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Sierra Club Maine Endorses Citizen-Led Coalition Effort to Create a Consumer-Owned Electric Utility

  • Oct 22, 2021
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Targeted News Service (Press Releases)

PORTLAND, Maine, Oct. 22 (TNSOps) -- The Sierra Club issued the following news release on Oct. 21, 2021:

The Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club endorsed Our Power's groundbreaking effort to put power back in people's hands by creating a statewide, consumer-owned utility (COU). The 2022 ballot referendum would create The Pine Tree Power Company, a locally-owned, not-for-profit electric utility for parts of Maine currently served by Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant.

Our Power is a coalition of ratepayers, businesses, energy experts, conservationists, community members, and dozens of grassroots organizations coming together for lower rates and a more reliable, cleaner grid.

As our utility, The Pine Tree Power Company would be governed by a publically-chosen board, accountable only to Mainers it serves, and focused on meeting goals for clean energy independence, lower costs, increased reliability, and improved internet.

The current Maine investor-owned utilities, CMP and Versant, have failed to respond to the climate crisis, fighting clean power at every turn and leaving Maine with the least reliable grid in the nation, the worst customer satisfaction for three years running, and the tenth highest overall rates in the nation.

In contrast, COUs are leaders in reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change. Currently, more than 50 communities nationwide--an increase from just six in 2016-- are powered by 100% clean, renewable electricity. Several of those 50 cities (https://innovation.luskin.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/100-Clean-Energy-Progress-Report-UCLA-2.pdf) are served by a COU, including the Municipal Utility District in Sacramento, California that recently announced its own plan to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2030.

The effort of creating a statewide COU began three years ago when advocates pushed for the people of Maine to have a say in their energy future. The Maine Legislature, with bipartisan majority in both chambers, passed a bill in alignment with these goals in a historic first-in-the-nation vote. However, Governor Mills' vetoed the measure and the Legislature failed to override the veto, triggering Our Power's citizen-led campaign.

Our Power has more than 35 Maine organizations, towns, cities and businesses in their membership and has secured the national endorsements of 350.org, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, American Public Power Association as well as Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, author, educator and environmentalist. As part of the coalition, the Sierra Club's Ready For 100 campaign advocates for an equitable and affordable energy system powered by 100% clean, renewable energy.

Right now, Our Power is focused on recruiting volunteers. Sign up now (https://ourpowermaine.org/take-action/) to join fellow Mainers in gathering signatures to put the Pine Tree Power proposal on the ballot. The goal is 80,000 signatures by January.

In response, the ballot initiative's primary legislative sponsor, Representative Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) commented:

"Our monopoly electrical grid is the lifeline of our shared energy future. It is critical infrastructure -- essential to our security and our very survival. Someday, our children and grandchildren will look back and ask: did we do the right thing, when we had the chance? Did we, here today, set Maine on the right course for future generations? This bill and the coming referendum are Maine's chance to lead at this decisive moment in our energy and climate history."

In response, Our Power coalition member, author and advocate Sue Inches said:

"This initiative is about bringing our electric utilities back home. Maine needs to invest billions in the grid to accommodate the increased electricity demand from electric vehicles and clean heating and cooling that we will see over the next few years. The most affordable and transparent way to do this is through a Maine-owned and managed utility."

In response, Kass Rohrbach, Director of Sierra Club's national Ready For 100 Campaign, released the following statement:

"Creating a consumer-owned utility will create a democratic and transparent path for Maine residents to pursue a just, equitable, and clean energy transition. A consumer-owned utility can power electric transit, home heating and industry with a more affordable and cleaner grid. This ballot measure will switch Maine from an unreliable utility model, save money by eliminating unnecessary investor payouts, and create a direct line of public oversight."

Disclaimer: Paid for by Sierra Club Maine, P.O. Box 88 Belfast, Maine 04915

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