pleased that the Public Utilities Commission is now looking into this issue. My hope is that the answer is something simple, like malfunctioning software or smart meters. I look forward to the results of this investigation so I can share those findings with the people of my district. If CMP has overcharged their customers, I would expect these customers to be fully refunded. I would also hope that CMP would submit a plan to the PUC to address the cause of any overbilling and make sure nothing like that ever happens again.
(Rep. Jeff Pierce, R-Dresden, represents Arrowsic, Dresden, Georgetown, Phippsburg, part of Richmond, and Woolwich. He is the ranking House Republican on the Government Oversight Committee and also sits on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.)