Differing views of an electric utility company’s service in Maine have clashed in an unlikely place — more than 2,000 miles to the southwest, in New Mexico.

Central Maine Power’s service reliability is alternately praised and derided, depending on one’s view of whether Public Service Company of New Mexico should merge with Central Maine’s parent company, Avangrid of Connecticut. Central Maine Power also has supporters and antagonists in Maine.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission is mulling a hearing examiner’s harsh review of the merger proposal, with a decision expected this month. The hearing examiner, Ashley Schannauer, generally has recommended the commission veto the merger proposal, although he cited certain conditions the commission should implement if it decides to support the merger.

One view of Central Maine Power’s performance appeared Tuesday in a full-page advertisement in The New Mexican. The Avangrid ad, signed by four Maine business and energy leaders, accused a Santa Fe organization, New Energy Economy, of “weaving a tale” about Central Maine Power.

The ad extols Central Maine Power as “reliable and forward-thinking” and Avangrid as possessing “vision, leadership and financial strength” and “world-class renewable energy strategies.”

As for New Energy Economy and its leader, Mariel Nanasi, they have engaged in falsehood, the ad says. “Don’t fall for it.”

Nanasi responded with an email message that called Avangrid and its parent company, Iberdrola of Spain, “bullies with tons of money to spare.” Nanasi opposes the merger, but numerous community and environmental organizations this year have gradually thrown their support to the plan.

In his role as a neutral, quasi-judge, Schannauer’s report says Central Maine Power has experienced a variety of problems. They include:

• Maine Gov. Janet Mills this year called Central Maine’s service “abysmal.”

• The Maine Legislature this year recommended a public referendum be held to try to replace Central Maine with a nonprofit utility company. Mills vetoed the notion.

• J.D. Power’s 2020 study ranked Central Maine 128th of 128 investor-owned electric utilities in residential customer satisfaction.

• Central Maine’s rollout of a new billing system four years ago prompted the Maine Public Utilities Commission to say it hadn’t seen “complaints against a utility reach the numbers they have here,” a consulting firm wrote this year.

Maine voters last month also opposed a Central Maine Power transmission corridor being built in part through a forest in that state. The project evidently has been halted for now.

Avangrid executive Robert Kump said through a written message Tuesday that the J.D. Power survey reflected billing problems that have “long since been resolved. In fact, all Maine Public Utility Commission customer service quality required levels have been met and exceeded for the past 18 months.”

Kump said objective criteria measure service interruptions by duration and frequency. Compared to similar utilities throughout the Northeast United States, Kump said, Central Maine’s performance compares well.

The ad says Avangrid — apparently referring to Central Maine Power — “dramatically outperforms all of its peer utilities in Maine.”

But William Dunn, a 73-year-old electric power consultant in Maine, told a legislative committee in Maine this year that “even in New England, Maine stood out for its poor reliability in 2019 with more than twice as many minutes of outages as the next highest state, Vermont.”

In an email Tuesday, Dunn wrote “I would be embarrassed to have my name associated with that ad.” He said in Maine, there are only two comparatively large, investor-owned utilities, Central Maine and Versant, so the ad writers played “fast and fancy with their wording” about peer utility companies. Most other utilities in the state are small and run by municipalities, he said.

An Avangrid spokeswoman later sent numerous charts that show Central Maine outperformed Versant from 2014 through 2019.

Lincoln Jeffers, one of the Maine leaders who signed the ad, said Central Maine Power is committed to clean energy and good service. Jeffers, the economic and community development director in Lewiston, Maine, said Central Maine invested $1 billion or more in improving its energy grid in the state and enhancing substations in his city several years ago.

“And they were very responsive to citizen concerns,” Jeffers said. “I worked closely with the leadership of Central Maine Power.”

He said he didn’t put much stock in the J.D. Power survey because “other industry criteria rank them [Central Maine] well.”

From his vantage point, he said, what Central Maine Power seeks to do in his state is “absolutely fabulous.”

(18) comments

John Schmidt

Beware of Avangrid/Iberdrola. We are in a constant battle with CMP. While the infrastructure crumbles, our electric rates go up and up. https://www.notonecec.com

jarratt applewhite

The Commissioners who will decide the case (unless it is appealed to our Supreme Ct) are the last ones to be elected. Constitutional Amendment 1 on our last general election ballot, stripped the electorate of its voice in favor of "experts" appointed by pols. Over $1MM of PAC & dark money was spent to hijack public opinion in a campaign that is unmistakably like the Avangrid/Iberdrola snow job. Santa Fe's Commissioner Joseph Maestas opposed the Amendment. He has not stated his position on this case. https://www.nm-prc.org/who-is-my-commissioner/commissioner-joseph-m-maestas-district-3/

Mark Danchick

FYI-Avivgrad (AGR) is only an "energy delivery service" with an 18% net profit for 2021. This profit comes from cheating their customers. It is owned by the utility company "Iberdrola" (IBDSF) with a Subsidiary "Iberdrola Ireland" which will have a 15% increase in rates in 1/22. They are considered both a "SELL" stock which means they are on their way to BIG debts. Look it up on google.

Mark Danchick

If we look at other utility companies that have become privatized, they have failed their customers for profit (S.A. California). I've only had the power go out 1 time in 12 years in Santa Fe, living in California it happened often. There is no competition to keep this unknown company on its toes, especially a company that is foreign-owned (with ties to the CCP as I heard). If they are based in Spain, Spain is a bankrupt country. Things seem fine now, why change?

Barbara Harrelson

Thank you to the New Mexican for delving into the claims of this ad and adding much needed information and perspective to this very expensive opinion-influencing campaign by PNM and Avangrid. We need this kind of balanced reporting.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Indeed, well done here. It is obvious, and has been for a long time, PNM, Avangrid, and their well rewarded political stooges are wanting to buy this decision, no matter what it costs.

Joanie Adams

It's refreshing to see the opinions on this forced Avangrid scam. Do we not get a vote in this? I may sound simplistic but I'm leary of the words "diverse" and "global" when it comes to energy. What they want is control of our thermostats. As far as the "jobs" they will add .perhaps, but after the honeymoon period is over we will regret this. All of the top dogs are inline with this which tells me a whole lot of bribery is going on.

Floyd Cable

Citations from the SFNM article:

-'Maine Gov. Janet Mills this year called Central Maine’s service “abysmal.” '

-'J.D. Power’s 2020 study ranked Central Maine 128th of 128 investor-owned electric utilities in residential customer satisfaction.'

- 'Central Maine’s rollout of a new billing system four years ago prompted the Maine Public Utilities Commission to say it hadn’t seen “complaints against a utility reach the numbers they have here,” a consulting firm wrote this year.'

Here in NM we are being inundated by a tsunami of PNM/Avangrid ads that are trying to sell us a very bad deal for our state. If they get the merger they want, they'll stop trying to con the people of New Mexico with those endless ads, unless in the future they want to promote rate hikes or try to avoid responsibility for the nightmares created by their bad service.

Again, the main beneficiaries of this deal are the PNM execs who are getting very $$$ golden parachutes, and the politicians who started out anti-deal and pulled a 180 to strongly support the deal (and one can easily guess at the reasons for that turnaround). Some non-governmental or quasi-governmental interests have been silenced or made advocates with PNM promises for the tiniest fractions of the loose change in Avangrid's couch. Yes, PNM may need to make some changes for the future, but this deal is NOT in the interests of New Mexicans. Remember the Maine experience!

Chris Chris

Very few people here are happy with the performance or cost of our power service. Owning a generator is a way of life in Maine because of how unreliable our system is. We experience dozens of outages a year. Every few years a big storm will hit and there will be areas without power for weeks. The prices go up constantly. Twice this year. One 10% increase and now they are talking about a 70% increase. They are blaming natural gas pricing on that one but the public utilities aren't following suit because they actually worked to protect their customers from the market fluctuations. Many think the price gouging is retalitory for the state referendum vote that told then they could not build a power transmission line through our western mountain region crossing even the appalacian trail. They said they would fight us in court and have our vote thrown out. Then a few days later the PUC that we all know is in bed with them announced the massive rate increase.

Honestly you all would have to be nuts to let these blood suckers in.

The ads will increase. They spent $70 Million trying to sway voters in the referendum they just lost. They lied about everything. They printed ads claiming the referendum would take away people's gun rights. They published whatever they wanted without regard for truth. Told any lie they could come up with just to convince anyone who would listen. They bought all the air time they could on TV, radio, print, and online. You couldn't turn on anything without seeing an Avangrid sponsored ad claiming lie after lie about the people who did not want to see our nutural environment destroyed over a powerline that could have been run underground elsewhere causing zero impact. They are still claiming up and down this line is the best option for stopping climate change when the fact remains the only reason they want to cut 120 mile swath through our woods is to save about $500 Million on the project.

Sacrificing a working public utility to these private vampires is madness.

Philip Taccetta

New Energy Economy is spot on. I don’t believe a single politician or employee of Avengrid. We can do better without them!

Robert Fields

Homeowners can install solar and even backup batteries and isolate themselves from price hikes and outages.

In case the usuals post about cost, not everyone can afford, what about renters, etc, etc, there aren’t even enough installers to do the installs if everyone put up solar. There’s also supply chain issues on some components. But if you never start, you never finish.

And, as gas prices go up, with a solar install you can fill your own tank and save the cost of gasoline. As electricity goes up, it doesn’t impact you if you supply your own. Payback on solar systems is around 10-15 years depending on choices, market conditions, etc, but the higher the cost of the energy you replace with your own, the faster the payback. If gas and electricity double, solar installs can pay for themselves in much less time and EVs get downright cheap.

Lawrence Leichtman

Since they are running ads, you already know it's not something you want as ads are there to sell you something you don't want. I do not trust Avagrid or Iberdola as they have had multiple problems whereever they go including in Spain. No thanks. Will we even get a vote?

David Ford

This has the look and feel of something that is a foregone conclusion and all the ads/hype is just window dressing to make the "masses" feel better about a decision that affect them directly for which they have no voice, or a voice that has no impact on the final outcome.

Richard Reinders

David I hope your wrong, this would be a disaster for NM.

James Harnar

I retired here to Santa Fe six years ago after spending four decades in Maine. I've closely followed the ads in the New Mexican and on TV, knowing from my own experience and from that of dozens of friends and colleagues in Maine, that Avangrid in Maine is wildly unpopular. I believe it's also highly inappropriate for a public servant like Lincoln Jeffers to lend his name to the ads appearing here. The latest print ad also features the State Seal of Maine, falsely giving the impression that the State of Maine somehow endorses Avangrid. Sadly, a much admired leader of CMP in Maine (David Flanagan) passed away recently. His outstanding leadership was one of the very few things giving Mainers confidence in the utility.

Diane Gonzales

Thank you for sharing your experience with Avangrid. I get the feeling they are hiding behind promoting clean energy in the state to get support for this merger.

Ann Maes

I really don't think the money PNM/Anangrid is spending on ads is convincing anyone this is a good idea.

Charles W Rodriguez

It would seem Maine has, arguably, decided to rid themselves of Avangrid. Their strategy is to promote pubic, rather than corporate, ownership of utilities is the right way to go. If PNM-Anangrid metger is approved, New Mexico will prove, once again, it's propensity for self flagellation. It's insane to make a utility into a privately held corporation. It's a natural conflict of interest that cannot be promoted.

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