While Mainers overwhelmingly voted down a referendum to replace the state’s two largest utilities with a publicly owned utility, one thing was clear: Mainers want more from their utilities, and they want to know how they’re going to be held accountable going forward.

These are valid questions that we have been working to address for some time. While we evaluate utility performance, cost and climate impacts in all our cases, we know concerns about reliability, cost and climate are increasingly front of mind for customers.

Comprehensive service reliability metrics became law in 2022, and we’ve been working to implement them by establishing new reliability benchmarks, a customer survey and utility report card. The benchmarks will help ensure that minimum standards are met, and the new customer survey and utility report card will improve transparency and solicit customer input.

We heard from many of you over the summer as we considered distribution rate increases for CMP and Versant. We heard your struggles to pay your electric bills with inflation driving up everyday costs. We heard about the challenges you face during power outages and the importance of improved reliability. We considered all of that input. The final approved rates increased by much less than originally proposed. Both case decisions include plans to improve reliability.

To ensure that happens, we approved the strictest service quality standards we have ever seen in a rate case, with built-in penalties if they are not met. Those standards include the frequency and duration of power outages, customer service, billing accuracy, and timelines for field service requests. If Versant or CMP doesn’t meet a metric, they will pay a penalty back to customers.

We understand customers need to see tangible benefits when utilities make investments in the electric grid, and they should get money back when utilities fail to deliver. As customers increase reliance on electricity, including for heating and transportation, and significant investments are needed to transition to clean energy, it is imperative that customers see the value for the rates they pay. Performance metrics and accountability for meeting them will become a regular feature of rate cases so that customers can be confident their utilities are investing wisely.

To help reach Maine’s climate goals, we conducted two large-scale renewable energy procurements for more than 950 megawatts of power; approved new electric rate designs to support beneficial electrification; moved forward two large renewable energy projects in northern Maine; and initiated proceedings on grid modernization to ensure our utilities are investing in the grid Maine will need for a successful and affordable clean energy transition.

We are also focusing on reliability and resiliency in the grid planning case we opened at the direction of the Legislature. This process will help us identify challenges in connecting renewable projects to the electric grid and in planning for increased electricity demand as Mainers install heat pumps and purchase electric vehicles. As part of CMP’s annual compliance filing, the commission is looking specifically at whether CMP’s storm restoration costs were incurred prudently. It’s always a struggle to balance cost and speed during power restoration, as bringing in additional line crews comes at a cost to electricity customers. Too few line crews can delay restoration, which can be costly for businesses and pose a safety hazard and an inconvenience for residential customers.

We will continue to hold utilities accountable, and we want to hear from you in the process. In 2024, we will hold forums where you can voice your opinions, share experiences, and offer suggestions. We encourage you to listen to our proceedings, most of which are livestreamed on our website, and to file comments, which can also be done through our website. Mainers deserve great service from their electric utilities, and we will take the actions necessary to ensure they deliver affordable, safe and reliable electricity to Maine households and businesses.

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