Maine voters overwhelmingly defeated Question 3 to create Pine Tree Power on Nov. 7.

This campaign was not, as recently alleged by a spokesperson for this failed referendum “about serving their (Central Maine Power and Versant Power’s) foreign shareholders, rather than Mainers, rather than their own customers.” The same spokesperson continued to say that “the system is fundamentally broken.”

On the contrary, this referendum question was correctly viewed by most voters as a real gamble for vulnerable electric customers, who were going to be hammered with higher rates and vague promises without any means of delivering the benefits. Any suggestion that we could somehow magically wave a wand to lower rates and improve reliability was rightly and correctly viewed as fanciful. 

Mainers voted to protect consumers from increasing essential electric service rates to pay for a massive $9 to $13 billion bond with annual interest rate payments for over 30 years. Mainers voted to reject the prospect of between five and eight years of litigation to take private property via eminent domain. Mainers voted against another layer of politicians to establish policies and programs without any plan to lower rates or improve customer service. Mainers voted with their union friends, with the Maine Chamber of Commerce, with Gov. Mills, the Conservation Law Foundation and numerous experts and consumers who understood that the rhetoric promoted by proponents was not matched by the legislation we were asked to approve. 

Our regulatory system is not broken. 

The Maine Legislature and the Maine Public Utilities Commission oversee our distribution system owned and operated by CMP and Versant Power. We have put in place more stringent service quality and reliability performance standards with real penalties for shareholders if those standards are not met. The rates for essential electric service and any ability to earn a profit are the result of evidentiary hearings and decisions based on facts. Of the 27 cents per kWh we pay CMP for our current electric service, only 6.2 cents reflects the distribution system that is the subject of the Pine Tree Power proposal. Think about that. About 70% of our high bills has nothing to do with CMP or this failed referendum.   


Maine needs to move on, not engage in sour grapes and insults to the 70% of voters who rejected a proposal that has been widely promoted for years and whose proponents were unable to document any ratepayer benefits. May we move forward to more important issues confronting our energy future. 

Those important issues include, from my perspective, a renewed attention to affordability for essential electric service. 

The Public Utilities Commission made a serious mistake when it changed how it purchased our Standard Offer in the wholesale market several years ago and bought 100% of the residential load for a one-year fixed price contract, resulting in a huge jump in our bills. Thankfully, our Legislature has asked the PUC to change this procurement policy.

In addition, Maine has adopted the most expensive subsidy for community solar developers in the U.S. and that legislative policy caused a rate increase to our bills of over $100 million this past July, far more than the CMP distribution service rate case results. 

We need to be more careful with the design of Maine’s legislative mandates to achieve our renewable energy goals. The push for electrification of home heating and vehicles must take place with affordability for essential electric service in mind. Our path can be designed to achieve “the most green for the least green.” It is within our power in Maine to act responsibly and with vulnerable consumers in mind.  

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