Executive order calls for plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation through electric vehicle growth, new charging infrastructure-works in tandem with federal American Jobs Act making its was through congress.

April 3, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

Reducing emissions from transportation – which is the source of more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Maine – is a key piece of Maine’s overall effort to curb state emissions by 45 percent by 2030The state’s climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait, estimates Maine needs 219,000 light-duty EVs on the road by 2030 to meet its emissions targets.

On April 2, Governor Janet Mills signed an executive order to accelerate Maine’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, by calling for a “clean transportation roadmap” to achieve the state’s climate plan goal of increasing the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in Maine by 2030.

“Growing the number of clean vehicles in Maine to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to transportation is a key opportunity to address climate change in Maine,” said Hannah Pingree, Director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, and co-chair of the Maine Climate Council. “The clean transportation roadmap will make recommendations to ensure Maine consumers have affordable options for EVs, and access to charging infrastructure that meets the needs of rural and urban drivers alike.”

The roadmap, due by December, will develop recommendations to enhance the EV market in Maine, expand charging infrastructure, evaluate effects on electric utilities and the grid, and ensure an equitable and affordable transition to clean transportation.

However, there is an avenue that the state hasn’t taken that would help accelerate its goals. One that has been open to the state throughout the Mills administration. The bipartisan regional effort known as the “Transportation and Climate Initiative” that seeks to cut pollution from cars and trucks and invest in cleaner, healthier and more equitable transportation solutions. Maine has yet to commit to the program, yet the TCI initiative is projected to bring in $300 million to 12 states and D.C. annually. TCI works like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which, as of March, has brought in over $127 million to the state for the Energy Efficiency Trust from a cap-n-trade auction allowances regional program. Here the revenues generated would come from fossil fuel companies.

The cost of shipping for manufacturing businesses remains high. The old statement, “you can’t get there from here,” is common amongst Mainers. People in Maine need more public access to transportation. Improving our transportation sector by modernizing it, will improve our business climate, while helping everyone get there from here. TCI allows states to decide where their proceeds would be put.

New railroad lines could be laid and shipping costs diminish. School and local municipalities buss fleets could become electric. Even an EV bus transit system could happen with yearly proceeds from TCI. That’s the key- TCI will bring in revenue year-by-year, until the day everyone drives in an EV.

All across the region health outcomes will get better as pollution is curbed. The TRECH Project Research study of TCI, found that the initiative will cut carbon-dioxide emissions from transportation by as much as a quarter by 2032, thereby leading to much cleaner air and healthier communities.

On Monday December 21, 2020, several of the participating states released a Memorandum of Understanding to officially sign onto the final framework for TCI. The states have been in consultation for years. While Maine remains actively involved in discussions, Governor Mills has yet to sign the MOU agreement. The Transportation Working Group of the Maine Climate Council recommended that Maine continue to monitor TCI as it is developed, as well as other transportation-funding solutions.

With President Biden’s American Jobs Act going through congress, a large section of it deals with EV’s and improving the transportation sector, which works with state plans and would augment TCI.

The question being, after federal monies dry up, after the VW settlement funds are used where will the state get funds to continue to improve the needed maintenance of the transportation sector? TCI could be that answer.

Currently, EVs account for fewer than 1 percent of registered vehicles in Maine. However, the amount of EVs is expected to grow in coming years due to advancing technology, reductions in cost, increasing consumer demand, and commitments from the federal government, state governments, and major auto manufacturers to accelerate the transition to EVs.  

Work on the clean transportation roadmap will be led by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and the Governor’s Energy Office, in concert with the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the Efficiency Maine Trust.

In addition to the roadmap, is the creation of a recognition program for auto dealers and other businesses, local governments, and nonprofits for leadership on clean transportation. The program would be developed and administered by the Governor’s offices and the Efficiency Maine Trust.

“As electric vehicle technology advances and more models become available to consumers, Maine needs to ensure we have an electric grid that can support this growth,” said Dan Burgess, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office. “The clean transportation roadmap will begin to address the grid impacts and rate design needs to support this transition, grow the clean energy economy, and make significant progress against climate change.”

To support the state’s clean transportation goals the Efficiency Maine Trust ,in March, announced the availability of $200,000 of Volkswagen settlement funds to install publicly available electric vehicle charging stations at state office locations.

The clean transportation roadmap is part of Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s four-year plan for climate action that was launched on Dec. 1, 2020. Since the plan was introduced, the state has:

The clean transportation roadmap is due to Gov. Mills by Dec. 30, 2021.

In 2019, Gov. Mills, with bipartisan support of the Maine Legislature, enacted greenhouse gas emissions reductions and renewable energy generation targets.

Since then, she has also committed Maine to further, urgent climate action, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2045, and more than doubling the state’s clean energy workforce to 30,000 by 2030 through increased support of workforce development and training, as well as emerging energy technology.