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Is Public Ownership The Solution To High Utility Bills?

Maine residents are organizing to take back their power — literally.

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Maine residents will vote this November on whether to create the first statewide consumer-owned utility in the country.

Residents in the state face skyrocketing electricity bills and frequent power outages. For some, like people who rely on CPAP machines and other electrical medical equipment, those blackouts aren’t just annoying — they can be life-threatening.

Meanwhile, Maine’s two largest power utilities Central Maine Power Company (CMP) and Versant brought in $187 million in profit last year. Both the companies are owned by foreign entities, meaning those profits aren’t staying in Maine. They’re going into the pockets of wealthy shareholders around the globe.

Residents are organizing to take power back into their own hands. A measure on the November ballot could create a non-profit, consumer-owned utility called Pine Tree Power, and put it under community control.

By buying out CMP and Versant, Maine could save $9 billion over the next 30 years. And because Pine Tree Power would be a non-profit, the money that Maine residents pay in rates would get reinvested back into the service.

Pine Tree Power would be the first statewide consumer-owned utility in the country. But according to Johanna Bozuwa, the Executive Director at the Climate and Community Project, consumer-owned utilities have provided affordable and reliable power in America for nearly 100 years.

In the 1930s, Nebraska kicked out all the investor-owned utilities owned by JP Morgan and other so-called “robber barons.” Nebraska replaced these private utilities with publicly owned power and rural electric cooperatives.

The city of Los Angeles also operates a public utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), which serves more than four million residents.

Maine’s referendum election will be held on November 7, 2023.

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