Millinocket electric plans scrutinized

Posted Oct. 16, 2009, at 9:51 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:12 p.m.

MILLINOCKET, Maine — A Boston-based consultant will have recommendations for the Town Council late next month regarding the feasibility of creating a public electric utility that could vastly lower utility customers’ electric rates, its owner said Friday.

Assembling options that could lead to lower electricity rates is among the tasks La Capra Associates of Boston is performing for the town, company President Dan Peaco said.

“At this point, the work is in progress and we don’t have anything that’s ready for public dissemination,” Peaco said Friday. “We are still collecting information. It’s a work in progress.”

La Capra is due to present its findings to the council on Nov. 30, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said.

Given the Katahdin region’s need for greater industry and employment opportunities and the enticement provided by the lower electricity rates that public utilities generally charge, the council agreed to study the issue last November at then-Councilor Scott Gonya’s suggestion. Gonya is now the council’s chairman.

Millinocket already has hydropower dams and generation lines, and the proliferation of wind farms around the state is another factor. Lincoln officials also are informally discussing formation of a public electric utility.

La Capra Associates defines itself as an energy services consulting firm “providing objective, strategic advice and expertise to utilities, regulators, consumers and market participants within the electricity, natural gas and water industries,” according to its Web site, www.lacapra.com.

La Capra Associates serves a national and international client base from offices in Boston and Portland.

Council efforts at creating the public utility went on hold as the long process of shaping the town’s budgets began in the spring, but several councilors visited a public utility, Madison Electric Works, and Backyard Farms of Madison in February. The utility offers electricity at 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, among Maine’s lowest rates, which prompted Backyard Farms to move there.

Councilors said they would love to see low electricity rates entice a company like Backyard Farms to Millinocket. Backyard Farms employs 130 full-time workers at its 27-acre greenhouse, the largest building of its kind in New England. The company earlier this month opened a second, 19-acre greenhouse that increased its work force to 175 employees.

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