Margret Baker talks to Gov. Baldacci about heating costs while her daughter Nancy listens. Photo: du Houx
By Ramona du Houx
November 4th, 2009
“It’s beginning to feel warmer already,” said Baker, a widower on a fixed income who struggled to meet her property taxes and pay for oil heat at the same time. “I really appreciate the help. I do get assistance from the circuit breaker program for the taxes, but with the price of oil I’ve had a hard time.”
Last year Baker sold some of her husband’s paintings to pay her bills. This year it will be different.
“They tell me this will save at least 20% in energy costs, that will make all the difference,” she said.
Governor John Baldacci visited the Baker residence, along with the director of Energy Efficiency Maine, John Brautigam, to highlight the increase in weatherization efforts.
The Baldacci administration has focused on energy efficiency in all areas and was recently ranked by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, as one of the top ten states that is leading in the clean energy economy.
“We’re importing oil and exporting dollars and jobs. We’ve taken bold steps to change Maine’s dependency on costly foreign oil. Maine has earned its reputation as being a leader in the emerging field of energy efficiency,” said Governor Baldacci. “Weatherization efforts create jobs while saving residents and businesses money. These efforts are better for our environment, our economy, and our national security. Most importantly, these efforts will keep people like Margret, safe and secure this winter.”
With a total weatherizing makeover of a home or business not only are windows, doors and air leaks sealed, empty spaces in the walls are filled with environmentally friendly foam. Pipes are insulated; light bulbs updated to energy efficient ones and other efficiency measures taken. In essence the building becomes energy efficient in its new life, which saves from twenty to thirty percent in heating costs.
“We are proud of the work we do,” said Noreen Norton, president of Weatherization Wizards, the new company contracted through PROP to weatherize the Baker residence. “After years in carpentry my husband switched to weatherization last year.”
The ‘Wizards’ are all certified to weatherize homes. Under the Governor’s direction since March 3, 2009 people interested in learning how to become Weatherization Technicians were able to receive training via Interactive Television (ITV) at one of 14 University of Maine campuses and centers to meet the projected demand for certified workers. Wizard’s employees were respectful and the site appeared clean and free of obstructions.
“We want to ensure people feel comfortable with our workers and the process,” said Norton.
Community action programs have added 55 jobs and hired 30 private contractors to undertake the additional weatherization funded by the Recovery Act.
“MaineHousing will be financing 4,000 homes weatherizing projects over the next two years, using federal Recovery Act funds,” said MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick. “It is an important first step toward Maine’s overall goal of weatherizing all Maine homes and half of our businesses in the next 20 years.”
For a state like Maine, that is 80 percent oil dependent, weatherization retrofitting is essential for the health and well being of citizens and the economy.
“We’ve long had programs available to help electrical energy efficiency. For the first time we will have a weatherization program that will be available to middle income people,” said Brautigam. “Partnering with MaineHousing we have $10 million from Recovery Act funds, which will be used to reach out to middle income people who haven’t been able to move in this direction before now. This is a real significant program that moves towards the Governor’s vision of weatherizing all Maine homes.”
These efforts are possible because of recent state energy legislation based on the governor’s vision. This comprehensive energy bill, created the Efficiency Maine Trust and Board, which is directing tens of millions of dollars into weatherization, conservation, and efficiency programs. Among other provisions, it includes a 20-fold increase in weatherization.
The law established the goal to weatherize all residences and 50 percent of businesses, and reduce the State’s consumption of liquid fossil fuels by at least 30 percent by 2030.
Efficiency Maine is also developing a one- stop-shop for energy efficiency. This program will make it easier for people to access all the state’s energy efficient programs, including financial assistance.
“Recovery Act funds have jump started this initiative for the next two years,” said Baldacci. “Continuing funds could come from the leasing of energy transmission corridors. Maine is on the road to energy independence by lessoning our dependence on oil and making the most our of our sustainable natural resources.”
The total amount of weatherization for this year is $28 million. Of that amount, $4.2 million is from the Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program; $16.2 million is from the Recovery Act Weatherization Assistance Program funding; and $7.6 million is from LIHEAP Weatherization.
MaineHousing is also in the forefront of developing a method to sell carbon savings from weatherization to raise revenue for future weatherization projects. The agency created a methodology to measure the carbon savings from weatherization, which could be used as a national model.