AUGUSTA, Maine —

 

Frustration and anger over the continuing billing dispute at Central Maine Power are about to land in the Legislature. A bill is being introduced to create a consumer-run public power authority and force the owners of CMP and Emera Maine to sell.

Maine lawmakers say the state has among the highest energy cost and the worst outage rates in the nation and they are proposing a new consumer-owned utility. 

Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) made the announcement Monday morning in Augusta saying that a consumer-owned utility would not be financed by tax dollars and would lower Mainers bills by 15 percent.

Rep. Berry says the authority would borrow the money to buy the utilities using a state bond program, and customers would pay it back through their regular bills. Berry says this would reduce bills by about 15 percent because of lower interest rates. Supporters also say it would improve reliability, and keep all the money in Maine.

The plan includes the creation of Maine Power, the consumer-owned utility, that would buy out Emera Maine and Central Maine Power while acquiring all their transmissions infrastructure and distribution assets.

Berry says low-interest bonds would finance the endeavor.  He says the jobs of those employed by CMP and Emera would be protected through Maine Power. 

"Power controlled by Maine, not from Spain," said business-owner and developer Rick Savage of Bethel, who commented on the owners of Central Maine Power Avangrid which has merged Iberdrola, the Spain-based energy giant, with U.S. companies. 

Savage compared working with Central Maine Power as dealing with the mafia. 

Rep. Berry says the launch of Maine Power is a nonpartisan effort that will not only lower electricity costs but reduce outages and improve customer service. 

RELATED: Audit finds minimal wrongdoing with CMP billing practices

Christie Pottle, the founder of CMP Ratepayers Unite which has 7,000 members online, of customers who have noticed abnormally high electric bills in the last year, says she and her constituents support the plans for Maine Power. 

Pottle says CMP and Emera Maine is not accountable to ratepayers but to investors and she wants to see the power back in the hands of Mainers. 

Rep. Berry and Pottle cited already existing consumer-owned power like Kennebunk Light & Power District, Eastern Maine Electric Co-op in Calais, and Van Buren Light & Power District as working with an average savings of 15 percent for customers.  

RELATED: POWER STRUGGLE | Customers make CMP recommendations to lower bills but see no results

“For too long, the cost to bring electricity to Maine homes and business has been going through the roof,” said Berry. “And now with widespread cases of overcharging, inconsistent billing and an outage rate that places us behind the rest of the country, it’s time for Maine to take bold action to address these problems once and for all.”

RELATED: CMP customer: Rate hikes don’t explain high bills

The proposal will need to pass the Legislature, where Berry says he hopes for bipartisan support.