As part of an effort to improve its tarnished reputation, Central Maine Power is launching a branding and workplace initiative called Power On, which kicked off Wednesday with radio and television ads.

The ads portray the importance of reliable electricity in the daily lives of Mainers and CMP’s century-long role of providing that power. The message is that CMP has delivered despite challenges that have made the company stronger, and is working to regain customer trust.

In a statement, the company said the effort includes bringing about meaningful change inside the company to help improve customer service.

CMP has been under fire for the past two years, following the rollout of new billing software linked to ongoing customer complaints. A Press Herald investigation found that the company botched the rollout of its new billing system and then misled the public.

State utility regulators have been investigating the root cause, as well as the company’s earnings, and are set to issue findings Jan. 30. The timing of CMP’s campaign sends a signal that, whatever happened in the past, the company is on the path to a better future.

The bad publicity has prompted the company to refocus on customer service, creating new management positions to oversee and troubleshoot that very public side of the business.

That refocus includes the hiring of a former longtime Maine legislator, Dawn Hill of York, as a consultant. A six-term Democrat leader, Hill co-chaired the Appropriations Committee and served as assistant minority leader. Hill will communicate customers’ concerns to top management, according to Doug Herling, CMP’s president and chief executive, and act as a “customer champion.” She’ll start her job in January.

The ad campaign and management changes were outlined Wednesday in a Facebook post by Herling. In his comments, Herling made a commitment that the company’s workers would “keep customers top of mind, every single day.”

Herling said top management understands that it needs to do a better job for customers, and has set a course for change.

CMP’s ad campaign was panned, however, by one of its top critics.

“CMP’s new ads take the cake,” Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, said on Facebook. “They imply employees are to blame for past mistakes, not management or multinational monopoly ownership, and brag up the hire of a new PR person with no utility experience, but deep connections among Democrats in the Blaine House and State House.”

CMP is a subsidiary of Connecticut-based Avangrid, which itself is a subsidiary of Iberdrola, a Spanish energy company.

Separately, CMP is also lobbying for approval of a 145-mile transmission corridor through Maine to bring hydropower from Quebec to markets in Massachusetts. The $1 billion project is awaiting approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Land Use Planning Commission, both of which are expected to issue decisions in early 2020.

That project has also generated controversy, as several towns along the proposed corridor route have reversed their earlier support of the project.


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