Quick Take: Listen carefully to today's lesson, class. Pencils ready? Here it is: When talking to regulators, first under-promise. Then over-deliver. And never, ever do it in reverse. For extra credit, you can read the story of Central Maine Power's worsening feud with its PUC at the Portland Press Herald. - By Jesse Berst
Maine's Public Utilities Commission contends that Central Maine Power Co. (CMP) has mismanaged its smart-meter program. Instead of saving customers money, the program has cost them millions of dollars by failing to provide energy saving or operational benefits. For instance, claims the PUC, few customers are using the energy information provided them. Nor are they shifting their energy use to off-peak times.
The 600,000-meter project cost nearly $200 million, of which about half was picked up by a federal stimulus grant. When it sought PUC approval in 2009, CMP estimated ratepayers would save $25 million over 20 years. The PUC claims that, far from saving, the program will cost ratepayers $80 million. As a result, the PUC has voted to audit the program to see if it is providing the paybacks originally promised.
For its part, CMP says the program was on time and on budget. It says the meters are already delivering benefits and will provide even more in the future. What's more, CMP says it has already endured 13 separate audits, both internal and federal, none of which uncovered any problems.
Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.
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