After paying our monthly utility bills, most of us take for granted the complex network of infrastructure and institutions that keep the lights on. This is changing. The average monthly electricity bill for residential customers nationally increased 13% from 2021 to 2022, rising from $121 to $137 a month, while climate change and aging and mismanaged electrical infrastructure have contributed to a string of disastrous wildfires. Confronted with rising costs of living and the urgent need to protect the environment, people across the country are taking a serious look at how their utilities are owned and operated.
Electric utilities, which can act as generators, distributors and/or service providers, play a key role in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. For decades, a small number of for-profit, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) have powered most of the country. On November 7th, Maine challenged this model with Ballot Question 3, The Pine Tree Power initiative, proposing a transformation of the state’s two largest IOUs into a non-profit, democratically-managed public utility.