By Gary Friedmann
Judy Long’s Viewpoint in the March 10 edition of the Islander is right about the importance of safe, reliable electricity for Mainers. But that has never been the top priority for Versant or its predecessor, Emera. That’s why JD Power’s 2021 Survey of Residential Customer Satisfaction ranks Versant fifth worst in the nation, just four places ahead of CMP, which consistently ranks dead last.
The only reason ENMAX, the city of Calgary’s wholly owned utility, owns Versant is to return a handsome profit to Canada. And Maine’s Public Utilities Commission works hard to help them earn close to a 10 percent return on investment. Versant customers are sending $50 million each year to a foreign government. If owned by Maine’s ratepayers, that money would stay in Maine to lower rates, improve safety and reliability, and advance Maine’s climate goals.
Versant contends that by borrowing the money to buy our utility, customers would not see savings on electricity bills. In fact, ENMAX borrowed the money to buy our utility, at much higher interest rates than a consumer co-op would pay. Taking over Versant with a consumer co-op allows us to buy our poles and wires with more favorable financing rather than rent them from foreign owners at exorbitant rates.
The same customer service representatives and linemen would be answering the phones and restoring power after storms, but they’d be working for us, not for the city of Calgary. And Maine’s consumer owned utilities, serving tens of thousands of customers at Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative, Houlton, Van Buren, Kennebunk Power & Light and Madison Electric Works all have better reliability than Versant – at rates 35 percent to 75 percent lower.
It’s time to take our power back into our own hands.
Gary Friedmann is a founding board member of Our Power and has served on the Bar Harbor Town Council for 10 years.