Sierra Club backs consumer-owned power for Maine

We should replace profit-seeking utilities with a publicly managed nonprofit to meet climate goals.

By Matthew Cannon

Special to the Press Herald

Matthew Cannon is campaign and policy associate director for the Sierra Club Maine chapters.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change unequivocally shows we are not doing enough to address climate change. The good news: Maine has set ambitious climate goals, including a requirement to use 80 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. The bad news: Our current investor-owned utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant, are incapable of delivering on these requirements.

Our electric utilities have significantly delayed our transition to 100 percent renewable energy. They have nullified agreements with solar companies (which CMP is under investigation for), provided inadequate staffing in order to achieve higher profits, and fought the initial campaign for rooftop solar. Meanwhile, they seek excessive rate hikes of up to 25 percent without clearly demonstrating better performance or pursuit of climate goals, all with little public transparency. And, they continue to spend millions to ram through the CMP Corridor, which an overwhelming majority of Mainers just voted to stop.

Even though our utilities are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, they are profit-maximizing monopolies, shareholder-owned companies who are guaranteed a high rate of return on their investments by federal law. In the case of CMP and Versant, they’re owned by foreign banks and governments, and they operate to maximize investors’ profits — not the interests of Maine ratepayers.

Serving Mainers is not their top priority, by design. However, we the people bestowed this monopoly power, and most don’t know we can remove the privilege. A coalition of your neighbors and local organizations formed Our Power, and we need your help to bring power back to the people.

Instead of investor ownership, a consumer-owned utility is a far better business model. Governed by its customers and bold climate mission, the nonprofit Pine Tree Power Company can support renewables and electrification of homes and transit by borrowing money at a much lower rate and with more willingness – because it’s our utility. A democratic and transparent governance structure will incentivize lower rates and smart investments to improve our worst-in-the-nation power outages. As a bonus, Pine Tree Power will accelerate rural broadband expansion by allowing providers to use the poles for free.

Without shareholders, Pine Tree Power will use its access to low-cost capital to invest in a climate-ready grid. An independent analysis shows that Mainers will save $9 billion over the first 30 years, starting year one, thus keeping money here in the state that would otherwise go to distant shareholders.

We at the Sierra Club strive toward energy democracy: redistributing power, both literally and figuratively, with broad investments in all people and communities. If we stick with CMP and Versant, we are committing to:

• Low-income Mainers paying 19 percent of their income on energy bills

• Being charged 58 percent more than other, consumer-owned utilities in Maine just because we are in a different region (that’s $155 million per year)

• A dirty electrical grid that continues to harm the majority of Mainers – physically and financially

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Comment by Donna Amrita Davidge on December 1, 2021 at 6:10am
I have not had faith in Sierra club for years now since they started promoting wind power.. john Muir would be sadly disappointed.
Comment by Dan McKay on December 1, 2021 at 5:33am

The Sierra Club ( Not A Club) along with the media is an enemy of the people.

Comment by Art Brigades on November 30, 2021 at 8:14pm

Sierra Club: save the grizzlies. You're good at that. 

Stay out of the regulated utility and energy market businesses. 

Comment by Robert Feller on November 30, 2021 at 7:04pm

Matt Cannon is the posterchild for the expression "you can't fix stupid".  The Sierra Club is a Marxist organization that believes in the redistribution of wealth done by the climate alarmists forcing utilities to toe the line in the sand that they [the environmentalists] keep moving.  The concept of climate change only exists in the minds of liberal leftwing Marxists as a means to an end and the concept of having a utility company here made up of elected or appointed officials is a recipe for disaster.  The biggest problem is that the sheeple of Maine will follow because they believe in the big lie of solar and wind.  God help us.


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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We have the facts on our side. We have the truth on our side. All we need now is YOU.

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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

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