Senator Saviello, Representative Welsh, and distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. My name is Pete Didisheim and I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 595
NRCM opposes this legislation because Maine already has a program that provides incentives for clean, efficient wood stoves. Creating a redundant program at DEP, with a different approach and management, would confuse customers and businesses, create inefficiencies in the use of public funds, and move away from the comprehensive focus on cost-effectiveness that Efficiency Maine now provides.
High efficiency wood stoves can make a positive contribution to reducing Maine’s dependence on fossil fuels for heating. Efficiency Maine’s Home Energy Savings Program provides assistance and financial support for homeowners to invest in a wide range of cost-effective energy efficiency choices for their buildings and heating systems. This includes investments in insulation, high-efficiency central heating systems for many different fuels, and supplemental heating systems like wood stoves or heat pumps. Efficiency Maine does a careful, transparent analysis of choices available to help customers, who often lack reliable information, to steer them toward high-efficiency projects without pushing one fuel or another. Attached are two case studies from NRCM that demonstrate how well this program is working today. In FY 2015, Efficiency Maine expects 10,000 homeowners to participate in the program, with most of the invested funds being made by the homeowners.
Efficiency Maine uses a variety of third-party standards to give homeowners and equipment vendors clarity about what equipment is reliably higher efficiency than standard equipment. It is important to have well-vetted standards for obvious reasons. However, perfect data is not always available. It is our understanding that Efficiency Maine is currently using a rating system for wood stoves that uses air emissions in lieu of direct efficiency. This approach is consistent with air quality objectives for these funds.
RGGI funds are being used by Efficiency Maine not only for the Home Energy Savings Program; an even larger portion is used to help businesses reduce their energy bills through energy efficiency, especially large consumers such as manufacturers. The last page of the attached case studies gives further information about these efforts.
We urge this committee not to undermine the careful analysis that Efficiency Maine’s staff and board use to allocate limited resources in the way that will most benefit customers, from homeowners to large industrials.
One of the chief reasons the Legislature created the Efficiency Maine Trust in 2009 was to consolidate energy efficiency programs so that public funds can be spent most efficiently, and so that customers could have one place where they could reliably go for assistance with energy efficiency investments to lower energy costs. We believe this bill would move Maine’s energy programs in the wrong direction, fragmenting and complicating our programs, and removing the unifying approach aimed at the most cost-effective energy saving investments.
I appreciate your consideration of these comments and would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Attachments: Two NRCM Case Studies about Use of RGGI Funds