Central Maine Power Co. has been ranked dead last in the nation for electric utility residential customer satisfaction, according to a study released  Wednesday by J.D. Power.

J.D. Power said its 2021 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study was based on responses from 100,999 online interviews that were conducted from January to November this year. The survey targeted residential customers of the United States’ 145 largest electric utilities, representing more than 101 million households. Business customers were not included in the study results released Wednesday.

A spokesman for J.D. Power confirmed Wednesday that Central Maine Power, which delivers electricity to customers in central and southern Maine, was ranked last for large utility companies based in the East region of the United States and last overall in the nation for residential customer satisfaction. However, the study surveyed residential customers of only 145 electric utilities, and CMP pointed out that there are more than 3,000 utilities nationwide.

In the 2021 survey, CMP received 647 points, placing last among the 18 large utilities in the Eastern region. PPL Electric of Pennsylvania was first with 779 points. Versant Power, which serves utility customers in northern and Down East Maine, finished last in the Eastern region’s midsized utility category for customer satisfaction, with a score of 679. Scores were based on a 1,000-point scale.

Two years ago, Central Maine Power ranked last in a nationwide survey of business customers’ opinions of their utility companies by J.D. Power, which said it uses data, artificial intelligence and algorithmic modeling to evaluate consumers’ behavior. J.D. Power’s 2019 survey reached out to the business customers of 87 electric utilities around the country. CMP scored 639 points on a 1,000-point scale. The survey of businesses was based on 21,000 online interviews conducted from February to October with business customers who pay at least $200 a month on electricity.

CMP ranked last in the East for residential customer satisfaction among large utility companies in 2019. It scored 637 in the 2019 survey, the lowest score of any utility company surveyed that year.

Soon after the results of the 2021 J.D. Power survey were released Wednesday, Our Power, a grassroots group that is raising support for a consumer-owned, not-for-profit utility that would be called Pine Tree Power Co., issued a statement criticizing CMP and Versant. Our Power is working to collect the 63,067 signatures required to get a citizen initiative on the statewide ballot.

“These profit-driven utilities, with a monopoly to deliver electricity to Maine ratepayers, have failed us time and time again,” Bill Dunn of Yarmouth, an energy consultant, who is also a member of Our Power, said in a statement. “It is time to create a nonprofit, consumer-owned utility dedicated to providing Mainers with lower cost, locally controlled, more reliable, cleaner electricity.”

The Legislature passed a bill last spring to form a consumer-owned utility but it was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills.

“CMP and Versant serve their shareholders, not us,” Rep. Jennifer Poirier, R-Skowhegan, said in the release from Our Power. Poirier was a co-sponsor of the bill Mills vetoed. “We are their captive cash cow and they are laughing all the way to the bank.”

CMP officials point out that the survey was “perception based,” meaning that many of the residential customers surveyed had heard about the CMP brand as the result of the multimillion dollar advertising campaign opponents of the NECEC transmission corridor waged against the project. Those ads likely influenced the residential customers who participated in the J.D. Power survey, CMP said.

“When you get that level of bias against a company, it’s difficult to overcome. That obviously impacts the public’s perception,” Joe Purington, CMP’s new president and CEO, said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “Perception is important and we care very much about that.”

Despite the rankings, Purington said he remains committed to putting the customer first.

“I was here (with CMP in 2013) when CMP was No. 1 in the J.D. Power rankings, and I’m very confident that we are doing what we need to do to get back there. We are committed to providing our customers with exceptional service, and it will pay off, but it may take some time,” Purington said.


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