Powering Strong Communities
Community Engagement

Kennebunk Light & Power District’s Relationship with Customers is “One of Its Greatest Assets”

Maine public power utility Kennebunk Light & Power District’s relationship with its customers is one of its greatest assets, said Anna Henderson, General Manager of KLPD. 

“KLPD regularly engages with its customers through its website, newsletter, and email. KLPD also utilizes social media to reach its customers,” she said in a recent Q&A with Public Power Current.

“The benefits of public power are well known in the community. The KLPD board of trustees are elected as part of the local government election. As part of this process, KLPD’s customers are provided with information annually about its governance structure and the role of public power in their community,” she noted.

KLPD staff work very hard to be responsive to customer needs “and often exceed expectations. Our bulletin board is filled with expressions of appreciation from our customers. Baked goods are delivered to the office during the holidays and after storms,” Henderson said.

KLPD is also involved in community events. “We help with Christmas tree lighting in a local park. We pass out candy at Halloween when the main street is closed and thousands come to trick or treat.”

Over the weekend of May 4, KLPD staged a May Day Festival parade where information about the utility and energy efficiency was distributed.

History Can be Traced Back to 1893

Henderson noted that KLPD is a quasi-municipal entity.

Its history can be traced back to 1893 as the Town of Kennebunk Electric Light Department. In 1951, with approval from the State Legislature, KLPD separated from the town and became a district.

The general manager reports to a five-member elected board of trustees and is responsible for the entire operation of the District.

The District is a distribution utility serving over 7,500 customers in Southern Maine. KLPD has twelve employees (seven operational and five administrative).

In addition to the distribution system, the District owns three small hydroelectric stations on the Mousam River. These hydro facilities are no longer producing power. A surrender application filed by the District in 2021 is pending at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

KLPD’s power supply needs are met through purchase power agreements. The district is regulated by the Maine PUC.

Henderson started in her role as general manager in September 2023. “Like most recently hired managers, I am focusing my attention on meeting deadlines, learning about current practices, and developing relationships with employees, customers, peers, community partners, regulators, and other stakeholders,” she said.

Response to Recent Nor'easter

In early April, a nor'easter knocked out power to utilities in Maine including KLPD.

Henderson detailed the mutual aid efforts that were implemented to restore power to KLPD’s customers and discussed her role in the power restoration and mutual aid coordination activities.

Outage notifications started coming in early in the morning on April 4. Strong winds and heavy-wet snow broke poles and brought down trees and limbs into power lines.

“It became clear early in the storm that the restoration efforts with existing crews would take weeks,” she said.

Through the Northeast Public Power Association mutual aid program, KLPD was able to get assistance from nine additional mutual aid crews.

KLPD’s tree-trimming contractor, Asplundh, supplied an additional two tree crews “to augment the crew that we have in the district full time.” With this additional support KLPD restored power to all customers impacted by the storm in approximately 48 hours.

The mutual aid and tree crews responded quickly “and we struggled to find hotels and restaurants to house and feed them during the storm. KLPD is extremely grateful that several businesses in the community stepped up to provide for the additional workers,” Henderson said.

“Because KLPD is a small utility, during large storms the general manager is hands-on. For example, during this storm, I coordinated with emergency management and emergency responders to dispatch crews as needed. I requested mutual aid crews,” she noted.

“I provide direction to ensure a safe working environment for the crews. I work to ensure that resources are available to crews as needed. I surveyed damage and relayed information to the crews for response prioritization. I draft communication to customers about restoration efforts.”

She visited the warming shelter to discuss the response efforts directly with customers. “I book hotel rooms and deliver lunch to the staff. After the event I participate in briefings with mutual aid responders, emergency managers, and first responders on lessons learned.”

Service Territory is Growing

KLPD’s service territory is growing. “Southern Maine real estate is in short supply and KLPD is busy keeping up with the pace of new development,” Henderson said.

The utility is keeping busy with a number of ongoing projects.

KLPD’s deployment of AMR meters began in the fourth quarter of 2023 and the project is expected to be completed early in 2025.

Simultaneously, the District is updating its GIS program and pursuing an outage management system that will help KLPD respond to outages and communicate with customers more efficiently.   `

And KLPD took advantage of federal and state rebates to purchase an electric vehicle, a Ford Lightning. It is the first electric vehicle in the District’s fleet, “and an ideal fit as a general crew vehicle in our small district,” she said.