I have been rather fascinated to read the discussion of Maine’s upcoming referendum Question 3 – the Pine Tree Power initiative – among a large spectrum of local citizens. A wide range of views have been expressed, although without a clear and constant consensus being formulated. I have taken the liberty of reviewing a variety of websites purporting to possess answers to the many questions raised by the Pine Tree Power initiative, but have found that more questions are raised than answered.

The one “constant” gleaned from these reviews has been that Pine Tree Power can “guarantee” lower rates of electricity paid by Maine residents with a concomitant reduction in power outages. This constant would be true because of the oversight provided by an elected board consisting of Maine citizens. An array of economic models have been used to strengthen this guarantee of lower electricity bills and diminished power outages.

However, there are two variables of major and significant consequence which do not appear to have been factored into any economic model forecasting future costs and availability of electrical power: the effects of climate change and the periodic occurrence of global pandemics.

Despite what some politicians have said, climate change and global warming is not a hoax; rather, it is real and already causing catastrophic damage throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. With the damaging conditions brought about by climate change and global warming, severe shortages of water will also become more common.

What does climate change mean for the provision of electrical power? Within this context, therefore, can either Pine Tree Power or Central Maine Power predict the future costs associated with sustained higher temperatures, drought, increased or decreased rainfall, enhanced or reduced snowfall, significant flooding, high winds, hurricanes and more? All these aforementioned factors will have a profound influence on the provision of electricity and power outages and must, therefore, be factored into any economic model employed to predict future costs to Mainers.

Future electricity supply will also be greatly influenced by the incidence of global pandemics. Why? Pandemics have had a significant and demonstrable effect on global supply chains, the housing of citizens at home, workforce issues and more. If such a future pandemic were to be experienced in Maine, what impact would it have on the supply of electricity if more citizens would be quarantined at home? What would happen if more linemen were ill and could not respond to power outages? How would these circumstances be applied to an economic model charged with forecasting future costs over a 10- to 20-year period?

One more factor of a human nature to consider. What if the oversight board of elected Mainers contained members who believe climate change to be a hoax? What if some elected members believed that pandemics would never come to Maine, or were against the use of vaccines to reduce deaths? How can these attitudes be placed into an economic model that predicts the future costs of electricity?

Given these variable factors – the unknown consequences of climate change and the threat of the global pandemic – one can easily ascertain that Pine Tree Power, or any other utility for that matter, cannot guarantee lower costs of electricity and/or the reduction of power outages.

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