Maine voters had the chance to make history Tuesday, but instead rejected the contentious Pine Tree Power proposal which, advocates say, had big implications for the rates that Maine electric customers pay and how fast the state transitions to renewable energy sources.
If it had passed, the vote would have replaced the state’s investor-owned electric utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant Power, with a publicly owned alternative named Pine Tree Power, the first of its kind in the US. The move also could have set the stage for other states to follow suit.
The ballot question created a fiery debate, with even environmental nonprofits disagreeing on which option was better.
LaFond, who did not endorse either side, believes the ballot initiative was more of “an indication that change is needed.”
The Pine Tree Power proposal surfaced after strong criticism of Central Maine Power, a corporate-owned utility that consumers say has a history of slow response time to outages and poor billing experiences.
Supporters of the Pine Tree Power initiative said CMP caused roadblocks to renewable power projects. “Things need to be governed differently to move forward into a green energy future that both reduces energy costs and reduces the carbon footprint,” LaFond said.
But the vote isn’t where this issue ends. Residents will still need to remain involved if they want their voice to be heard in the future of Maine’s energy decisions.
“Regardless of the outcome of the vote, things need to change,” LaFond said. “If we’re going to meet consumer, climate and energy goals, we have to move forward with a utility system that’s responsive to those.”
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