by Ramona du Houx

June 8, 2010

7458b0b40dffbf96-welcome-300x201Gov. John Baldacci welcomes Gil Sperling of the U.S. Department of Energy. Photo by Ramona du Houx

For this summer only the state’s Home Energy Savings Program is offering cash rebates up to $4,000 on weatherization retrofitting. Federal tax incentives of up to $1,500 could also help offset the costs of weatherization.

“Preapproved weatherization projects that reduce fuel usage for heat and hot water by 25 percent are eligible for up to $1,500 in rebates while those that achieve energy savings of 50 percent or more are eligible for up to $3,000,” said Michael Stoddard, right, executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust, during a energy event attended by federal and state officials, including Governor John Baldacci. “And we are offering a special for this summer— an addition of $1,000 cash back.”

The extra cash incentive will last until August 31, 2010.

To be eligible homeowners must have an energy audit performed by a certified auditor. Eligible improvements include: insulation and air sealing, energy-efficient replacement windows, high-efficiency heating and hot water equipment, including solar water heaters, programmable thermostats and water-saving devices. When the project is done, the homeowner mails in a form to receive the cash rebate check.

Recovery Act funds have given the state’s goal to weatherize all homes and half of Maine businesses by 2030 momentum.

“Maine is one of the smallest states in population but one of the biggest states in terms of leadership. Maine plays a major role in this national issue. This is my fourth visit to the state, and that’s because I keep coming back to recognize another great program started here,” said Gil Sperling from the U.S. Department of Energy.

9cd6a136d66bb745-wdsc_0326-300x195Gov. John Baldacci of Maine explains the state’s energy goals which are a part of the state’s overall energy plan to become a green energy economy. Photo By Ramona du Houx

According to Sperling fifty percent of home and business energy costs could be saved by using new retrofitting weatherizing technology – fifty percent. The problem, nationwide, is getting the information to people that this technology is an investment that pays for itself, saving money in the long term.

“We decided to challenge states to come up with programs that would progress retrofitting nationwide. Maine had a top quality application. The state is a pilot, and a real model for others to follow,” he said.

The Governor said that MaineHousing’s long experience with the Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program and the partnerships it has established with the State’s Community Action Agencies were key factors in ramping up the state’s weatherization efforts. Since Baldacci came to office he has made energy efficiency a top priority.

ef160fe09553f204-wenergyloss01-300x216This infrared photo shows where heat leaks from a home. Weatherization cuts the heat loss dramatically.

“Maine has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation, 86 percent of our homes are heated with oil. Dependence on unstable foreign energy is dangerous for our economy, environment and national security,” said Governor Baldacci. “There’s a better way. The hard earned money that flows out of our State to oil companies could stay here at home, in our economy. People could be saving money from retrofitting and enhance their quality of life.”

The Governor noted that Maine has received nearly $42 million in federal stimulus money toward weatherization efforts. Last spring the Department of Energy (DOE) approved another $30 million to jumpstart the Property Assessed Clean Energy, (PACE) program, which will help property owners pay for energy improvements by loans that are paid back incrementally through their property taxes.

The number of firms offering weatherization and retrofitting services is growing.

137aae9326e6197a-st1-300x201Michael Stoddard executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust, said that this summer an additional $1,000 cash rebate would be available for weatherization retrofits, making a total of a $4,000 cash rebate possible during a news conference Monday at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. Photo By Ramona du Houx

The state will expand training and certification programs for auditors and installation technicians with an awarded of $880,000 by the DOE to create three weatherization training centers in Maine. The centers will be located at KVCC, Southern Maine Community College and Washington County Community College.

Dale McCormick, director of the Maine State Housing Authority, said, “The average cost in Maine for an energy audit and weatherization work is about $8,000. The savings could amount to thirty percent off your heating bill.”

The average Maine household now spends $2,400 a year on heating costs. The average oil-heated home burns 800 gallons a year.

86c7640d9cc19e4d-dale-300x240Maine State Housing director, Dale McCormick explains how selling carbon savings will help pay for future weatherization efforts. Photo By Ramona du Houx

Stoddard called for a continual campaign, “To reach out to people and educate them on the opportunities to move away from reliance on heating oil and toward alternative forms of energy.”

“Retrofitting is the best solution to rising energy costs because it reduces people’s energy bills,” said Sperling. “The solution is to retrofit more buildings is to expand the market with the aid of government seed money and with an infusion of private investment. It should be a nonpartisan issue, as Maine has shown, it can be.”

The programs at Energy Efficiency Maine and MaineHousing are available for all income levels. To find a program that fits your needs call 2-1-1 and ask for energy efficiency programs.

“All of these resources made available through the federal government recognizing Maine’s leadership role is spurring us on to do even more work because we have an administration that is supporting our initiatives,” said the Governor. “As I told people here today, we will get the funds out to the businesses and workers and begin more training so we can lift our economy.”

A full list of eligible improvements and eligibility requirements are found on Efficiency Maine’s web site,
Or call — 2-1-1.

Since 2002, Efficiency Maine has generated more than $392 million of energy savings working with businesses and individuals throughout the state.

Michael Stoddard executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust, said that this summer an additional $1,000 cash rebate would be available for weatherization retrofits, making a total of a $4,000 cash rebate possible during a news conference Monday at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield.