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  • Quinn Malter

A Consumer-Owned Utility is Now Up to Mainers

According to J.D. Power, CMP has ranked dead last in customer satisfaction for the past three years, with Versant not doing much better. (Its 2020 score was even lower than Pacific Gas & Electric in California, responsible for last year’s Camp Fire and this year’s Dixie Fire.) The low ratings have a lot to do with CMP’s ever-growing pricetag. And with the ongoing controversy over the transmission corridor between Quebec and Massachusetts, it’s time we pursue a utility company that works for the people of Maine.

The Maine Legislature listened to the concerns of everyday citizens seeking a solution to their power troubles. Both the House and the Senate passed LD 1708, “An Act To Create the Pine Tree Power Company, a Nonprofit Utility, To Deliver Lower Rates, Reliability and Local Control for Maine Energy Independence.” However, Governor Mills vetoed the bill, calling it too rushed.

The future of a consumer-owned utility now rests in the hands of the voters. Pine Tree Power Company may go to a referendum as early as 2022.

There are several ongoing grassroots campaigns promoting the creation of a consumer-owned utility company in Maine. Our Power is leading the pack, starting its Citizen Initiative project in August to put Pine Tree Power Co. on the ballot in 2022. The organization argues that CMP and Versant currently charge their customers 58 percent more than one would pay to a consumer-owned utility, which also offers a more reliable grid, a faster transition to clean energy, and accountability to the people of Maine. Maine Public Power has begun canvassing in Cumberland County to collect the signatures needed for the referendum. Additional support has come from the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Every month, the 800,000 captive combined customers of CMP and Versant pay monopoly rent

for the use of a monopoly grid. With Pine Tree Power, we will pay a lower monthly bill,” said Representative Seth Berry, lead sponsor on LD 1708. “We will save money, invest in and improve the grid, and build our own equity.”

“The Pine Tree Power Company will restore democracy to our energy sector and provide Mainers with the only utility structure in the U.S. that has demonstrated the ability to deliver 100% clean energy to its customers — consumer ownership,” said Vaughan Woodruff, founder and former CEO of Insource Renewables and past chair of Maine’s solar industry trade group..

Power is more than a commodity on which private and foreign shareholders can profit. It is a necessity we rely on to light our homes, keep food fresh, and manage our daily lives. Mainers deserve a say in where their power comes from, and that starts with a consumer-owned utility.


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