More than a century ago, your forebears made a wise decision in establishing The City of Calgary Electric System, providing public ownership and control of your electric utility. You have reaped and continue to reap substantial benefits from that decision.
Maine went in a different direction. Our history is one of small, local electric companies being gobbled up by two dominant Maine-based electric utilities, that were in turn gobbled up by larger, foreign-owned utilities — Iberdrola (Spain) and Emera (Nova Scotia).
Over the past two decades, while Enmax grew Calgary’s initial $280-million investment to more than $2.4 billion to the benefit of its citizens, Maine’s two large international utilities disinvested in our electric grid and support systems to the point where Maine now has among the worst records for reliability, and our two utilities consistently rank at or near the bottom in customer satisfaction.
As we look to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through decarbonizing our electric grid and promoting beneficial electrification of our transportation and home-heating sectors, we need an electric utility we can count on — one that has as its sole obligation to enhance the well-being of Maine citizens and businesses. In short, we need an electric utility just like the one you have.
Why are we telling you this? The reason is that many of us in Maine support the establishment of a Maine consumer-owned electric utility to serve the entire state. As you may know, Enmax purchased Emera Maine in March 2020 and changed the name to Versant Power. According to Enmax, “Versant Power pays a dividend to Enmax similar to how Enmax pays a dividend to the City of Calgary.” It should come as no surprise to you that Mainers would much prefer that its utility paid a dividend to the people of Maine each year, just like your utility does to you.
To accomplish our objective of having a Maine consumer-owned electric utility, we have initiated a citizens’ referendum to establish the entity and to acquire Versant Power. Mainers will be voting on this in November 2023. To be clear, this referendum is not a referendum on Enmax or the City of Calgary; rather, it is an attempt to achieve exactly what you have — an electric utility that is owned by its customers and is responsible to those customers, not foreign shareholders.
We fully expected Maine’s other utility — Iberdrola — to fight our effort with the full breadth and scope of its resources. Already, it has spent more than $15 million on this effort. We are disappointed that Calgary has spent in excess of $3 million. We had hoped that the citizens of Calgary would understand our efforts, appreciate our long-term objective and let Mainers decide for themselves what is in their best interests.
Accordingly, we ask the city to adopt a neutral position on this issue. We would expect you to ask the same of Mainers were the circumstances reversed. In any case, you have our commitment to treat Versant Power, Enmax and the City of Calgary as the ultimate shareholder fairly.
As this process takes place over the next few months, you can obtain the latest information from our website, https://ourpowermaine.org/.
Richard Silkman is an economist and supporter of the Pine Tree Power campaign.