By Ramona du Houx

April 8th, 2009

During the State of the State address Governor John Baldacci outlined his energy policies that will create jobs and propel Maine into America’s green revolution. His energy commerce corridor alone will create thousands of jobs. Baldacci’s policies have taken years to put in motion. Now with a federal partner and further state investment, they can grow the economy.

Members in Maine’s Legislature have been working along similar lines and have bills that complement the governor’s proposals.

The Legislature formed the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Energy Future to craft a new energy policy for Maine. The committee’s Senate chairman, Senator Phil Bartlett, was happy to hear about Baldacci’s focus on energy investments during the State of the State address.

Bartlett, who wants to provide $50 million in low-interest loans for homeowners’ energy conservation projects, said, “I applaud the governor’s focus on job creation and our long-term energy needs … By funding conservation, research and development, transportation, and renewable energy, we will move our state forward.”

Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell’s bill is directed at renovation and school construction. This general bond issue focuses on cost savings by using environmental building practices and alternative energy sources to run the buildings. Mitchell said that over time the savings to communities in energy costs would be great.

Mitchell said “The state must supplement federal stimulus efforts by ensuring that school districts that develop energy efficient, cost effective projects have adequate resources for those projects.”

wind mills generating energy to export from Maine

wind mills generating energy to export from Maine

Examples of cost-saving investments could include the installation of solar hot-water heating panels, construction of windmills, insulation of buildings, installation of more efficient heating systems, and teleconferencing academic classes among schools.

“By supplementing federal stimulus efforts, we can break ground on innovative school construction projects that will create a jobs industry and ensure that our students are learning in world-class education facilities for decades to come,” said the Senate president.

“If we talk about energy, we have to talk about transportation,” said Majority Leader Piotti. “Fifty percent of our energy usage is transportation, and much of that is the use of automobiles. We have many efficiency programs in other areas of energy policy, but not much of it addresses transportation. It just makes sense to make transportation efficiency policies a priority.”

His bill would direct the Maine Department of Transportation to “evaluate existing transportation laws, rules and policies … identifying their strengths and weaknesses and how they might be changed to meet the objective of saving energy.”

House Speaker Hannah Pingree has a $25 million bond proposal for sustainable, environmentally friendly housing.

“One of the most important and urgent priorities for the Legislature this session is to reduce energy costs for Maine families and businesses,” said Pingree. This will create good jobs in Maine’s emerging clean energy sector for builders, insulation installers, electricians, energy auditors, and construction workers. This effort would specifically build new, green, affordable housing, and rehab affordable housing. We have over 7,000 people living in trailers in Maine that were built before 1970. Those trailers are extremely hard to renovate. We need replacement housing.”

Rep. Seth Berry has sponsored a bill put forward by Opportunity Maine, the organization that had success with a people’s referendum to help students pay for college. The Green Jobs, Green Savings legislation, LD 1181, has 18 cosponsors in the Maine Senate, and 77 cosponsors in the Maine House.The bill would:

Create thousands of good-paying, green-skilled jobs;
Develop a $300-plus million yearly market for energy efficiency and green building entrepreneurs and businesses;
Cut energy costs for our homes, businesses and factories,
Implement a strategy to make Maine’s built environment at least 30 percent more energy efficient.

“To make our economy more efficient, we must provide adequate, stable long-term funding and strong, accountable oversight. The potential funding stream is immediately available. Businesses, investors, future energy workers, and homeowners will jump to it if they see a clear, ten-year commitment from the state, with compelling incentives and standards,” said Berry.

Opportunity Maine wants to provide grants to homeowners and businesses to invest in cost-effective efficiency projects that reduce their energy bills, as well as individuals who want to gain the education and training they need for green jobs. Berry’s bill would also develop green-skilled career ladders, working through career and technical education centers, adult ed. centers, and community colleges that will lift low-income and laid-off Mainers out of poverty and into sustaining jobs.

“Making Maine a hub for small renewables and efficiency would be the best thing to happen to our economy in centuries,” noted Berry.

The majority of the bills and proposals are interconnected with the governor’s. It will be the job of the Legislature working with Baldacci to come up with a comprehensive energy initiative.

“There is a big energy effort happening here,” said Pingree. “The governor has a bill, we have bills, Opportunity Maine has a bill. We will work together for the people of Maine, to build this economy of the future. I think creating an energy corridor, as the governor explained in the State of the State, is very exciting for Maine’s future.”