After an earlier deadlock, the Maine House of Representatives moved forward late Wednesday a compromise version of Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to ramp up performance standards on the state’s investor-owned electric utilities. 

The latest version of the bill needs final sign-off in the House and Senate next week, during the extra session days legislators just approved, before it heads to the governor’s desk.

The bill requires Central Maine Power and Versant Power to file data for quarterly “report cards” where the Public Utilities Commission can grade their performance on reliability, customer service and other metrics. If the utilities fall short consistently, the bill triggers a process for the PUC to consider replacing them with a new provider. 

The bill also includes new requirements for climate change plans from the utilities and a major, enforceable grid modernization plan from the PUC. And it strengthens protections for utility or contractor whistleblowers to report misconduct. 

The House initially couldn’t agree on any version of the bill — voting down the moderate Senate version and a more aggressive alternative from Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), and then moving to indefinitely postpone the bill. Democrats scrambled to find a middle ground, finally arriving at the compromise approved by both the Senate and House on Wednesday night. 

“This bill will ensure our utility companies put the needs of their customers first, that we’re planning a power grid that is reliable and ready for Maine’s independent energy future, and will help protect ratepayers,” bill sponsor Sen. Stacy Brenner (D-Scarborough) said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work that has gone into this bill, and I’m energized to see it move forward.”

The new version of the bill adds back an annual required evaluation of the report card data the utilities provide, though it stops short of mandating a full audit. And it requires the PUC to open an inquiry into whether the utilities should have to use competitive procurement processes. 

Advocates for stronger measures did not get other changes they had hoped for, such as higher fines for poor report card performance. But Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), one earlier critic of the bill, supported it on the House floor Wednesday in the name of climate action. 

“It is inconvenient to have to make hard choices, to make one another uncomfortable, to think new thoughts. But it is urgent. It is urgent because the lifeline to rescue our children’s future is electricity,” Berry said. “This is not the bill I would have written, but it is, now, a step forward.”