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Proposed ‘Pine Tree Power Company’ would replace Versant and CMP with consumer-owned nonprofit

Bi-partisan legislation aims to lower costs for Mainers
Pine Tree Power Company could replace current ownership of Maine's grid.
Pine Tree Power Company could replace current ownership of Maine's grid.(Laura Bowen)
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 5:43 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2021 at 12:25 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Central Maine Power and Versant could be replaced with a nonprofit, consumer-owned utility under newly proposed legislation.

”Pine Tree Power, a Maine consumer owned utility working only for the Maine people, not Spain, not Calgary, and not profit-seeking investors in other parts of the world.” Representative Nathan Carlow (R- Buxton) was one of several lawmakers in front of the State House on Monday.

Republicans and Democrats announced legislation to create the Pine Tree Power Company, which would acquire the infrastructure of both existing investor-owned utilities in the state.

“This ownership model has been a disaster, draining money from Maine while leaving us with the most outages, the longest outages, the worst customer service, and among the highest rates in the country.” said Republican Senator Rick Bennett.

“Consumer owned utilities are lower cost, locally accountable, and twice as reliable.” said Representative Seth Berry (D- Bowdoinham) “Of the 12 top rated utilities in the country, 11 are consumer owned utilities.”

Maine already has nine consumer-owned utilities serving 97 towns including Calais and Kennebunk, but the majority of the state is serviced by CMP or Versant.

“Every month the 800,000 captive customers of CMP and Versant pay monopoly rent for the use of a monopoly grid.” said Rep. Berry.

“Instead of investing that money into grid upgrades, our major utilities send it abroad as profits to their shareholders.” said Representative Nicole Grohoski (D- Ellsworth)

Supporters of the plan say a study of the proposal found that Maine ratepayers could save over $9 billion over the next 30 years.

“This will no longer be a rental payment, but a mortgage payment.” said Berry.

The bill is expected to be introduced into the legislature soon, but supporters expect pushback from the existing utilities.

“So today we declare our independence, today we bid au revoir and adios to monopoly rent, and hello to consumer ownership. Today we embrace our future; we embrace our possibility; we embrace our power...the power of the majestic Pine Tree State.”

You can read more about the plan at ourpowermaine.org

When asked for comment, Versant Power and CMP released the following statements.

Versant Power remains strongly focused on providing safe, reliable service to our customers and the health and safety of our more than 400 essential workers in northern and eastern Maine.

Maine is working hard to make progress on renewable energy goals and mitigation of climate change, and Versant Power strives to be a trusted partner in those efforts. A government power takeover will threaten our state’s ability to do the work our citizens demand to keep pace with an evolving energy landscape.

Versant Power

Any initiative to introduce government-controlled power will cost Mainers a lot of money.

If this bill were to pass, and the state’s electric grid was seized, Mainers would be on the hook for billions of dollars- roughly $13.5 billion- with no guarantee of improved reliability or service.

Creating a government-controlled electric utility would represent the largest expansion of state government in Maine’s history, and adding politics to power delivery only adds problems for customers.

Central Maine Power

Versant Power is owned by ENMAX Corp, which is based in Calgary, Alberta.

Spain-based Iberdrola owns a majority share of Avangrid in Connecticut, CMP’s parent company.

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