New law to help schools become energy efficient in Maine

By Representative Ann Dorney

BY ADMIN

September 27th, 2013 

rep anne

By Representative Ann Dorney

As a Representative from District 86, I have been looking at Maine’s energy policy. When I evaluated how we could quickly create jobs, save people money (many of my constituents are on fixed incomes) and reduce our energy use, I found the obvious solution is to encourage energy updates to our houses and businesses. Maine has the oldest population and we have the oldest houses, many of which are not properly insulated. Many of our heating systems use oil, which is expensive and comes from other countries. We also need to reduce our carbon emissions – there is more and more evidence that Climate Change is real and we need to act.

We have an opportunity to do something different. There are already State programs to encourage energy efficiency. Weatherizing your house, for example, has a payback time of two years on average; putting up solar panels could pay for itself in ten years. There are loan programs through Efficiency Maine that give loans to homeowners, but many towns to not participate (including two in my district) – probably because they don’t know about them or how to sign up.

We can create our own energy in central Maine, too. We put solar panels on our office roof ten years ago and they are still producing energy.

I sponsored an Energy Expo in August at the Madison High School, which had put in a geothermal heating system several years ago, in order to get the word out on what could be done to save energy. There were lectures on Net Energy Billing, solar hot water, biomass, geothermal heating systems, demand hot water, lighting alternatives and weatherization. These lectures were recorded and will appear on my website if anyone wants to watch them (anndorney.com).

There were local businesses there who were available to help people if they wanted to do energy savings updates or switch heating systems to biomass or natural gas.

I even learned things, like the fact that Efficiency Maine is now providing FREE energy audits to any homeowner who wishes one, including up to $600 in sealing as part of the deal. I am trying to encourage everyone to get one – the more that people are informed, the better choices they can make.

During the last legislative session, the Legislature passed an Omnibus Energy bill, which will help determine our energy policy for the future.

I am proud to have sponsored LD 1348 as well, which will essentially set up a revolving loan fund for Maine schools K-12 in to do energy updates or switch their heating system. Schools pay for the loan only with the energy savings, which means that there will be no up-front cost to the schools and it will save them money in the long run. Having this program in the schools will allow student participation and should help teach them about energy efficiency. Hopefully the schools in my school district will take advantage of this once it is set up.