Maine Is Taking Real Measures To Become Energy Independent & Energy Efficient —While Preserving Maine's Environment

"Protecting our environment is not a challenge to the economy — it actually protects and strengthens our economy."— Governor Baldacci

by Ramona du Houx

Anyone with a conscience who watched or read Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth has to ask what they can do to help turn around global warming.

A Natural Resources Council of Maine report said that 20,000-plus acres and 58 miles of roads in 20 towns could end up underwater if sea levels rose just three feet. Scientific predictions say the oceans could rise 20 feet. The reality of watching coastal cities sink underwater will happen if nations don’t work together around the globe. We need to wake up now before the cost in human lives is too great. Global warming is serious. The scientific evidence on how humans are contributing to global warming is overwhelming and irrefutable. In America we have become the most wasteful yet monetarily wealthy society on the planet. Our nation’s contribution to global warming has to be reversed. We have the means to do it; now we must have the will power to take action individually and collectively.

Fortunately, Maine has taken significant measures for the state to become more energy efficient and independent. And the governor has opened doors for Mainers to take independent action with state aid.

When Governor Baldacci was elected, crude oil was just over $20 a barrel, and gasoline and heating oil were both less than $1.50 per gallon.

"He recognized that saving energy and producing energy from Maine’s vast renewable resources would help create jobs in Maine and improve air quality," said Beth Negesky form the Maine Office of Energy Independence and Security.

"When I took office the subject of energy wasn’t a hot button issue. Even so, I created the Office of Energy Independence and Security. We must reduce our dependence on increasingly expensive and polluting fossil fuels, and the best ways to do so are energy conservation, energy efficiency, and new renewable power resources. My administration has worked hard to reinstate Maine as a leader in all three areas," said the governor. "We are excited that the first large wind project is now being constructed in Mars Hill, and that tidal power and the production of biofuels from Maine’s own renewable resources are being actively explored."

The governor’s Executive Order of March 2004 has improved the fuel economy of the state fleet, reduce miles traveled by state employees, and encouraged use of alternate fuels.

Maine has also led the way in terms of state policy that encourages combined heat and power (CHP) systems.

"CHP can operate at efficiency levels of up to 80 and 90 percent," noted the governor. "For a long time, Maine has recognized the value of rewarding the reuse of the thermal energy from the pulp and paper industry. Maine was the first and only state to do this for many years. More recently Maine revamped its clean distributed generation regulations, and we give credit for thermal energy as part of the environmental permitting process."

Maine is helping some paper companies with bio-refineries and conducting studies to turn paper company discharge into Ethanol.

Derived from crops, bio-ethanol is a potentially sustainable energy resource that may offer environmental and long-term economic advantages over fossil fuel. Ethanol can be used as fuel for automobiles either alone (E100) in a special engine or as an additive to gasoline.

"The way I see it is there isn’t any competition between the environment and the economy. If we are smart about it we can be green by being ‘green’," said Governor Baldacci. "Protecting the environment helps with economic development. Composite technology developed in Maine is being used to build windmill blades, in Maine, at GE’s factory — creating fifty jobs. The blades will be installed at the Mars Hill windmill facility where the wind will provide clean energy. Protecting our environment is not a challenge to the economy — it actually protects and strengthens our economy."

Governor Baldacci talks with employees and Commissioner Martin from Maine State Fishers and Wildlife, thanking them for their continued hard work.

Maine state government is leading by example:

—   Over the past three years the state has nearly tripled the number of hybrid vehicles in the fleet. The state has saved nearly 300,000 gallons of fuel and reduced state travel by 2.3 percent.

—   The state has expanded the GOMAINE vanpool program over 100 percent, has implemented preferential parking at state offices for carpools, vanpools, and hybrid vehicles.

—   The state purchases 30 percent to 40 percent of its electricity from renewable power resources.

—   The state uses a biodiesel blend to heat 20 state office buildings, including the State Office Building and the Capitol.

—   Maine is the first state to measure and track greenhouse gas emissions from state energy use. Under Governor Baldacci's plan, Maine has reduced state government’s emissions by eight percent in two years.

—   The state saved $4 million by putting Maine’s electricity purchase out to bid.

Addressing Climate Change—

 Maine is one of only two states having a legislative commitment to specific greenhouse gas reduction goals. The state and a large group of stakeholders developed a Climate Change Action Plan to meet those goals; several of the 54 strategies are already being implemented, including adoption of greenhouse gas emissions standards starting with model year 2009 motor vehicles.

By January 2006, the Governor’s Carbon Challenge had recruited more than 54 businesses, organizations and communities to voluntarily set carbon reduction goals.

In December of 2005 Governor John Baldacci announced Maine’s partnership in an important multi-state agreement to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will create the first mandatory cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions in U.S. history, utilizing credits or allowances to limit the total amount of emissions.

"This agreement protects the health and welfare of our citizens," said Governor Baldacci. "Nothing is more important than protecting the air our children breathe and the water our children drink. Maine is leading by example to protect our energy and environmental resources, and RGGI is another crucial step."

"It’s important to move forward on RGGI now," said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner David Littell. "Climate change is occurring now."

Under the RGGI agreement, emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants in the region would be capped at current levels starting in 2009, with states then reducing emissions incrementally over a four-year period to achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2019. Any price impacts of this program are expected to be minimal. It also is anticipated that RGGI will generate significant new investments in innovative and cleaner technologies and energy efficiency, which could lower electricity rates.

Maine’s efforts to address global climate change were honored in New York City when Clean Air–Cool Planet, an environmental group, presented Governor John Baldacci with a "climate champion" award. "The governor has been active in making climate an issue ... he and Maine have been willing to be seen as an example — Maine is doing it and talking about it," said Bill Burtis of CACP.

The Governor’s ’06 Omnibus Energy Bill—

  

The governor outlines his energy bill at Maine's first Biodiesel dealer Frountier Energy. The bill gives a tax break for bio-diesel use amoung revolutionary energy measures.  - photo by  Jack Cashman

"For the past 3 years we have used biodiesel to heat state buildings. We wanted to make Maine a leader and help create a market in Maine for this renewable fuel that is produced in the U.S. And, we have," said Governor Baldacci. "Biodiesel is good for our economy and it is good for the environment."

Biodiesel is a fuel that can be produced from waste vegetable oil, soybeans, mustard seeds, or other agricultural products mixed with diesel. Harmful emissions start to drop significantly when biodiesel is used instead of pure diesel. Almost any modern diesel engine or diesel-powered furnace can run on any proportion of biodiesel. New research is being conducted in biodiesel which could make it the fuel of the future. Crops that could be used might be grown in Maine.

The governor’s Omnibus Energy Bill of 2006 states that the excise tax for motor fuel containing at least 2 percent biodiesel will be reduced by 7.9 cents.

The groundbreaking energy bill also:

— Sets a goal of increasing new renewable power resources in Maine by 10 percent by 2017.

— Allows the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to purchase energy conservation and efficiency resources just like it purchases energy supply resources from traditional power plants.

— Establishes a means for the Maine PUC to sign long-term contracts with energy conservation providers, renewable energy providers and other generators, with preference for those who produce no greenhouse gases.

These measures help promote business growth within energy industries that are environmentally friendly, making Maine more energy independent.

"The energy bill gives the Public Utilities Commission the tools to reduce and stabilize electricity prices," said Beth Nagusky, director of the Office of Energy Independence. "Maine is blessed with vast renewable energy resources, including wind, water, wood, solar, and tidal. Maine is poised to become the most energy-independent state in the nation."

Promoting Tidal Power—

 "Creating a more sustainable energy future for Maine has been a top priority of my administration," said Governor Baldacci. "Some of Maine’s greatest economic assets are the vast renewable energy resources we have right here at home."

In a yearlong study, the Electric Power Research Institute concluded that Maine is an excellent location for tidal power. Electricity produced by tidal power in Maine would be competitively priced with wind and natural gas, and less expensive than clean coal and solar. And, like wind and solar, capturing energy from the tides emits no greenhouse gases.

The study focused on the Western Passage in Passamaquoddy Bay, where twice a day the tide rises and falls 20 feet — the greatest tide change in the continental United States.

Tidal-powered turbines are similar to wind turbines, but move more slowly underwater. The greater density of water means that fewer turbines are needed to produce the same amount of electricity as wind turbines. Tides are also more predictable than winds.

"Maine has a world-class tidal resource that will produce electricity at a cost of 4.2 to 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour," said Roger Bedard, the EPRI study project leader. "This resource is better than many we studied and will produce lower cost electricity as a result."

"Harnessing the energy from Maine’s big tides in an environmentally friendly manner will reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels and will create jobs in the state," said Nagusky.

Two preliminary permits have been filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission while potential developers study the tidal resource in the Penobscot and Kennebec Rivers. Interest in the tidal energy resource in the Cutler area has also been expressed.

Promoting Wind Power—

 "Introducing wind power will help with fuel diversity, price stability, and energy independence," said Governor Baldacci.

Wind technology uses no fuel, creates neither air nor water pollution, and does not contribute to global warming.

Some wind power projects proposed in Maine:

• In Aroostook County, a Bangor-based group plans to erect 30 turbines on Mars Hill.

• A Freeport company is installing six test towers in the St. John Valley to collect wind data to help them decide whether to proceed with plans for a wind farm.

• The Passamaquoddy Tribe received permits to erect two meteorological towers on its tribal lands in Somerset and Washington counties in anticipation of a wind power project.

Promoting Hydrogen Power—

To further expand hydrogen technologies in Maine, the governor created by executive order, in August, a partnership to accelerate commercially viable hydrogen production and fuel cells.

"Hydrogen represents a huge growth industry, and the creation of this partnership will put Maine on the leading edge as this industry expands," said the governor.

"The partnership will speed the development and deployment of commercially viable hydrogen production, storage and distribution technologies; analyze opportunities to leverage federal research and development funds and other funding sources; and stimulate development of private firms that will build energy and fuel cell technology products at facilities located in Maine."

How can you or your company help save the environment while saving money?—

Ways in which the people of Maine and Maine companies can participate in combating global warming have been introduced by the governor.

"We have put forward programs and policies to make the entire state more energy independent and secure, including: tax credits for production of biofuels in Maine; rebates for purchasing and installing solar electric, hot air, and hot water systems; energy conservation programs for natural gas users; a model residential energy building code; and incentives for oil dealers to offer low-income customers lower fuel prices," said the governor.

 The Solar Rebate Program

 The governor helps turn on solar panels to light his office. The rebate program is a great success.

In one day Naoto Inoue, president of SolarMarket, a solar systems installer based in Arundel, Maine, managed to sell three solar thermal systems and one solar electric system. And he’s sure it’s all thanks to a new solar rebate program signed by the governor the week before.

"People have been really waiting for something like this," Inoue said. Previously Inoue had been selling on average three systems a month.

The new law gives Maine one of the nation’s most aggressive state programs to encourage the use of solar energy. The rebate covers approximately 25 percent of the cost, including installation, of the average-sized residential or small business solar electric or solar thermal system. An income tax credit is available for the installation of solar hot water systems.

"Going solar is about becoming more energy independent," said Governor Baldacci.

For a solar water heating system with an estimated cost of $5,000, the rebate would be $1,250. For a $24,000 solar electric system that has an installed capacity of 2,400 watts, the rebate would be $6,400.

Maine’s Clean Car Program—

"With the stroke of a pen, Governor Baldacci has taken a step forward in cleaning up our major source of smog and global warming pollution — cars and trucks," said Sue Jones, Energy Project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine during the bill singing of Maine’s Clean Car program last year.

The governor stands with Adam Lee of Lee Motors before the signing of his clean car bill.

The law increases the availability of the cleanest cars, such as hybrid gas-electric vehicles, for Mainers.

"My customers have had to wait for 3 to 18 months for many of the hybrid vehicles because the demand is so great. This law will make the cars more available," said Adam Lee, president of Lee Auto Malls. "I want the next generation in Maine to appreciate Maine as much as I have been able to. The more people that purchase environmentally friendly cars, the more we are helping the future of our state. I commend the governor for his leadership."

The governor stood up to heavy-handed car lobbyists who did not want him to proceed to use the Clean Car program in Maine.

With this legislation Maine joined six other states in protecting its citizens from the harmful effects of smog and air toxins. The Cleaner Cars program has been shown by Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) to reduce smog formation and cancer by up to 30 percent.

Under the Cleaner Car standards, about 11 percent of new cars sold in Maine will be either hybrid gas-electric or the cleanest gasoline-powered cars.

Maine’s E-Waste Recycling Program—

The state has drawn attention as a national and international role model on how it is dealing with e-waste. Electronics waste is a global problem. Many obsolete products in the United States are shipped overseas where they eventually end up in a landfill or disposed of by burning. That’s why taking care of the problem at home is paramount.

Lead and mercury are two of the most hazardous materials contained in computer monitors and television sets, which also contain chromium, brominated flame-retardant, as well as a host of other toxic chemicals. A typical TV or computer monitor contains about five pounds of lead.

The improper disposal or burning of any of these modern devices presents a significant environmental hazard, from ground water to air quality. In Maine alone, an estimated 400,000 obsolete computers, monitors and televisions are stockpiled. Each year over 100,000 of these high-tech devices are thrown away.

• Maine is one of just three states in the country to get out ahead on the issue with e-waste legislation.

• Maine is the FIRST state in the nation to make manufacturers pay their share of the recycling costs.

The law calls for manufacturers, consumers, and municipalities to share the cost of recycling these electronic devices.

Since January 1, 2006, e-waste can no longer be collected as regular trash, and manufacturers who sell electronics products in Maine must have an approved plan for how they will participate in electronics recycling.

Maine’s plan is being praised for its flexibility and convenience to the consumer. It’s easy — simply take an obsolete electronic item to a town facility or a regional site and pay no fee, or in some cases a minimal fee.

Other environmental measures taken with the governor:

— Maine has received nearly $3 million during the past three years through Maine's Landowner Incentive Program. LIP works with private property owners to preserve high-value habitat that supports rare plant and animal species.

— Mercury reduction laws of 2006 require more effective collection of thermometers and household switches, and ban the sale of mercury-added button-cell batteries.

— To reduce storm-water pollution, new laws promote the use of "best management practices," new technology, and improved development designs.

— To prevent lead poisoning, Maine established a funding mechanism for education, and outreach materials and programs that will help reduce health threats to children and workers.

— A grant program will fund retrofits that will reduce unhealthy pollution from school-bus engines, and anti-idling practices are being promoted.

— Coordinating school clean-outs: Chemical clean-out programs in 72 schools resulted in the removal of 681 pounds of mercury as well as other hazardous materials.

— Maine has been aggressive about preventing the infestation of invasive aquatic species like Eurasian milfoil. Last year, over 40,000 courtesy boat inspections were conducted, up from only a few thousand three years ago. 2005 was the first year when there were no new infestations of Maine lakes.

— Maine enacted a law banning sales of products containing two types of brominated flame-retardants.

— New legislation encourages municipalities to join or establish regional systems to handle the collection of household hazardous waste.

— Eliminating tire stockpiles: 14 million tires have been removed from 12 stockpile sites; many were beneficially reused in construction projects.

— Developed sophisticated dioxin testing: A methodology was established enabling scientists to determine that Maine’s paper mills are no longer discharging dioxin.

— Reduced exposure to arsenic: In 2003, Maine banned the sale of arsenic-treated wood for residential use, notably exterior housing work and children’s play sets.