May 26, 2019
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Mills signs bills aimed at giving electricity customers more information

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Gov. Janet Mills speaks at an event in the Hall of Flags at the State House in Augusta on Monday.

Gov. Janet Mills signed 21 bills into law Thursday, including two that intend to improve customer billing practices and public oversight of transmission and distribution utilities such as Central Maine Power and Emera Maine.

With Mills’ signature, both laws will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. Legislative leaders expect to adjourn in mid-June.

LD 1003, An Act to Ensure Accurate Explanations of Electric Bills, directs the Maine Public Utilities Commission to adopt rules that require investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities to provide customers with a 10-year history of transmission, service rates and a statement of the total percentage change in rates over the 10 years. That information would need to be provided every year.

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CMP is owned by Iberdrola, a Spanish company, and Emera Maine is in the process of being sold by publicly traded Emera Inc. of Nova Scotia to privately held ENMAX Corp. of Calgary.

The utilities commission, which regulates electric utilities, also would need to adopt rules that require customer bills to clearly and prominently display its customer assistance and safety division’s toll-free number and a list of services available from that division.

The commission also would need to establish rules requiring an investor-owned transmission and distribution company to provide customers with a statement that corrects any information deemed to be misleading, deceptive or inaccurate.

The commission also would have to post the 10-year history of electricity rate components on its website.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham.

[How Central Maine Power failed its customers and still increased profits]

Berry said the bill addresses concerns that arose from how CMP represented recent rate increases to customers, as well as ongoing billing and metering problems.

An independent auditing firm found last December that CMP’s transition to a new billing system in October 2017 was not handled well and caused concern among customers. The commission has an ongoing investigation into the billing issues, which in some cases had customers paying as much as double what they had been the prior year.

“While it does not solve the more fundamental underlying challenges, LD 1003 will at least help ensure that utilities cannot misrepresent their regulated rates without some measure of accountability,” Berry said.

The second bill signed into law, LD 581, An Act to Direct Electric Utilities to Provide Comparative Usage Data on Customer Billing Statements, requires additional information on utility bill statements.

[Maine Senate bucks Mills by backing climate impact study of CMP corridor]

Sponsored by Rep. Walter Riseman, I-Harrison, the bill requires a transmission and distribution utility to provide information on customer utility billing statements about the previous 24 months of the customer’s energy use. It will compare same-month usage data between the first and second year of use.

“[This bill] requires major electric utilities to give consumers the tools to compare their electric consumption to last year’s usage,” Riseman said.

 



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