Letter to the Editor: Pine Tree Power

6 mins read

When you think of power, do you get the feeling someone’s trying to rip you off? I do, and I think that’s got more to do with the advocacy campaigns energy companies are funding than anything else.

In 2019, ‘An Act To Restore Local Ownership and Control of Maine’s Power Delivery Systems’ was put before the 129th Maine Legislature. It followed a lengthy legal battle waged by electric generators to stop the transmission line a majority of researchers still believe would reduce cost, foreign dependency, carbon emissions, and accelerate the movement away from fossil-fuels. Though not presented as such, it was yet another attempt to prevent the transmission line from being built.

Strangely enough, 10 members of the legislature presented it, and it called for 10 political appointees to oversee it. Key here was the push for “local ownership”. This was the issue local electric generators took with the transmission line. It cut into their profits and wasn’t in their control. They smartly encouraged mostly pro solar legislators to put the act forward, but you’ll find among them a number who were just pro local electric generator. This way the whole thing could be called an effort to advance alternative energy development in Maine.

This act ignored years of state funded research demonstrating that our alternative energy deployment, cost, and emissions goals would be more quickly met by bringing hydroelectricity generated in Quebec immediately into the grid than by investing in alternative energy development directly. The politicians who drafted it then knowingly stood with political action committees funded by fossil-fuels dependent generators opposing the transmission line that would make that possible.

Yes, they knew the campaigns run by Mainers for Local Power, No CMP Corridor, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine were funded by Calpine Corp., NextEra Energy, and Vistra Energy, not because they were concerned with our environment, but because they wished to ensure their profit margins weren’t affected. They knew this and accepted their help anyway because they were impatient or perhaps simply too ambitious.

Those politicians would make a name for themselves by forcing an early introduction of solar. That’s why they sought to “restore local ownership and control of Maine’s power delivery system” and it’s why they support doing the same in a referendum to form Pine Tree Power. Climate anxiety is just something they’ll use to ensure they and the industry they represent profit immediately. Otherwise, they’d listen to the majority of researchers who recommend introducing a bidirectional transmission line immediately so Quebec’s hydroelectric surplus can serve as a ready electric supply when alternative sources aren’t as productive and a way to distribute excess energy generated here when they are.

Like fossil-fuels dependent sources of electricity, solar farms rely on foreign supply chains that experience severe price fluctuations. Researchers understand this to be the case because demand for the minerals necessary to manufacture solar panels outpaces supply. They understand the elevated prices that accompany solar development are passed on to electric consumers, as is the cost of regular panel replacement and waste management. (Harvard Business Review actually argues waste management will eliminate the economic advantage of solar, if we ever get around to recycling them.)

Researchers rely on an immediate introduction of cheap hydroelectricity to buffer the increases that arise as alternative energy supply chains are stressed and we get serious about recycling them. It’s a costly venture. Even if Maine’s power delivery system is purchased by the state and placed under the direction of political appointees, these costs are going to be passed to consumers one way or another. Nothing is free. You’ll either pay the state or the electric company. At least with a company governed by economic concerns you can be sure these costs won’t be ignored. Politicians, notoriously unconcerned with the cost of things, will surely spend more than we can afford.

I encourage you to do your homework. There’s a reason why the effort to prevent the introduction of cheap hydroelectricity was bipartisan, and it wasn’t because the voter demanded it. This was driven by industry and it’s desire to profit immediately rather than wait. I say shame on those politicians who refused to defend the sound scientific reasoning behind the transmission line they opposed, because clearly they were thinking more about their political futures than ours.

Jamie Beaulieu
Farmington, Maine


Opinion pieces reflect the views of the individual author, and do not reflect the views of the Daily Bulldog, Mt. Blue TV, or Central Maine Media Alliance. Publication of an opinion piece does not equate to endorsement of the content of the piece.

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