Central Maine Power Co. has been fined $360,000 for violating industry testing standards meant to ensure stability and prevent outages on its transmission system, based on a settlement approved last week by federal utility regulators.
The penalty was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It involves a settlement reached in April between CMP and the Northeast Power Coordinating Council, one of six regional agencies that work with the North American Electric Reliability Corp. to assure reliability and resilience on the continental grid.
The penalties were reported Tuesday by RTO Insider, an industry trade publication. Such incidents are not uncommon. At least three other utilities nationwide were assessed fines ranging from $50,000 to $420,000 for violations during the same month as CMP.
CMP said Tuesday that it had taken steps aimed at addressing the problems.
“We take our obligation to provide a robust and reliable transmission system very seriously and, as is expected of utilities, we self-reported these incidents and cooperated fully with the investigation,” the company said in a statement to the Portland Press Herald. “We have worked with our regulators to identify the root causes and have updated training on our processes and equipment performance to prevent future occurrences.”
System conditions were normal, and there were no emergencies on the CMP network when the violations took place. There was no harm reported as a result of either violation, according to the reliability council. It noted that CMP self-reported the violation and was cooperative during the enforcement process. It ranked the risk as moderate, but said the violations didn’t pose a substantial risk to the region’s bulk power system.
But the $360,000 settlement did reflect a history of noncompliance with CMP and its parent company, Avangrid, the agency said. This is the second time in two years that CMP has been cited for a similar problem.
In 2019, the NPCC assessed a $450,000 penalty against CMP and two other Avangrid utilities for violating the testing standards. The agency said it took that compliance history into account when assessing the current penalty.
The latest violations deal with a transmission operations standard meant to prevent “instability, uncontrolled separation or cascading outages that adversely impact reliability of the interconnection by ensuring prompt action to prevent or mitigate such occurrences.” The standard requires a real-time assessment of various data points by transmission operators at least once every 30 minutes.
Utilities are required to conduct these 30-minute assessments of their transmission facilities on a strict schedule to detect conditions that could lead to widespread power outages or other threats.
On Sept. 5, 2019, according to the NPCC, CMP lost communications with 10 substations at 9:35 a.m, after a cable was severed. Within minutes, ISO-New England, which operates the regional grid, notified CMP. But for various reasons, there was a lag in performing what’s called a real-time contingency analysis.
The second incident, on Feb. 12, 2020, involved a failure to conduct the test on time following an evacuation drill involving CMP’s control center. In this case, there was a mixup of whether the real-time testing had been done on schedule.
Workforce oversight was cited as a cause of both violations.
The agency said CMP and Avangrid should reorganize their operations department to ensure better interaction with compliance staff, among other actions.
The 2019 violations involved CMP, New York State Electric and Gas, and Rochester Gas and Electric. The utilities self-reported the incidents and no actual harm occurred.
The New York incidents took place on Nov. 27, 2017, and CMP’s occurred on Jan. 11, 2019.
The 2019 CMP incident was a data entry error that compromised monitoring systems. CMP immediately noticed the failure and fixed it after more than an hour, but didn’t notify ISO-New England as is required.
Tuesday’s news comes as CMP is under fire on several fronts.
Most pressing, the Maine Legislature is considering a bill that would force the sale of CMP and Versant Power and create a consumer-owned utility to serve most of Maine’s electric customers. The effort is strongly opposed by the two utilities.
The company also is fending off efforts to slow or stop construction of the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line project in western Maine.