Central Maine Power’s parent company, Connecticut-based Avangrid, is discussing a possible merger with Pennsylvania-based utility PPL Corp. in a deal worth up to $67 billion.

The merger talks were first reported this month by the Financial Times, citing sources close to the discussions, but neither company confirmed the news and a call to an Avangrid spokesman in Maine, John Carroll, was not returned Tuesday night. The report did not describe what might be driving the merger talks.

Details of the possible merger were scant, and a deal was by no means assured, the sources told the Financial Times. It also was unclear how the deal might be structured, or if only some division of each corporation might be involved. If both companies combined all of their operations, it would create one of the largest energy companies in the United States and further consolidate utility ownership in New England and the mid-Atlantic.

The report of merger discussions comes at a tumultuous time for Central Maine Power and Avangrid.

CMP has been dogged by complaints of a lackluster storm response following a major wind and rain storm that knocked out power to nearly half a million people in October 2017, and accusations of faulty billing practices after customers reported receiving extraordinarily high bills that also brought a new round of regulatory scrutiny that continues today.

And last week, CMP’s website, a sore point for customers during the 2017 outage, again failed to provide timely, accurate information in the wake of a powerful storm. For some customers affected by the nor’easter Thursday, the company’s website said it would take decades for the power to be restored, with an estimate of Jan. 1, 2068.

CMP also is pursuing a $1 billion project to build a transmission line through western Maine. The project is still in the preliminary approval process, but it has garnered intense response from communities through which the proposed lines would run.

It was unclear what any possible deal could mean for Avangrid’s parent company, Iberdrola. The Spanish utility company, the world’s biggest wind power producer, owns more than 80 percent of Avangrid, Reuters reported.

Avangrid provides gas or electricity to more than 3 million customers in New England. PPL Corp. provides energy to roughly 10 million customers in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Great Britain.

In addition to the transmission line project and investigations into CMP’s billing and storm response, there also is an effort, led by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, for customers to take over CMP and the other state electricity provider, Emera Maine, and convert the for-profit businesses into a publicly owned utility. Berry, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, proposed legislation that would authorize the public takeover, but his bill was held over by the Legislature in its first session in the spring.

Legislators could rekindle the discussion during the upcoming short legislative session that begins in 2020.

 

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