June 24, 2018
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Millinocket to review part one of power study

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

MILLINOCKET, Maine — A Boston-based consultant will have recommendations for the Town Council on Thursday regarding the feasibility of creating a public electric utility that could vastly lower utility customers’ electric rates.

La Capra Associates of Boston is due to present Phase I of its energy options study to councilors during a workshop session set for 4 p.m., according to the council’s agenda. The regular meeting is tentatively scheduled to start an hour later.

“I am hoping that we will get a definite direction to proceed, whether it be through buying the power, or a co-op deal, or something else,” Councilor Michael Madore said Sunday. “I’d like to move to Phase II and go ahead to the actual costs of forming a municipal public utility.”

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 13 months ago at Councilor Scott Gonya’s suggestion. Gonya is now the council 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.

Councilors received a 40-page report from La Capra on Thursday, Madore said.

“They will come up with two or three scenarios,” he said. “One might be purchasing power from Brookfield, but whatever we can get that will produce the fastest reduction in the cost of electricity for Millinocket is really what this is about.”

A copy of the report was not available Sunday.

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 year opened a second 19-acre greenhouse that increased its work force to 175 employees.

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