climate change | decarbonization | energy economics | grid resilience | renewable energy | utility regulation

Statement by Nicole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth)

Most of us don’t think much about how we get our electricity until something goes wrong, but here in Maine, that happens all too often. Our electrical grid should perform day in and day out and not break the bank for Maine’s people, small businesses and competitive industries. Our grid is the backbone of our efforts to shift from using polluting fossil fuels to locally-produced clean energy as we electrify our economy in the face of a changing climate. Now, more than ever, we need a reliable and affordable grid.

Unfortunately, CMP and Versant Power customers aren’t served by a 21st century grid. The length and frequency of our power outages earn us the distinction of worst in the nation reliability. Our costs for electricity delivery are steadily increasing with no end in sight; case in point, Versant has just proposed a 25% rate increase. Instead of investing that money into grid upgrades, our major utilities send it abroad as profits to their shareholders.

But here in Maine, we have a group of not-for-profit, consumer-owned utilities that raise the bar. They provide reliable service at exceptionally low costs. Maine’s for-profit, investor-owned utilities — CMP and Versant — are charging Maine households 58% more than our consumer-owned utilities. That’s right, 58% more! In fact, if CMP and Versant charged the same average rate as our consumer-owned utilities, Mainers would save $155 million/year on their home electricity bills. We simply can’t afford to keep hemorrhaging profits to governments and shareholders in other parts of the world.

Maine’s consumer-owned aren’t managed by magicians. Without a mandate to earn income for shareholders, they can invest any profits right back into their systems. They can access low-cost capital through revenue bonds to make infrastructure upgrades. And they are managed locally and transparently, by our friends and neighbors. They really do have our best interests in mind.

We know we’ll need to expand our grid over the next few decades to handle more electricity. With Pine Tree Power company, Mainers can save $9 billion over the next thirty years by using the low-interest bonds available to a consumer-owned utility to build that infrastructure, according to a study by economist Dr. Richard Silkman. It’s like switching from high rent to a lower mortgage payment when you buy a house.

Today, I join my colleagues and a growing coalition of Maine people — including utility experts, business leaders, conservationists, and faith leaders — to support Pine Tree Power. We stand together because we know that Maine people want and deserve more affordable, reliable and cleaner electricity.

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