This November, Maine voters will weigh in on a ballot measure that would replace the state's two big investor-owned power utilities with a single public, nonprofit utility called Pine Tree Power. I talked with state Senator Nicole Grohoski about the rationale behind the measure, what voters could get out of it, and what other states can learn from it.
As a Mainer, I am glad that you are covering this! The parent company of CMP is Avangrid, and its CEO made $4,849,985 total compensation in 2022. The average income of a Mainer is $57,790. Avangrid's board members average $200,000 per year each, for just 9 meetings. The $187 million in profits from CMP and Versant are sent out of state to pay for this extra layer of outrageous compensation. There is also management paid in-state, but CMP won't divulge their numbers. Why not? The slick tv ads opposing the citizen Pine Tree Power initiative only cement my suspicion that there has been a gravy train here in Maine for utility executives and they are terrified to lose it. I strongly believe that it is time to get executive pay back to reasonable levels in all Industries and here is a good start.
Could it be that Mainers have looked longingly at Hydro Quebec (one public utility for the whole province)? David, perhaps you are familiar with Washington State's public power law? Passed in 1930 with great opposition from the investor-owned utilities, it allows PUD's to form and condemn the assets of private utilities in their district. About half of Washington's public electric utilities were formed this way until it was found to be less costly to negotiate. This law is still on the books and was how our most recent PUD was formed in 2012. The 1930 story is well told in "People, Politics, and Public Power" by Ken Billington.
Living Downeast, this is a compelling argument for Maine to have the first statewide public-owned nonprofit utility called #PineTreePower - a step on our ballot on November 7. Solid questions from David, including how do get far more distributed renewable generation and transmission lines in the state with a utility board of local elected officials (facing local NIMBY forces) running things? Nicole's answer is pretty weak and aspirational. We'll see.
What a horrible idea! If they think that their system is bad now, wait until a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats get control of it. It is simple minded to think that government will improve anything.
Nice how ratepayers have to cough up $27M to finance a campaign against their interests!
My one satisfaction is that there probably is a big overlap in the 70% who voted down Pine tree with the 60% who voted against a corridor to bring low carbon Canadian hydro-power through the state, into high-density population areas in NE.
That 60%, thankfully, will not get their wish on the corridor. The same power elite that bamboozled 70% voters into voting this way on something the power elite didn't like - also owns the system such that the Maine Supreme Court has ruled that the corridor will go through anyway. Which is a good thing and shows that an evil power-elite can trip across a good thing now and then...
I'm trying to come up with a "Stopped watch is right twice a day" kind of saying that uses this idea. Even anti-democracy Evils can trip across a good thing... Especially at a time when the US electorate sucks so bad.
First thing I checked this morning was to see if this passed. Disappointed to see it did not. I guess that's what millions of dollars can do for utilities..
This is an issue in many States. I am in Rhode Island which has forward thinking Senators but crony legislators. We have National Grid Power and have seen rates rise dramatically in the last year with another large increase upcoming. Clearly, "Regulated Power" is only regulated in having incentives to soak the public. My office has 7-10 power outages in a year and the PUC does not even respond to complaints. The power outages have cause huge financial losses with HVAC shutdowns, freezes and downtime for offices. Their usual excuses are that a branch hit a line (they are paid to make sure this does not happen) or there is wind! Do we live in Bangladesh?!! I am a Surgeon and have seen the dramatic affect that "Controls" and Lobbying have done to our medical system which is horribly corrupt. We have "Health Care Companies" which are 100% antitrust exempt since 1937, with overhead running in the 20-25% range depending on State. Medicare has a 4% overhead. No comparison! The Insurance Industry steals health care dollars from Patients to Lobby against them! The Politicians are on the receiving end of the Lobbying and have little incentive to change this. Power companies are little different. They simply hide behind the supposed "regulated" veil. The solution is simple. Rescind Lobbying (not allowed in our original Constitution), and Fix Term Limits also in the original Constitution. Nobody should be allowed to be a Senator more than two terms. We now have a Senate and House filled with mummies who are simply puppets for Lobbying and big money.
Dave, I really enjoyed this conversation and it left me wondering how Green Mountain Power is structured and operated to (seemingly) provide to a lot of great work for Vermonters. They mostly use renewable sources of power and do stuff like test and deploy lots of Tesla batteries relatively in expensively with their customers. I think it would be interesting to hear more about them. Thanks!