Campaign Gathers Signatures to Start Consumer-Owned Utility in Maine
Thursday, June 30, 2022
A campaign in Maine is gathering signatures to replace the state's investor-owned energy grid with a consumer-owned utility.
Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant serve the majority of Maine utility customers, but they consistently rank lower for customer satisfaction, have more frequent power outages and have high rates, compared to consumer-owned utilities.
Seth Berry, former Democratic state representative from Bowdoinham and former House chair of the Maine Legislature's Energy Committee, left office recently to work on getting the initiative on the 2023 ballot. It is based on a bill, passed in 2021 to invest in a consumer-owned utility, but vetoed by the governor.
"This is a great opportunity for us to change it up and say, at least here in Maine, we're going to be independent," Berry explained. "We're going to have local control. It's a better business model, has proven to work better and that's where we're heading. "
Berry pointed out the campaign is on track to have enough signatures. Opponents argued a publicly-funded model would be too expensive.
But Berry noted CMP and Versant charge 58% more for service than consumer-owned utilities, which are currently in 97 Maine towns.
"They have better reliability, their customers are happy," Berry emphasized. "If they're not happy, they have a way to walk right into that board meeting and complain about it, which you certainly can't do with CMP; their governing board is actually based in a skyscraper in Spain."
He added as Maine looks to move toward improving the power grid, it is important to have accountability. Research showed by removing the profit incentives for current investor-owned companies, Mainers could save up to $9 billion over 30 years.
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