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State watchdog questions CMP’s smart meter claims

Central Maine Power says it's taking steps to improve its smart meter network, following the powerful October wind storm. (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) -- Central Maine Power says it's taking steps to improve its smart meter network, following the powerful October wind storm.

Now, two state officials tell the I-Team that the company is trying to change the facts of what happened during the storm.

As the October wind storm swept through the state, it knocked out power to more than 450,000 CMP customers, the largest outage on record.

The company says 97 percent of customers had power back in less than a week.

“We're really proud of that response, and part of that was possible because of the smart meter system,” spokesperson Gail Rice said.

In a press release this week, CMP says it's working to make its smart meter network even better, by adding things like back-up generators to key devices.

But in that same press release, CEO Doug Herling said, "At the height of the October wind and rain storm, the smart meter system gave us excellent data on the scope of damage."

Public advocate Barry Hobbins says Herling's claim is inconsistent with the company's own report, obtained by the I-Team, showing on October 31, the meter system was performing at 48 percent.

The report was submitted to a legislative committee, chaired by Representative Seth Berry.

“Once again we see why we cannot trust Central Maine Power, it's very hard for the Maine public to trust them when their story changes every five minutes,” Berry said.

In a December interview with Maine Public, a company spokesman said the system crashed.

“It just sort of flatlined,” spokesperson John Carroll said. “It stopped climbing and it was pretty clear we weren't getting any more information from it,"

Critics, including Hobbins and Berry, say the crash caused confusion and delayed repairs.

“We did get excellent data because we got much better data than we would have had in the past prior to the implementation of smart meters,” Rice said.

Spokesperson Gail Rice says even though the system wasn't working at peak performance, the smart meters still gave them a good picture of what was going on.

“It doesn't sound logical, but when we see so many meters not giving us signals that's a very clear indication of a widespread outage,” Rice said.

Still, Hobbins says CMP's assessment of how the system performed during the storm isn't accurate.

“In due respect to Center Maine Power company, they really have to get their act together, and just be frank and honest if they would do that, they would build the trust back to the customers,” Hobbins said.

CMP says it expects the system upgrades to make a big difference during major storms.

The goal is to reduce the amount of time it takes to get your power back on during an outage.

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