LEWISTON — A draft order from the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued Friday calls for an audit of Central Maine Power’s smart-meter program.

Prepared by PUC staff, the order must be approved by a vote of the commission. It outlines concerns that the power company’s efforts to modernize its power grid by installing so-called smart meters will cost the company an estimated $99 million.

The PUC first approved CMP’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure project in 2011 under the premise that the new meters, which can be monitored remotely, would save the company an estimated $25 million over 20 years.

That new estimated cost is one of the reasons CMP is asking the PUC to approve a rate increase for customers to whom it delivers power. The rate increase would add about $2 to the average CMP bill. The company has said it needs the increase to help cover the costs of the installation of 615,000 smart meters.

The meter upgrade was approved by the PUC because 50 percent of the project’s estimated installation costs were to be paid with U.S. Department of Energy grants aimed at improving grid reliability. 

Harry Lanphear, a spokesman for the PUC, said if the commission votes to approve the audit, a third party would be hired to conduct it, as required by state law.


Lanphear said the deadline is June 6 for comments from those who would be affected by the draft order or others with interest in the case.

Barring any significant comment being filed, Lanphear said he expected the commission to decide on the audit later in June.

“This shift from a net ratepayer benefit at the time (the Advanced Metering Infrastructure project) was authorized to a substantial net increase in costs now that the project has been completed and CMP is seeking to reflect it in its rate is of great concern to the Commission,” the draft order notes.

Lanphear confirmed that the commission in its audit would attempt to determine how a program that was approved because it would save money had instead cost substantial amounts and was the impetus for a rate hike.

Attempts to reach Central Maine Power’s public relations spokesman were unsuccessful Friday.

Opponents of the smart meter program say the radio frequency the meters emit causes insomnia, headaches and a host of other health issues. One opponent said Friday he was skeptical the PUC would order the audit.

“I’m taking bets on whether the PUC will grant CMP a rate increase as per usual despite all of the problems. I say yes, and hope I’m wrong,'” Ed Friedman, an intervenor in the case and an organizer with the Maine Coalition to End Smart Meters said in a prepared statement.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: