Efficiency Maine plan could turn that around
Bangor, ME — Several businesses and other supporters of energy efficiency gathered today, after a public hearing on Efficiency Maine’s draft three-year plan, to describe the benefits increased energy efficiency offers to Maine’s economy, energy independence, and environment. Those speaking called on Efficiency Maine to develop a strong plan to help Maine residents and businesses further reduce energy costs.
“Energy costs have hit record highs year after year and continue to burden many Maine homes and businesses,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The energy efficiency improvements outlined in Efficiency Maine’s plan could net Maine people and businesses more than half a billion dollars in savings, increase Maine’s energy independence, and supply good job opportunities for Maine people.”
Speakers were gathered in Bangor to deliver testimony to Efficiency Maine on its next Triennial Plan. The current draft plan identifies initiatives that, fully implemented, would help weatherize 40,000 additional homes and help Maine businesses and others cut net electricity costs by over $450 million. If policymakers stick with the status quo and do not do not approve the full plan, Maine residents and businesses would spend an extra $250 million on energy bills.
“There is a lot of talk about cheap energy in Maine,” said Voorhees. “But Efficiency Maine’s energy efficiency strategies are proven ways to achieve huge reductions in energy costs. In fact, Efficiency Maine is helping to supply energy savings at 3 cents/kwh â cheaper than any power plant of any kind is offering. Why wouldn’t we get as much of this cheap, dependable energy resource as possible?”
“I help Maine businesses reduce energy costs every single day; it’s what I do,” said Jim Baines of Wesco Distributors. “Energy efficiency investments are a proven way to significantly reduce energy costs. And what helps our clients, helps usâto grow, hire workers, and support the Maine economy. Everyone always talks about the need to do more to reduce energy costs here. I say more investments in energy efficiency is the best place to start.”
“Our company’s purpose is to help homeowners and families have healthier, safer more affordable homes,” said Nadine Aubuchon, Vice President at Breathable Homes. “Whole house energy retrofits, or weatherization, can reduce energy bills by 20 to 50 percent. It is essential that Maine take further steps to help many thousands more homes become weatherized to cut oil bills and improve our economic prospects. And of course, continuing the proven approaches Efficiency Maine has had recently also means our company can hire again, and everyone wants to see more jobs.”
In 2011, in its first full year as an independent Trust, Efficiency Maine achieved record levels of energy savings. Efficiency Maine helped consumers make cost-effective efficiency improvements that will yield $450 million in lifetime savings, and these investments will save three times as much as they cost. Repeated studies have indicated that if Maine stays at our current level of investments in energy efficiency we will miss out on half of the available, cost-effective savings opportunities.
Beyond the immediate cost savings, the larger economic impact is enormous. Money from energy savings is typically spent in the Maine economy (instead of on electricity and imported fuels), which creates a large multiplier effect for Gross State Product. Economists have calculated every $1 invested in energy efficiency yields $4 in state GSP. And energy efficiency programs create an incentive for new private investment in Maine businesses too. Last year, Efficiency Maine’s contributions were matched by $75 million in private funds from businessesâfrom the largest paper mill to the smallest grocery store.
“There is no realistic strategy to significantly lower energy costs in Maine that does not rely significantly on tapping the huge reservoir of potential of energy efficiency savings,” said Dr. Thomas Tietenberg, a retired Colby College economist. “I hope that decision-makers in Maine don’t reject full funding of these initiatives by misperceiving the difference between an investment, such as this, which actually saves money, and an expenditure that costs money. Failing to adequately fund Efficiency Maine at the levels called for under the law would be equivalent to throwing money away.”
“Despite the thousands of success stories with energy efficiency in Maine businesses and homes, significantly more energy efficiency savings remain untapped,” said Voorhees. “Even Central Maine Power has concluded this. Every other state in New England has a higher per capita rate of investment in energy efficiency. The more worried you are about energy costs, the more emphasis you should put on energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is an opportunity Maine cannot afford to waste”
Efficiency Maine is holding public hearings to hear from citizens and business-owners about Maine’s draft three-year energy efficiency plan. The plan must be approved by the Efficiency Maine board and the Public Utilities Commission this fall; it determines strategies and investments in energy efficiency in accordance with Maine law. The draft discussed at today’s hearing is still incomplete, but includes basic information about possible strategies and targets for three years starting July, 2013.