- Quinn Malter
It's Time for a Consumer-Owned Utility in Maine
This month’s election saw one of the highest turnout rates for a referendum-only ballot in Maine’s history, and much of that was propelled by the very controversial CMP corridor debate. CMP and its partners spent over $60 million to sway voters in its losing bid at the ballot box.
Mainers overwhelmingly rejected the corridor in a 59-41 vote. But CMP isn’t giving up that easily. At the risk of losing its profit on the project, Avangrid (CMP’s Connecticut-based parent company) has sued to challenge the constitutionality of the referendum. Avangrid is a subsidiary of Spanish power giant Iberdrola.
And then there’s CMP’s track record with its customers. According to J.D. Power, CMP has ranked dead last in customer satisfaction for the past three years, with Versant (Maine’s other major utility company) not doing much better. CMP’s 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 price tag, combined with its poor track record for customer service.
It’s clear that Central Maine Power is not here for the people of Maine. If it was, it wouldn’t be spending $60 million to pass Question 1 and then sue when they don’t get their way. Rather than maintaining a company that prioritizes its shareholders and out-of-state business over its customers, it’s time we make the push for a public-owned utility to deliver more affordable electricity to Maine families.
There are several ongoing grassroots campaigns promoting the creation of a consumer-owned utility company in Maine. Our Power started its Citizen Initiative project in August to gather signatures and put Pine Tree Power Co., vetoed by Governor Mills in July, 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 also begun canvassing 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.
As we transition away from fossil fuels, having access to affordable electricity is becoming more and more critical for Maine’s working families. Mainers deserve a say in where their power comes from. They deserve a consumer-owned utility.