Voters in Maine overwhelmingly rejected scuttling the state’s for-profit utilities in favor of a public energy firm that may have been ruled by a board of elected and appointed officers.
The referendum was the nation’s first effort to interchange all privately owned utilities with a statewide nonprofit possibility. The proposed new firm, Pine Tree Energy, would have purchased out the belongings of Maine’s two investor-owned utilities, CMP and Versant, utilizing income bonds, taking up the distribution of 97 % of the state’s electrical energy.
“I got here right here excited to be working each day on this marketing campaign as a result of I’m terrified for my future and I would like a utility that’s going to be working for me,” Lucy Hochschartner, deputy marketing campaign supervisor and spokesperson for Our Energy, the group behind the poll initiative, instructed the Portland Press Herald. “That may have been Pine Tree Energy. It’s not and by no means has been and by no means might be CMP and Versant.”
The measure, known as Query 3, prompted heated debate within the months main as much as the election. Central Maine Energy and Versant Energy, the state’s dominant utilities, poured greater than $40 million right into a marketing campaign opposing the referendum, outspending Pine Tree Energy advocates 34 to 1. Political teams funded by the utilities and their mum or dad firms mailed flyers and aired adverts on TV, radio, and social media, urging Mainers to reject the measure, which might have successfully put the 2 firms out of enterprise.
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Opponents argued that ditching the established gamers would introduce unwelcome political affect into the state’s power system. In addition they stated the price of shopping for the utilities’ infrastructure — estimated at $8.25 billion to $13.5 billion — would result in greater charges for patrons and a decade or extra of authorized battles and bureaucratic delays. Our Energy, the advocacy group fashioned to rally across the referendum, known as such claims overblown, noting that they might have negotiated the bottom doable worth and any challenges may have been resolved inside three to 4 years.
The poll measure was the fruits of years of Mainers’ frustration with CMP and Versant. Each have been accused of exorbitant charges, extended outages, and poor customer support. Through the years, state regulators have repeatedly fined CMP for improperly sending disconnection notices and misbilling a whole bunch of 1000’s of shoppers.
Supporters of Pine Tree Energy additionally accuse the utilities of lobbying to delay local weather motion. Lately, clear power advocates have railed towards CMP for inflicting delays in connecting new photo voltaic initiatives to the grid. Our Energy stated a nonprofit, publicly owned utility would have higher served Maine by representing residents’ pursuits whereas offering decrease charges, improved reliability, and better funding in increasing the grid to accommodate extra renewables.
Query 3 supporters in Maine joined a rising motion of activists who argue that solely a publicly owned and managed energy grid can guarantee a speedy transition to renewables whereas prioritizing the wants and curiosity of customers. Public energy advocates from San Diego to Rochester, New York, heralded the referendum as the largest battle up to now within the combat for public energy and an inspiration for comparable efforts in their very own communities.
Hochschartner instructed Grist in October that even with a loss, the combat for public energy in Maine is way from over. Whereas the marketing campaign doesn’t have any clear subsequent steps mapped out, “What we do know is that our utilities have actual issues, and we are going to proceed to combat for the perfect path ahead for the folks of Maine,” she stated.