Energy & Environment

Special interests bend the truth on recent electric rate increases

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Central Maine Power (CMP) customers are about to see a double-digit rate increase due to federal regulations, not corporate greed.

The 11.5% spike will primarily come from federally mandated regional transmission rates. The tariff is mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and not by individual states or Congress. The fee is paid by utilities and thus passed onto all New England ratepayers.

Though the utility is imperfect, we cannot let personal feelings toward CMP cloud the fact that their hands are tied in this situation. Recently though, there have been social media ads run against CMP blaming them entirely for the rate hike, which is a blatant misrepresentation of the reality of the situation.

Mainers for Local Power, an anti-CMP PAC, has been launching ads in recent days that disparage CMP and their supposed greed and corruption for raising rates on Mainers. You can see all of their ads against CMP from the past here.

The most recently launched Facebook ad reads, “​​Unbelievable. CMP is spending millions of dollars on a political campaign to add billions to their bottom line, while their customers are hit with double-digit rate increases.”

The wording and hostile position makes it seem that CMP is responsible for the rate hike when it’s really from an increase in a regulatory fee.

That ad, per the Facebook Ad Library, has 600,000-700,000 “impressions,” meaning it appeared on users’ feeds that many times. Riling up their audience to be angry at CMP, and not the federal regulators who are the real culprits for raising rates, is wrong and accomplishes nothing.

If you look into Mainers for Local Power’s finances, you’ll see they’ve been given just under $8 million in contributions and have just under $2 million in cash on hand. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll see it’s no surprise where that money came from, either.

The PAC’s top donor, NextEra Energy Resources, has given over $6.7 million of that roughly $8 million balance. In just the most recent quarter alone, they gave $1.6 million. The company is a clean energy company that primarily works with renewables like wind and solar, though it does have more than $4.5 billion invested in natural gas pipelines as well, per its website.

Regardless, the company donated millions of dollars to Mainers for Local Power in an effort to undermine the expansion of hydropower in Maine. The other top funders of Mainers for Local Power, like Calpine Corporation and Vistra Energy, are much the same. Unfortunately, regulatory policies in Maine prop up solar and wind over other forms of renewable energy, like hydropower, and special interests are doing everything they can to maintain that advantage.

The big picture of this rate increase and the surrounding conversation is simple: CMP has little control over the matter. Yet, wind and solar companies that oppose the proposed corridor bringing large quantities of hydropower to the grid are funding ads intended to hurt CMP and blame them for something out of their control.

It can be hard to cut through the noise, but the truth rings clear here.

About Nick Linder

Nicholas Linder, of Cincinnati, is a communications Intern for Maine Policy Institute. He is going into his second year of studying finance and public policy analysis at The Ohio State University. On campus, he is involved with Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations and Business for Good.

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