By Kase Wickman, Boston University Washington News Service
WASHINGTON — Maine was hailed as the tenth-most energy-efficient state in the country, as well as the state that most improved its ranking from the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
The council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group dedicated to advancing energy efficiency, publishes an annual scorecard that ranks states based on a combination of transportation, legislation and energy use standards, energy codes for building, appliance efficiency standards and heat and power use.
Last year, Maine was ranked 19th in the nation, and made a nine-slot leap to its current position after a year of intense statewide energy use reform, from encouraging alternative forms of transportation to weatherizing federal buildings. Maine also became the first state to buy 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-neutral or renewable resources.
Gov. John Baldacci, at the press conference Wednesday at the National Press Club, where the rankings were announced, said: “In Maine, we recognize that we must make efficiency a priority while also aggressively pursuing the development of alternative energy resources. We began this commitment in 2003, when the price of oil was $20 a barrel,” a fourth of its current price.
California tops this year’s list and last year’s, and Wyoming was identified as the least energy-efficient state, totaling only one point of the possible 50 in the ranking system the council uses.
Maine’s improvement was helped along by the $69.2 million in federal stimulus funds the state received to get a green makeover. Of that total, $27.3 million was designated for the state’s innovative green energy program and $41.9 million for weatherization.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans of Maine, were two of the very few Senate Republicans who supported the stimulus package in February.
Snowe, in a statement, said she was pleased about Maine’s improvements in energy efficiency.
“As the sponsor of the legislation that created the landmark energy efficiency tax policies in the 2005 Energy Policy Act and a strong supporter of the weatherization assistance program, I could not be more pleased that Maine is building on these federal initiatives to promote energy efficiency,” she said.
The appetite for energy innovation in Maine shows no sign of slowing down, and last week the state was selected for an $8 million federal grant to develop an offshore deep-water wind turbine research center at the University of Maine.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said in a statement that “Maine is rapidly becoming a national leader in energy policy” and that the state could continue to improve by developing “new sources of clean energy at home and, at the same time, finding ways to save money through energy efficiency.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, also applauded his state’s achievements in moving toward energy independence.
“There is more work to be done,” he said in a statement. “A strong focus on efficiency technologies and clean energy production will help us get out of this economic downturn.”