$170,000 Energy Grant Awarded to Waterville-Winslow

Community action makes a big difference

BY Ramona du Houx - February 16th, 2010 · 

On February 12, 2010, the City of Waterville, the Town of Winslow, and Sustain Mid-Maine (SMM) were awarded a $170,000 grant from the State of Maine Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant program to implement a two-year residential and industrial energy saving plan. The award will help reduce home energy use and promote the use of solar and wood-based renewable energy.

Estimates suggest the residential plan will create a dozen local jobs. The residential plan could also save 35,750 gallons of fuel oil and $115,000 in annual energy costs for Waterville and Winslow homes.

The grant was the result of ten months of development by the SMM Energy Committee. The initial plan was first formed a year ago at a meeting of 60 diverse stakeholders. Survey responses from over 100 local residents confirmed widespread agreement with the initial plan.

“The plan we devised is in line with local and national efforts and aspirations to accelerate energy conservation, the use of renewable resources, and the creation of productive jobs for the future,” said John Joseph, SMM Energy Committee chair and co-author of the grant.

In February, President Obama announced recovery act energy grants to increase America’s biomass production, which means $150 million, will be awarded to Maine suppliers. The state is already is the second largest producer of biomass in the U.S.

The increased production of biomass is encouraging to SMM because it works well with their grant plans.

“The SMM Energy Committee has met with the Maine Department of Conservation to confirm that there are sustainably harvestable reserves of wood and woodwaste that could be used to power a potential Waterville co-generation facility,” said Steve Erario of SMM, and co author of the grant. “Emerging federal and state subsidies will likely aid in further planning and implementation of a biomass cogeneration facility that will help attract and retain local business with low-cost, sustainable energy supplies.”

Only Maine towns and cities were eligible to apply for $5.75 million in Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant funds.

When the grant opportunity was announced last September the SMM Energy Committee approached Waterville City Manager Mike Roy and Winslow Town Manager Mike Heavener. They both serve on the SMM Steering Committee. Immediately they realized the potential and gained the support needed to collaborate on a successful application for their communities.

“This grant award—the third largest in Maine—is an encouraging sign that SMM volunteers and municipal governments will continue to work together to bring energy security, environmental protection, and economic benefits to the region,” said Joseph.

SMM is a municipal-community collaborative designed to conserve resources, sustain a healthy environment, and promote economic prosperity for the Mid-Maine region. The group has about fifty members working on energy, transportation, recycling, education, and local food issues.

SMM is a true grassroots initiative created out of a three-day workshop held in January 2009 that engaged community members in addressing their energy conservation and sustainability goals.