Many Americans have grown concerned about the monopoly power that Big Tech corporations wield. But few people realize that the problem of concentrated private power also infects the electricity sector. In most regions, electricity is controlled by a single investor-owned utility with a government-granted monopoly. Across the country, powerful utilities are actively blocking decentralized solar energy, degrading the reliability of the power lines even as they raise prices, and failing to make the grid investments needed for a clean, carbon-free future.
On Thursday, January 20th, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance hosted an inspiring conversation with advocates who are taking on electric utility monopolies with the aim of accelerating the shift to clean energy and winning democratic community control. Watch a recording of the event below.
New Citizen Initiatives Challenge Monopoly Electric Utilities
Discussion topics at the event included:
- Our Power, a citizen-led ballot campaign in Maine that aims to convert the utility serving most of the state to a consumer-owned electric company, allowing for competition and innovation on a public grid system.
- How advocates in Arizona are using antitrust and anti-monopoly laws to fight a big utility’s plans to crush customer-owned rooftop solar power.
- The story behind a recent and highly unusual rejection of a proposed utility merger in New Mexico, brought about by grassroots advocacy effort.
|Rep. Seth Berry, Maine State Legislature, advisor to Our Power
Representative Seth Berry (he/him/his) is a founding member of Our Power — a Maine-based movement for a new, consumer-owned electrical utility, focused on climate, rural broadband, lower costs and improved reliability. Berry will explain the “what, why and how” of the proposal, and the status of Our Power’s citizen initiative to let Maine people have a say in their energy future.
Rep. Berry has served since 2007 in the Maine Legislature, with in his words, “two years off for good behavior.” He has served for seven of those years on the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, and for five years as the House Chair of that committee. Seth holds a BA from Brown University and an MA from Columbia University.
|Sen. Rick Bennett, Maine State Legislature, citizen leader of Our Power
Senator Rick Bennett of Oxford was the lead Senate sponsor of LD 1708. He has served in the Maine Legislature for 13 years in both the Senate and House, including as Senate President. Sen. Bennett currently serves on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the Government Oversight Committee. He is currently President and CEO of ValueEdge Advisors and has served on the boards of Maine Conservation Voters, Maine Heritage Policy Center, and Hebron Academy. As a business leader, he has directed or helped the turnarounds of several Maine enterprises including GWI and Quoddy. He received his B.A. with honors from Harvard University in 1986 and his M.B.A. from the University of Southern Maine in 2000.
|Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director, New Energy Economy in New Mexico
Mariel is the Executive Director and President of New Energy Economy. Mariel is New Energy Economy’s chief strategist – she develops NEE’s campaigns and leads its legal interventions before the state’s Public Regulation Commission and New Mexico Supreme Court. A civil rights and criminal defense attorney, she is licensed to practice in both the state and federal courts. Legal cases she has won and settled have been featured in the major media, including the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican, and on many television stations, including a documentary, “End of the Nightstick,” on PBS. Mariel lectures on climate change and environmental justice at conferences and college classroom.
Jean Su, Energy Justice Director, Center for Biological Diversity
Jean Su oversees and develops the Energy Justice program’s campaigns, dedicated to hastening the clean, democratic energy future so urgently needed to protect wildlife, communities and the climate. Jean also works to challenge wall construction in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and serves on the boards of Climate Action Network International and SustainUS. Before joining the Center, she worked as a renewable energy project finance attorney and in the climate change and international development fields in Africa and Asia. She’s an inaugural class member of the UC Irvine School of Law and holds a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University.
|John Farrell, Co-Director and Director of Energy Democracy, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
John Farrell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its work on energy democracy. John is best known for his vivid illustrations of the economic and environmental benefits of local ownership of decentralized renewable energy.
|Moderator: Stacy Mitchell, Co-Director, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Stacy is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs its initiative to decentralize economic power and level the playing field for independent businesses. She has produced many influential reports and articles, designed local and federal policies, and collaborated to build effective coalitions and campaigns.