Maine Power for Maine People: clean, consumer-owned, local jobs
LD 1646, “An Act To Restore Local Ownership and Control of Maine’s Power Delivery Systems”
Sponsored by: Representative Seth Berry; Cosponsored by: Senate President Troy Jackson
Additional cosponsors: Representatives Victoria Doudera, Nicole Grohoski, Brian Hubbell, Christopher Kessler and Deane Rykerson; Senators Nathan Libby, Marianne Moore and David Woodsome.
Controlling our energy future
Maine now has an exciting new solution to our energy problems. A new bill (LD 1646) will create the Maine Power Delivery Authority (MPDA), a new consumer-owned utility. Around the country, consumer-owned utilities (COUs) provide reliable electric power to three-in-ten American house- holds. On average, customers of COUs like the proposed MPDA pay 13 percent less than households that buy their power from investor-owned utilities such as CMP and Versant (Emera).
Savings in Maine are even greater. Residential COU customers here — in 97 towns from Calais to Kennebunk — pay 18 percent less for electricity delivery than households relying on CMP and Versant (Emera).* If investor-owned companies matched the lower residential delivery rates charged by Maine’s COUs, we’d free up $70 million a year to invest in a better power system.
This system – usually called “the grid” – is the key to Maine’s energy future. For a true zero-carbon economy by 2050, we must substitute renewable electricity for heating oil, gasoline, and other fossil fuels. Since almost all our emissions today are from outside the grid, this shift will at least triple our need for clean, electric power.
To carry the added load, leading Maine energy economist Dr. Richard Silkman projects that our grid will need new investments of $10 to $15 billion. He notes that CMP and Versant (Emera) would provide this money at 8 percent interest, passing the costs along to their customers – us.
As a non-profit, MPDA could borrow at only 3 percent. Over 30 years, Silkman shows, that lower rate reduces our cost by at least $5 billion. We simply can’t afford to pay CMP’s and Versant’s (Emera) higher charges and also meet our goals for better service, greater reliability, and a low-carbon energy future.
Maine Power for Maine People
- At a fair price, MPDA will buy the facilities now owned by CMP and Versant (Emera) Maine using low-interest revenue bonds. No tax money or state guarantees are involved. These bonds will be backed solely by MPDA’s revenue from delivering electricity. It’s like refinancing your mortgage at a lower interest rate.
- Existing contracts for CMP and Versant (Emera) workers will be honored. New employees will be added to improve service, reliability, and emergency response.
- MPDA will be a Maine utility owned by Mainers that reinvests its revenues in Maine. It will be transparent and responsive to us, not to investment-fund managers sitting in a distant corporate boardroom. Like other Maine COUs, it will be independent — not government run.
- As a consumer-owned utility, MPDA will be eligible for federal disaster assistance after major storms. In contrast, investor-owned utilities like CMP and Versant (Emera) charge their captive customers to repair the damage.
Putting Mainers in the driver’s seat
- MPDA will be overseen by an independent, not-for-profit board. Their legal and fiduciary responsibility will be to the customer first and last – not to the investors first and the customer last.
- Everyone can have a voice in MPDA’s decision-making. Its meetings will be open and transparent. Its records will be available under Maine’s Freedom of Access laws.
- MPDA’s operations will be managed by highly qualified professionals under Board supervision. Operating contracts will be awarded by competitive bid to companies that can best deliver impeccable service, good-paying jobs, and lower costs.
- Maine’s existing cooperatives and other consumer-owned utilities will continue to operate like they do today in the areas where they serve.
- MPDA will pay its taxes, like all other businesses. As amended, municipalities will not lose revenue from LD 1646.
- The proposal protects current and past employees. They will maintain their seniority and pensions under MPDA’s ownership.