Rep. Seth Berry will outline his proposal for a consumer-owned utility at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at Bath City Hall. 

BATH — Tomorrow, Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, will discuss his proposal to establish a consumer-owned utility to replace Emera Maine and Central Maine Power at Bath City Hall.

Berry said his proposed consumer-owned utility, dubbed Maine Power Delivery Authority, would function like Maine’s eight existing consumer-owned utilities and fill in the gaps between the existing companies.

Berry, who serves as chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, said the establishment of a state-wide public power authority would save Mainers money and strengthen the power grid as the weather worsens.

“Looking forward, Maine faces some massive new challenges to its electrical grid, and that has a lot to do with climate change,” said Berry. “We’re already seeing an increase in severe weather, which causes power outages. There needs to be an investment in the power grid to make it more reliable.”

In addition to boosting reliability, Berry said a consumer-owned utility would use rates to operate instead of taxes, and consumers would see a reduction in rates because a public power authority would operate as a nonprofit. He said ratepayers in other states that have adopted the consumer-owned utility model, such as New York, saw a 20 percent reduction in their rates.

“Utilities are monopolies by design,” said Berry. “They’re either for-profit or nonprofit and there’s a world of difference between the two in rates, reliably, and responsibility to those it serves rather than those own its shares.”

According to Berry, a consumer-owned utility would also lay the foundation for decarbonizing the state in accordance with an executive order Gov. Janet Mill signed in late September. The Portland Press Herald reported the executive order outlines the state’s promise to be carbon-neutral by 2045, meaning the state will have no net contribution of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

“We all have what it takes to combat climate change, to protect the irreplaceable earth we share and care for,” Governor Mills said in her remarks at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in late September. “What is more precious than water, air, soil, the health and happiness of our children and our children’s children and yours?”

“The bottom line is the grid of tomorrow will look very different, so who controls it needs to change,” said Berry. “We need a type of utility that we can trust and afford to handle the demands of tomorrow. What we have now is the least trustworthy and the least reliable.”

Berry said this public forum is an opportunity for people to get informed and ask questions in advance of March when he expects the legislature will vote on his proposed bill to create the consumer-owned utility.

“People power matters now more than ever,” said Berry. “The governor and legislature care more than you might think. The individual voice matters a great deal and now is a critical time to weigh in before legislature votes March.”

Berry will speak at Bath City Hall on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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