Statement by Sharon Staz
Good afternoon, I’m Sharon Staz. I served as General Manager of the Kennebunk Light and Power District from 1998-2015. I am here today to express my strong support for creating Pine Tree Power, a consumer-owned, non-profit utility for Maine for the purpose of purchasing and then operating the assets of CMP and Versant’s for profit, shareholder owned utility monopolies.
Consumer-owned utilities, like the proposed Pine Tree Power company, are a tried-and-true way to deliver locally controlled, reliable power at lower costs. Consumer-owned utilities already serve 97 Maine towns, from Calais to Kennebunk and they have proven themselves nation-wide as well, bringing benefits to 1 in 3 Americans– from down east Maine to Nebraska, Florida, and California.
Like all consumer-owned electric utilities, Kennebunk Light and Power District is owned by its customers and dedicated to serving them as are our colleagues in all the communities we serve. Our Boards are elected by the people, and members serve terms of varying lengths on a rotating basis. At KLPD for instance, the term is 5 years with one member up for election each year.
Unlike CMP or Versant, all meetings of consumer-owned utilities are open to the public and welcome public input; all records are public too. COU’s are transparent, dedicated to putting the customer needs first by providing reliable power at the best possible cost.
Consumer-owned utilities operate as nonprofits, unlike CMP and Versant that seek the highest profits possible and send these returns – our money – from Maine to distant shareholders.
Kennebunk Light and Power is more reliable than neighboring CMP, while experiencing the same weather conditions as the rest of York County and Maine.
And KLPD customers receive great service while paying low rates Maine for power delivery – far less than those in neighboring towns who buy power from CMP. The same is true of customers of consumer owned utilities, including Madison Electric Works and those in northern and eastern Maine, who get electricity from the Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative that covers 77 towns spanning an area twice the size of Rhode Island surrounded by Versant.
Consumer-owned utilities listen to the customers they serve. When a customer comes to us with a concern over a bill or service, we are there to help them.
As proposed in the coming bill, Pine Tree Power will be completely separate from the state, just like all our existing nine COUs. It will be a nonprofit owned by customers but operated in the private sector. It will float its own bonds at extremely low interest, with no need for profit. It will not use state bonds, or state tax dollars.
Why does all this matter? It means that over time, we customers will pay half as much money to finance the infrastructure improvements we need, to strengthen Maine’s electric grid to support the needs of the 21st century, especially in the area of renewables and storage, and beyond.
Pine Tree Power will look to the future, making sure we meet our climate and connectivity goals. Our new bill puts this mission front and center.
The utility I managed, KLPD, looked to the future too. In 2014, it installed two solar-powered EV charging stations to help boost the tourist economy as well as to serve local residents. The solar arrays produce all the electricity needed for the charging stations, with surplus going back to the local distribution system, saving our customers money. In 2017, KLPD signed a 20-year purchase agreement to buy solar power from a new solar array built by NextEra energy and located in Kennebunk.
In 2016, consumer-owned Madison Electric signed a 25-year power supply agreement with IGS that built the array in Madison that will serve approximately 20% of the Town’s total needs.
In short, I think it is imperative that we establish Pine Tree Power to help Mainers protect our environment, lower costs over the long term, increase the reliability of the grid, and have a voice in the company we will own.