Jennifer Poirier of Skowhegan is a Republican state representative and member of the School Administrative District 54 board of directors. This editorial was originally published by the Portland Press Herald on June 26, 2021 and is republished her by permission of the author.
The Pine Tree Power bill, L.D. 1708, was not created quickly. It was crafted after much time and research. Legislators of both parties, alongside independents, worked collaboratively in the interest of the people of Maine to create a bill that would create energy independence and free the people of Maine from electricity monopolies.
The fact remains that hundreds of Mainers still struggle to pay electric bills from over a year ago. They have not received explanation of why their bills skyrocketed from under $100 per month to upwards of $400 or more. Many are faced with continuous threats of disconnection and demands of payment arrangements for excessive, inaccurate bills that have never been resolved. These problems are not being fixed.
Whatever happened to local control? It has become obvious that it is a bad idea to rely on foreign-owned companies to control our electricity system. These profit-driven utilities are just not designed to serve Maine people and businesses or to help us thrive and look out for our future needs.
These utilities have broken promises. Central Maine Power recently claimed that its No. 1 priority is to provide better customer service so it can regain our trust. But it is not getting any better — they are not fixing the problems!
Maine’s profit-driven utilities — CMP and Versant — both rank dead last for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power’s 2020 utility customer satisfaction survey. In this survey of 142 utilities nationwide, CMP and Versant each ranked worst in its class.
Maine deserves a better utility. Consumer-owned utilities are proven to be successful. Maine has nine consumer-owned utilities currently operating in the state. These consumer-owned utilities serve 97 towns in Maine. Their customer service and reliability far exceed both CMP and Versant. Advertisement
Pine Tree Power will answer to its Maine customers, not stockholders and investors. It will be made up of our neighbors and managed by Maine people, elected by Maine people. Pine Tree Power will invest its earnings back into Maine instead of sending them away to shareholders who are mainly in other countries.
Maine ranks dead last in the entire country in terms of electricity reliability. When the wind blows in Maine, a CMP customer loses power. Reliability has gone downhill since foreign ownership of electricity took place in Maine. The people of Maine clearly recognize that change is necessary.
Electricity is a basic, vital need to power our homes and businesses. Mainers support the creation of a consumer-owned utility, like Pine Tree Power. The people of Maine deserve to have their voices heard at the voting polls in November.
Gov. Mills has expressed concerns about a consumer-owned utility, yet every concern she listed has been addressed in the bill as written. A consumer-owned utility would face the same regulations and standards that CMP, Versant and other consumer-owned utilities do. The people of Maine would benefit from having a utility that is locally owned — one that will put profits into infrastructure improvement instead of stockholder wallets.
I am proud to be a cosponsor of this important legislation, and urge the passage of L.D. 1708 to give Maine independence from foreign electricity monopolies.