I’ve been looking at the details of the Pine Tree Power referendum, now that we’ll be voting on it in November. My conclusion: Pine Tree Power is too expensive and too risky.
In order to forcibly acquire the assets of Central Maine Power and Versant Power, as the ballot measure requires, the state will need to pay fair market value for all their wires, poles and substations. A conservative estimate puts that cost at well over $10 billion. The state will need to borrow more money than it spends on all the services funded in its two-year budget just to finance the creation of Pine Tree Power. And, these billions of dollars of debt, plus interest, will fall squarely onto Maine taxpayers.
Once all that’s sorted out, which is likely to take years, the state will be required to set up Pine Tree Power as a new “quasi-governmental power company” headed up by an elected board that will make all the decisions about our electricity.
Everything from planning for storm response to determining system capacities to modernizing the power grid for all the renewable energy we are building — all that will be entrusted to a group of seven politicians who won’t need to know anything more than how to win elections. Of course, Maine ratepayers will bear the brunt of their decisions. Anyone follow the news on Austin, Texas, recently?
As I said at the outset, too expensive, too risky — we can’t afford Pine Tree Power.