- Emera Maine has requested more than an 8% rate increase in its Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service territories, but staff of the Public Utilities Commission recommended launching an audit into how the utility is managed, Maine Public Radio reports.
- Staff pointed to the price of a new computer system, which ballooned from $17 million to more than $30 million, and the utility's outage rate, which placed it last among 103 utilities surveyed by the Edison Electric Institute two years ago.
- Last month, Emera Maine requested a $6.6 million increase to its distribution rates, effective 2017, to pay for system modernization and to account for lagging sales.
Emera Maine's rate request may result in a management audit, with staff of the PUC putting forth a draft order that describes a utility struggling to connect with customers and also keep the lights on.
The draft order describes "customer service problems which seem to have arisen over the
past couple of years," including missed bills, one-time fees reoccurring, improperly dated bills and improperly calculated sales tax. A new billing system, which had been estimated to cost $17 million, wound up with a price tag closer to $31 million. And the utility's outage rate is among the highest, according to a 2014 survey by EEI, which staff said "raises issues/concerns regarding the reliability of Emera Maine’s T&D system."
In 2014, the utility's overall System Average Interruption Frequency Index ranked worst in a survey of 103 utilities, with an average number of outages (after accounting for major storms), of 2.88 – with Bangor Hydro District notching 2.93 and Maine Public District at 2.71.
Staff has put forth a draft order asking the commission to find "it is appropriate to initiate a management audit of Emera Maine as part of this proceeding."
The audit would question whether the billing system was "planned and managed in a way that the project would come in on budget and on time," whether the company’s credit and collections and customer service functions are well-managed, and whether its distribution system is safe and adequate.
Correction: A previous version of this article said Emera Maine requested a $6.6 million increase to its base rates. That is incorrect. Emera Maine requested a $6.6 million increase to its distribution rates. The article has been updated to reflect that information.