Maine looks at Nebraska public power model

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Substation at OPPD's North Omaha Station power plant in 2016

Nebraska may have company when it comes to the statewide public power model. Nebraska is currently the only state entirely served by public power. Now Maine is considering becoming the second state to do so.

According to an article from the American Public Power Association (APPA), Maine could create a public power authority to buy the state’s two investor-owned utilities – Central Maine Power and Emera Maine.

Bill debate

A bill introduced last month in the state’s legislature, if passed, would create the Maine Power Deliver Authority. The consumer-owned utility would acquire and operate all transmission and distribution systems currently owned by investor-owned utilities.

Proponents of the bill, including its sponsor Rep. Seth Berry (D), has said the goal is to keep costs down, the lights on and put the state’s workers and customers first. Lawmakers cited public power utilities elsewhere, particularly in Nebraska, as examples that deliver electricity at lower rates with fewer and shorter outages.

Berry estimates the proposal would save ratepayers about 15 percent on their electric bills, or about $325 million annually, according to the APPA article.

Nebraska example

Berry compared Nebraska’s strong reliability track record with Maine. In 2017, Nebraska finished among the 10 most affordable states. Maine finished in the bottom 10, according to APPA based on Energy Information Administration data.

The most recent numbers from the Energy Information Administration (February 2019) show Nebraska’s average retail price of electricity to be 8th lowest in the nation at 9.54 cents per kilowatt hour. Maine ranked 23rd at 11.69 cents per kilowatt hour.

The two states are similar in population. Nebraska has 1.9 million people and Maine has 1.3 million people, and both experience severe weather and all four seasons.

Berry, in introducing the bipartisan legislation, said the current model has failed the state.

“The fiduciary responsibility of CMP and Emera Main is to their multinational investors,” Berry said.

If approved, a nine-member board would oversee the new public utility. The board would represent all customer classes and regions of the state.

Jason Kuiper

About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He formerly worked as a staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.

One thought on “Maine looks at Nebraska public power model”

  1. Deregulation created a system where individual customers thought they could choose their power supplier, but that was far from the truth. They were still getting power from the same power plants, transmission lines, and distribution lines. Much like Nebraska back in the 1940s and 1950s, deregulation created a system where one utility owned the power plants, another controlled the transmission lines, and another controlled the distribution systems. Many Nebraskans remembered when we had the Hydro Districts, NPPS, and the Consumer’s Public Power District. Many in New England and California are finding out this system is very inefficient and costly. The problem centers partially around the availability and cost of power production.
    While Nebraska changed the laws to allow for wind companies to install wind farms, we pretty much left the public power model the same. Nebraska wanted to guarantee affordable electricity for everybody, not just a few individuals with small production facilities, whether co-generators or homes with individual wind turbines / solar panels. Not everybody can afford to own, operate, maintain, and assume liability for, their own power plant.

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