The Maine Public Utilities Commission paid a company $500,000 to study Maine’s electric grid, but the company should have been ineligible for the contract based on the commission’s own rules, according to interviews and a review of documents.
The electric grid study, which is scheduled to be delivered to the Maine Legislature by Saturday, is expected to help shape the debate over a proposal to banish Central Maine Power and Emera Maine from the state.
The $500,000 contract required the winning bidder to evaluate the pros and cons of converting Maine’s two investor-owned electric utilities to consumer ownership. In its request for proposals last summer, the commission wrote that any firm that had worked for Central Maine Power or Emera Maine in the past five years was ineligible, to avoid any conflicts of interest.
But the winning bidder, London Economics International, did work for Emera Maine in 2018, for which it received nearly $37,000. It should have disqualified London Economics from getting the contract.
Commission chair Phil Bartlett said London Economics International failed to disclose its work for Emera Maine to the commission.
But, he added, the “limited scope of work” the firm did for Emera Maine “does not appear to create the kind of conflict of interest that would jeopardize [London Economics International’s] independence.”
“Nonetheless, we will thoroughly review the matter,” Bartlett said.
London Economics International did not respond to a request for comment.