Our Power provides signatures to trigger 2023 referendum on consumer products – Maine Beacon | So Good News


The group seeking to run in the November 2023 election to replace Maine’s unpopular utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant, is a non-profit company that submitted more than 80,000 signatures on Monday, exceeding the number needed to trigger a referendum.

The group leading the campaign, Our Power, announced the incident at a press conference at State House before submitting their complaint to the Secretary of State’s office. The office now has one month to verify signatures, but with a margin of over 63,000 signatures needed for a vote, the Our Power referendum is expected to be on the ballot in November 2023.

“We have news for you, CMP and Versant, and for your greedy and foreign corporate owners. Today, more than 80,000 Maine voters are ready to take away your right to self-governance,” Andrew Blunt, CEO of Our Power, said at a press conference Monday. . “Today, we are here to stand with them, and to represent the people and businesses of Maine. Today we are here to take back our money, and take back our power.

The referendum will ask Mainers whether they want to replace CMP with Versant and Pine Tree Power Company, a non-profit, consumer-operated power company that would provide power to most Maine towns, except for the 97 Maine towns that are already served by consumers. . The Legislature passed a resolution in 2021 to ask the same question to voters in November of that year, but this was opposed by Gov. Janet Mills, which led to Our Power launching a referendum project instead.

However, the decision to replace CMP with Versant – Maine’s two largest utilities – was prompted by the companies’ poor performance. They are all entrepreneurs, meaning they have to provide value to their shareholders. In contrast, Pine Tree Power Company will be owned by consumers, allowing them to better use Mainers’ services instead of giving owners more money, Our Power has argued.

At the press conference on Monday and during the gathering of the signatories, Our Power he pointed that CMP has the worst customer satisfaction among large and medium-sized utilities in the country and Versant is one of the worst. In addition, under these provisions, Mainers have he endured the longest blackout in any state and the longest period without power. Even so, electricity prices in Maine are the sixth highest in the country, and the CMP was created $40.5 million in profits in the second quarter of 2022.

Despite rising prices, CMP and Versant will continue to request price increases. This year, CMP sued a increase in value that would raise bills for Maine residents by $120 a year while Versant he asked an increase that would raise that price by an average of $126 a year. Our Power has said that the requests to increase are very dangerous considering that the owners of the CMP are the local governments. Norway and Qatar where Versant belongs Calgary, Canadameaning that Maine is sending news money from the state and the country.

“Until we get our Power back, CMP and Versant will play every trick in the book, and take all the candy out of the bowl,” Blunt said.

Signing boxes at the press conference of Our Power on Monday | Beacon

In contrast to the poor service provided by CMP and Versant, consumer advocates argue that Pine Tree Power Company encourage confidence in ratepayers investing in improving and improving the sector rather than profit. Supporters have also said that Pine Tree Power Company will keep prices low for consumers – a fact that has been true for consumer goods. serving before part or all 97 towns in Maine.

Overall, economists estimate that the shift to consumer goods will reduce the profitability of the utility industry. save Maine people $9 billion over 30 years, all money from the beginning.

Having consumer-driven products, rather than for-profits like CMP and Versant, also supports Maine’s energy reform, the attorneys said. The Maine grid will need $10 billion to $15 billion in investments to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Companies like CMP and Versant can finance these upgrades in a cost-effective way, increasing their profits, According to Our Powers. In contrast, the proposed Pine Tree Power Company will borrow at a very low rate, allowing the transition to take place at a lower cost.

Ania Wright of the Sierra Club Maine, one of the leaders of the Our Power campaign, said on Monday that the state group has not planned the transition to clean electricity that is needed to combat climate change. Maintaining the status quo utility system will not change this, he said.

“If we decide to stay with CMP and Versant at this point, all of us Maine taxpayers, many of whom are already struggling to pay their bills, will pay,” he said.

Monday’s event also featured comments from Mainers who spent months collecting signatures for the Our Power initiative, including Linda Woods, a retired teacher and environmental advocate in Waterville. Woods, along with his church team, spent a lot of time collecting campaign signatures and talking to Mainers. The conversation resonated with him, he said, noting that many people shared their own experiences of having financial institutions as a source of energy.

“Collecting signatures was easy, but listening to people’s horror stories about their experiences with CMP was painful,” Woods said. “I heard a few stories about more cases and longer blackouts and more [people] having no power days in winter and no response from CMP. “

Another speaker was Wil Thieme of Maine Public Power, a project of the Maine Democratic Socialists of America, which supports the get-out-the-vote campaign. Thieme says the group collected nearly 20,000 signatures for the Our Power initiative last year.

“Government is the right way for all Mainers. We are committed to our vision of a democratic, accountable Maine company and we have worked hard to give Maine people the right choice,” he said.

Wil Thieme speaks at a press conference on Monday | Beacon

However, despite the strong support of Our Power, the voting campaign is sure to bring strong opposition from CMP, Versant and other opponents. Indeed, after the Our Power event on Monday, a coalition of groups, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, sent a press release to criticize the move. In that release, he said the referendum campaign to give Mainers the chance to choose their electricity future is an “aggressive takeover of the power grid” and said it will “make business difficult in Maine for years to come.”

Another part of this argument may be the high costs against Our Power and the groups that own CMP and Versant. In fact, the money is already good. For example, in 2022 alone, Maine Affordable Energy – a group against the referendum whose main donor is the parent company of CMP Avangrid – spent more than $ 7 million.

In addition, No Empty Fermenter – another anti-government energy group whose main donor is Avangrid – to destroy more than $423,000 against what happened. And Maine Energy Progress — another anti-referendum group whose founding partners include Versant — spent $428,000 against the effort in 2022. to destroy slightly more than $311,000 in favor of the campaign during that time.

That kind of funding from CMP and Versant-affiliated groups comes as Mainers struggle to pay utility bills, forcing them to make difficult decisions about prioritizing electricity or other utilities, said Amy Halsted, director of the Maine People’s Alliance, a supporter of Our Power Campaign. (Beacon and the MPA project).

“These are decisions that no one, no Mainer, should have to make,” Halsted said.

“It shouldn’t, it shouldn’t be like this and it should be stopped,” he added. “We have endured the greed of these companies and reckless profiteering for a long time. Our power system is broken, but the good news is that we can fix it by returning power to the public through a non-profit, customer-owned organization. ”

Top photo: Andrew Blunt of Our Power speaks at a press conference on Monday | Beacon


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