Rob DuPaul of Sanford says the furnace which he had installed in 2012 was one of many steps he has taken over the years to try and have a more energy-efficient home. When his electricity bills became erratic and expensive, he got no satisfactory answers from Central Maine Power. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Rob DuPaul was struggling to make ends meet even before his power bill blew up.

In the winter of 2017-2018, the self-employed Sanford carpenter wasn’t finding much work. A divorce and child support had drained an already modest bank account. The mortgage company was calling; a foreclosure was looming.

It was a terrible time for DuPaul’s monthly Central Maine Power bill to double, then triple.

“Money was tight, and I had no way to predict what it was going to be, because one month it would be a normal bill, like $100, and the next month $400 without doing anything different,” DuPaul said. “I’m tired of choosing to pay my mortgage, heat or electric. I’m tired of being behind.”

While others trace their CMP billing problems to the October 2017 windstorm, DuPaul said his bill became erratic when CMP replaced his electricity meter a year earlier.

“One month my electricity bill was $1,500,” DuPaul said. “I couldn’t believe it.” 

To help lower costs, he updated most of his appliances – refrigerator, oven, stove, air conditioner, hot water heater, washer and dryer, lighting – with new energy-efficient models. But the high bills persisted. Frustrated, DuPaul called CMP for help multiple times without resolution.

A customer service representative ran through a list of possible reasons for high bills: faulty appliances (no), a new home-based business (no), air conditioners (he runs two new ones now instead of six old ones), swimming pool or hot tub (no), busted meter (no, it checked out fine).

DuPaul was desperate to find a way to cut his utility bills. He and his new wife, Elizabeth, didn’t need a big house, so they decided to sell the place to pay off his debt and avoid bankruptcy. But the huge utility bills sent prospects running for the hills.

Elizabeth and Rob DuPaul of Sanford dropped their home’s selling price from $134,900 to $119,00, but high electric bills deterred prospective homeowners. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

He dropped the price twice, from $134,900 to $119,000, but no takers.

DuPaul ended up filing for bankruptcy in June and emerged from it last fall, but he still has not paid off CMP – he owes them about $4,000. He said he will pay his debt or at least a good chunk of it, when he finishes a couple of home repair jobs he has lined up. Or when he sells the house, which he recently put back on the market. If CMP shuts his power off before he makes good, DuPaul says he will run his home off a gas-powered generator.

“It would be expensive, but I hate thinking that CMP broke me, you know?” DuPaul said.