An Emera lineman on the job. One downside to the purchase of the Swans Island Electric Cooperative by Emera Maine is that there won't be any employees on the island to help restore power in the event of an outage. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

People on islands offered power deal

SWANS ISLAND — Electric customers here and in Frenchboro have until March 15 to vote on the ratification of a revised proposal for Emera Maine to take over the Swans Island Electric Cooperative (SEIC).

The SEIC has mailed ballots to all co-op members.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last week approved the terms of the merger, which the two parties negotiated after the PUC turned down the original deal in January.

The SEIC and its member ratepayers have seen the merger as a way to significantly reduce the price they pay for electricity.

Under the revised agreement, customers will still save, but not as much in the short term as had been anticipated. That is because a surcharge of approximately $19.30 will be added to the monthly bill per meter for the next five years to offset Emera’s costs associated with acquiring the SEIC.

The PUC describes that surcharge as an “acquisition adjustment” that is “equal to the final purchase price of the SIEC assets, plus the incremental acquisition related costs, less the net book value of the SIEC assets.”

The surcharge was not part of the original deal, which the PUC rejected because two of the three members felt it was unfair for Emera’s roughly 154,000 customers in Maine to bear the acquisition costs. The SIEC has about 460 customers. It has been providing electricity to the two islands since 1949.

Excluding the surcharge, most Swans Island and Frenchboro residential customers will see a rate reduction of about 47 percent. Commercial customers will pay about 33 percent less for electricity.

Currently, the SIEC buys electricity from Emera at the standard, system-wide price. But there is the added cost of transmitting it to Swans Island and Frenchboro from the co-op’s meter in Bernard on Mount Desert Island. Also increasing users’ costs is “line loss,” which is the amount of electricity that is lost in transmission to the islands. The SIEC has said it typically experiences a 16 percent line loss.

With Emera, island customers will not have to bear those additional costs because the PUC requires utilities to charge all customers the same rates, regardless of where they are in Maine.

In addition to covering the higher cost of power transmission, customers on the two islands have been paying the salaries of three full-time SIEC staff members and six part-time employees.

Along with the loss of jobs, SIEC officials have said the major disadvantage of being absorbed by Emera would be delays in the resumption of service in the event of power outages. Emera would not have any personnel based on Swans Island or in Frenchboro.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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