Maine State Senator David Miramant
Maine State Senator David Miramant
If there’s one thing Mainers can agree on up and down the state, it’s that we need change for our utilities. Time and time again, Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant have failed us. Between extended power outages during storms and unpredictable rate increases, it’s time the people of Maine took matters into our own hands. In any other instance, we would call CMP and Versant’s occupation of our electrical grid a monopoly, something inherently un-American. Furthermore, we’re facing a severe climate crisis, and we need to act immediately if we’re going to preserve our environment and natural resources for future generations.

That’s why I supported a bipartisan bill, LD 1708, “An Act To Create the Pine Tree Power Company: A Nonprofit Utility to Deliver Lower Rates, Reliability, and Local Control for Maine Clean Energy Independence.” LD 1708 will simultaneously restore the independence of the people and businesses of Maine and let us control our energy future. LD 1708 would establish a referendum that would go out to the voters of Maine to decide if we should purchase electrical grid leased by CMP and Versant and establish a customer-owned utility. A customer-owned utility is managed for gain of its customers, not for profit of stockholders, compared to an investor-owned utility, like CMP and Versant, which is managed for the profit of shareholders.

The customer-owned utility proposed in LD 1708, which will be called Pine Tree Power, would secure a better deal for Mainers. I hear a lot from you all with questions about this bill, so I want to clarify a few things.

The first of which is the cost of a customer-owned utility. LD 1708 is based on rigorous and intensive economic

studies. In order to make the necessary investments, Pine Tree Power will be funded through revenue bonds, like every other customer-owned utility in the country. These bonds will have extremely low interest rates, with no need for profit. These are some of the most secure financial investments we can make. This translates into future investments in our grid. Over the course of 30 years, Maine could save up to

$9 billion.

But what about customers? Take Kennebunk for example: They already have a customer-owned utility, and the average bill is $49 per month. But just across town lines in Kennebunkport, a municipality serviced by CMP, the average bill increases to $57 per month. How does that make sense? As of January 2021, CMP and Versant customers paid 58% more for residential service than people who utilize current customer-owned utilities. Furthermore, the Pine Tree Power Company will reduce the delays and the costs of pole access in our most rural areas and will work alongside internet providers to provide quality, high-speed internet across the state — something that is a necessity in today’s world.

The best way to ensure affordable energy is to invest in renewable energy. Pine Tree Power would take over the grid and be able to borrow at a fraction of the cost to make substantial changes to the power grid to accommodate clean energies, and help Maine hit our goals for 2030 and 2050.

Finally, the question of the environment. Many of you know this is an issue particularly close to my heart. Maine is one of the most beautiful and valuable places in the world, and we need to do everything in our power to protect our environment from the harmful effects of climate change. Pine Tree Power’s board would be elected by the people and for the people and would be dedicated to making the necessary investments to ensure clean, renewable energy for the people of Maine. This is happening with other customer-owned utilities in the country. In California, Sacramento’s customer-owned utility, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, has pledged to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030. Maine aims to reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030 and 80% or more by 2050. By investing in a customer-owned utility we can take climate action and make the necessary investments to our energy infrastructure a reality.

This bill passed in the House and in the Senate and is now headed to Gov. Janet Mills’ desk. If she signs it, the Maine people will be able to vote on if we want a customer-owned utility via ballot referendum. I sincerely hope the governor gives the Maine people the voice and power we deserve.

We must act swiftly if we want to preserve our planet. With an electrical grid in the hands of the Maine people, we can help ratepayers and our climate. It’s time for accountable, efficient and transparent utilities in Maine. It’s time for power to be with the people.

As always, if I can ever help you, your family, or your loved ones, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to connect you with resources or listen to an issue you’re experiencing. My email is david.miramant@legislature.maine.gov and my office phone is (207) 287-1515.