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November 19, 2020

Central Maine Power again ranks worst in US for business customer satisfaction

File photo Central Maine Power Co. ranks worst among U.S. electric utilities, for the third year, in an annual study of business customer satisfaction.

For the third consecutive year, Central Maine Power Co. ranks worst among U.S. electric utilities in an annual study of business customer satisfaction.

Despite a new marketing campaign and recent efforts to improve customer service, CMP received the lowest score — 692 on the study’s 1,000-point scale — among the 88 utilities that were evaluated nationwide by market research firm J.D. Power.

The study, released Wednesday, was based on responses from 18,500 online interviews of business customers in decision-making roles related to their utility companies, according to a news release. J.D. Power has conducted the study for 22 years.

Among seven mid-size utilities in the eastern U.S., CMP scored well below the average of 776. Potomac Electric Power Co., which serves customers in the District of Columbia and Maryland, ranked at the top of that category with a score of 798.

Across all regions and size categories, Georgia Power was awarded the highest score, 838. After CMP, San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric received the second-lowest score nationally, 713.

CMP and Pacific Gas & Electric also had the two lowest scores, respectively, in the 2019 study

Maine’s largest electric utility, CMP serves more than 620,000 customers in central and southern parts of the state. CMP is a subsidiary of Avangrid Inc. (NYSE: AGR) and headquartered in Augusta, with a dozen service centers, 280 substations and 25,000 miles of power lines.

The company has come under public fire in recent years, in response to weather-related outages, investigations into its billing practices, and its plan for a $1 billion, 145-mile electricity transmission corridor through western Maine.

Earlier this month, the plan received one of the final federal approvals necessary, and CMP said construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect might begin in a few weeks. Opponents of the plan, however, have begun a citizens petition to create a referendum potentially blocking the project.

In response to negative public attention it’s received, CMP launched a series of radio and TV ads last December, showing Mainers using electricity and reminding audiences of the efforts CMP workers make to provide reliable service. The ads were part of a larger initiative, dubbed Power On, to address customer concerns and operational problems.

Good news for rate-payers

Customers of both CMP and Versant Power will pay lower electricity supply rates next year under “standard offer” service, the Maine Public Utilities Commission announced this week.

Residential, small-business and medium-size business customers of CMP will all see their standard-offer rates decrease in 2021 by about 12%, the PUC said in a news release.

In the Bangor Hydro District of Versant Power, residential and small-business customers will pay supply rates that are about 10% less under the standard offer next year. Medium-size business customers in the district will see rates decrease 12%.

Large-business customers in the Maine Public District of Versant Power will receive a 6% decrease in standard-offer pricing. For other large-business customers of both utilities, standard-offer pricing will be indexed in 2021 to monthly market rates, as it was this year.

Electricity customers in Maine receive standard-offer service by default if they have not purchased electricity from another retail supplier or through an aggregator. The PUC arranges for standard-offer service through periodic competitive bid processes.

Versant, formerly Emera Maine, serves 159,000 customers in northern and Downeast Maine. The company was formed when Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine Public Service merged in 2014.

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