by Dylan Voorhees, NRCM Clean Energy Project Director
Good morning. My name is Dylan Voorhees and I am the clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
The clean energy economy is not a theoretical concept in Maine. It is here today. Our investigation reveals that these companies are more diverse than you might think, they are operating across the state, and they are growing. We find evidence that we’re starting to develop a critical mass of expertise and momentum that could provide very substantial economic benefits to Maine in future years.
By our count, over 2,500 specific businesses in Maine currently are involved in helping reduce Maine’s dependence on fossil fuels, cut energy bills for Maine people and businesses, and build the infrastructure for a clean energy economy.
These companies work in a wide array of fields, from home weatherization to heavy excavation and from environmental assessment to component manufacturing. In many cases their workers require significant training and expertise, whether that is a wind power technology degree from a Maine community college or certification from the Building Performance Institute for energy auditing and weatherization. That means these are good quality jobs as well.
As part of its analysis, NRCM conducted a survey of energy efficiency businesses in Maine (the largest component of the clean energy sector) and found that more 75% anticipate that their business will remain at its current employment level or grow during the year ahead. Given the current condition of our weak economy, this level of confidence about business activity in the energy efficiency sector is particularly noteworthy. More than half attributed federal stimulus funds for energy efficiency as a factor in their anticipated increase in business activity.
When they are left to ride the boom and bust of rising and falling oil prices, these clean energy businesses can’t fully invest for prosperity. Our energy policies and programs sustain a more consistent drive toward a clean energy direction that strengthen these companies and build jobs. These companies are increasingly attentive to energy policies and are becoming better organized as their industries mature. This is evidenced by emergence of new entities such as the Maine Association Building Energy Professionals and the Maine Wind Industry Initiative.
Maine has big ambitions for wind power, with the goal of 3,000 MW by 2030. And the Legislature just adopted bold goals to weatherize all Maine homes and half of Maine businesses by 2030. These major objectives could translate into billions of dollars of investment, and thousands of additional jobs for Maine’s clean energy sector. But it is becoming increasingly clear that federal climate and clean energy legislation will be necessary to provide the context, resources, and emphasis on clean and efficient power for Maine’s clean energy businesses to prosper.
Today the US Senate released its version of a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill, following passage of a similar bill in the House last summer. If passed, this legislation will provide the powerful engine that will drive investments in clean energy in Maine. Without it, Maine’s greatest clean energy ambitions, including the thrilling but incredibly capital-intensive enterprise of offshore wind, will remain out of reach.
This is our best assessment of the companies working in this arena, although there are undoubtedly others—these are conservative estimates. But there is no question that Maine has achieved a real clean energy economy full of workers like the ones here with me today. The future is now. And should we choose to commit as a state and a nation to this direction, Maine stands to prosper and grow in this area far more than ever before.