Good afternoon Senator Breen, Representative Pierce, and distinguished members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. My name is Sue Ely, and I am a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I am pleased to testify today in support of LD 1094, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Reduce Homeowner and Municipal Energy Bills through Increased Efficiency and Weatherization Projects.
You have heard hours of compelling testimony about ways that Maine should invest bond funds to address urgent needs. I’m here today, along with others testifying in support of LD 1094, to make the case that spray foam insulation, window sealing, and energy-efficient lighting belong on your top-tier list of urgent investments that will help Maine people.
Investments in these types of energy efficiency and weatherization measures will help reduce energy bills for low-income Mainers, senior citizens, municipalities, and schools for decades to come. This opportunity comes at a critical moment for our state when we have no more time to delay taking actions to address climate emissions, and Mainers in need have an urgent need to reduce their utility bills.
The heating, cooling, and lighting of Maine’s buildings contributes to one-third of the state’s annual carbon pollution. To meet Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements, the Maine Climate Action Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait,” calls for a doubling of the current pace of home weatherization so that at least 17,500 additional homes and businesses are weatherized by 2025, including at least 1,000 low-income units per year. The Plan calls for weatherizing at least 35,000 homes and businesses by 2030.
These aren’t just numbers, and this isn’t just about climate change. For every home, business, school, or municipal building that is weatherized and made more energy efficient as a result of this bond, there is a job for a weatherization expert, a reduction in heating and energy costs for the occupant, an increase in comfort and safety in the space, and a reduction in harmful air pollution.
- It’s estimated that this bond could create approximately $45 million in lifetime energy savings for Maine people and support approximately 200 new jobs.
- The average homeowners receiving these weatherization services could save approximately $300 a year in heating and energy bills.
- Municipalities and schools could see more than $33.5 million in lifetime energy savings.
But the residents who shoulder the highest home energy costs are also the same residents least able to afford weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades. Of the approximately 550,000 existing homes in Maine, more than half were built before 1960. The vast majority of these structures are drafty, poorly insulated, and in dire need of upgrades. The numbers are even worse for rental units, with more than two-thirds of rented housing built prior to 1960 and in need of similar upgrades. These are the buildings that must be weatherized but are unlikely to be without weatherization incentive programs like those run by Efficiency Maine and the Maine State Housing Authority. That’s why this bill is so urgent.
This bill tackles the homes, schools, and municipal buildings least able to do this important work. We all know that weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades save money and reduce climate pollution. But for some Mainers, these types of upgrades are unattainable, even if they save money over the life of the project.
The funds directed to municipalities and schools will also help towns, cities, and school districts save money on heating and lighting public buildings. At a time when school and municipal budgets are already stretched for these types of projects, this bond is critical.
Weatherization and energy efficiency are proven and cost-effective ways to reduce electricity and heating costs for residences and for municipal buildings and schools. This bill is a common sense way to help ensure that seniors, low-income residents, municipalities, and schools are able to take advantage of the opportunity to benefit from weatherization and energy efficiency programs. For these reasons, NRCM strongly supports LD 1094 and encourages you to approve this bond so that Maine people have an opportunity to support this measure on the November ballot.
I appreciate this opportunity to testify and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.