Madison, Maine, has some residents who are served by Central Maine Power and others by Madison Electric, a consumer-owned utility. The recent April snowstorm highlights differences between the two.

Madison Electric serves 2,500 customers. Just 3% lost power the morning after the storm first hit, and all had their power back by lunchtime.

CMP serves 1,169 customers in Madison. Eighty-five percent lost power that first morning. Two days later, over half were still in the dark.

Madison Electric also charges 12% less for delivery than CMP, at 7.5 vs. 8.4 cents per kWh.

This difference mirrors national experience. Customers of COUs such as Madison Electric typically cost 11% less, and spend half as much time without power.

Much of outage reduction is prevention. Good tree-trimming. Adequate local staffing. More insulated tree wire and spacer wire, which are stronger and don’t short when touched by a sagging branch. Maintaining every pole and crossarm.

Instead, due to federal case law, investor-owned utilities earn far more by focusing on big new transmission investment. States are powerless to change this perverse incentive.

Consumer-owned utilities earn no profits. They have only one master: the people they serve.

If we hope to electrify everything, reliability is crucial. I look forward to the day when Mainers own our own power grid, as many in Madison and one in three Americans already do.

Rep. Seth Berry, Bowdoinham

House Chair, Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology

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