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PORTLAND, Maine — In the face of mounting criticism of Central Maine Power Co., an executive at the Spanish company that owns CMP said he is pleased with its financial performance and wants to focus on the future.
Pedro Azagra Blazquez, chief development officer at Iberdrola and a board member at Avangrid, made an appearance in Portland Thursday for a private update for 50 supporters of the New England Clean Energy Connect project, the proposed $1 billion hydropower corridor that will run through western Maine.
Iberdrola owns a majority share of Avangrid, the Connecticut-based company that is CMP’s parent.
He said he recognizes that CMP has had problems with billing and management, but wants to move forward.
“Let’s forget about what has happened. We just need to move on,” Blazquez told the Bangor Daily News. “We are very happy with CMP.”
Iberdrola is one of the largest utilities globally and operates in the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil and Spain. Iberdrola directly owned CMP until the end of 2015, when Avangrid was formed by the merger of Iberdrola USA and UIL Holdings. Avangrid is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.
Blazquez said CMP has doubled its net income and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the past 10 years and multiplied its capital expenditures by 70 percent.
The CMP hydroelectric corridor would run from Hydro-Quebec facilities at the Canadian border through western Maine to deliver hydropower to Massachusetts, which is paying for the project to meet that state’s own energy goals. The project has been criticized by those concerned about its environmental impact and its value to Maine.
But CMP has come under heavy scrutiny by ratepayers and lawmakers alike for poor customer service following the October 2017 wind storm. The Maine Public Utilities Commission at the end of January penalized the company $10 million for poor management and service. And a citizen’s group opposing the project recently submitted signatures to the Maine secretary of state’s office to get a question on November’s ballot aimed at stopping the project.
Some lawmakers asked in a recent meeting of the Legislature’s energy committee whether CMP was fit to keep running a utility in Maine.
Blazquez said the company already has had success implementing the $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Program, completed in 2015. The 440-mile transmission line runs through the southern half of Maine. Blazquez, who is now based in London, was a team member on that project when he was stationed in Maine from 2007 to 2010.
He acknowledged there have been problems at CMP. The appointment Wednesday of former CMP CEO David Flanagan to restore public trust in CMP is the first step in turning the company around, he said.
“This is one of many more steps we will be taking to make sure things that are going on now are going to turn around,” he said. He would not elaborate on what else was planned to improve service and management.
Blazquez also said Iberdrola is stepping up to help address criticisms by some CMP detractors about its role with CMP and questions about money from CMP flowing to a foreign parent.
“There are criticisms of Iberdrola and many things going on now,” he said. “It’s the right time to say we are here as well. We don’t have anything to hide. We are very proud of the company we have created.”
Blazquez said that before CMP was part of Avangrid, money made was invested back into the company. When parent Avangrid became public, it shared dividends with shareholders, he said.
He said Iberdrola has invested $3 billion into CMP over the past 10 years, and shareholders have invested about $200 million a year to maintain and improve safety, reliability and customer service.
Iberdrola is in the midst of a five-year plan to invest $40 billion into its operations worldwide by 2022. It did not release the amount of investment targeted for Maine.
Meanwhile, the New England Clean Energy Connect project is moving ahead. Last week, CMP contracted with three businesses to build wooden mats that could help move heavy equipment through the Maine woods. The contracts were worth $12 million.
“We’re getting close to awarding transmission contracts by the end of March,” said Thorn Dickinson, vice president of business development at Avangrid. He said Cianbro and IBEW 104 workers would be part of those contracts.
Dickinson on Thursday was named president and CEO of NECEC Transmission LLC, a new company to be separated from CMP to run the hydropower corridor business after all the regulatory approvals are in place. Tony Marone, current president and CEO of Avangrid Networks, was named chairman of the new company.