The Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee gave strong bipartisan approval on May 13, 2021, to a measure from Rep. Chris Kessler, D-South Portland, that would accelerate Maine’s efforts to weatherize homes and businesses and increase the number of low-income households that would qualify for weatherization assistance.
The vote was 11-1 with one member absent.
The Legislature has yet to establish a lasting funding source for weatherization since the founding of Efficiency Maine Trust in 2009. As a result, funds have been pieced together from other sources like participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the ISO-NE Forward Capacity Market.
Some of those funds have been recently diverted for other initiatives like the widespread adoption of air source heat pumps.
As amended, LD 551 would match $25 million recently earmarked for weatherization as part of Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to use federal American Rescue Plan funding with a one-time payment of $25 million from the state’s General Fund. The amendment aligns with the weatherization goals set forth by the Maine Climate Council to weatherize 17,500 homes and businesses by 2025 and 35,000 homes and businesses by 2030, including at least 1,000 units of housing for low-income individuals per year. According to Kessler, an additional $12 million in annual funding would be needed to meet that goal.
“In the absence of an agreement on a sustainable funding source for weatherization, we did agree that weatherization is a solid investment and should be a state funding priority,” said Kessler. “I’m grateful for the committee’s vote, which at least gets us to the interim goal set by the Maine Climate Council. I hope we can build on this moment to make weatherization a consistent priority moving forward.”
The measure now faces further votes before the full House and Senate.
Kessler is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents District 32, part of South Portland and part of Cape Elizabeth.