By Ramona du Houx

April 28, 2010

As of April 6 the state had helped to weatherize 1,343, homes with about another 522 homes currently in process. MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick announced that over 160 people were put to work in these skilled jobs with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Here in Maine the Recovery Act Weatherization Program is doing what it is intended to do – making homes of low-income residents significantly more energy efficient, creating employment, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said McCormick.

MaineHousing, which is running Maine’s program, said the production meets the federal Department of Energy (DOE) goal of having 30 percent of the homes expected to be weatherized through the Recovery Act Weatherization Program completed by the end of the first quarter of 2010.

Maine’s goal is to weatherize 4,400 homes in total with Recovery Act money.

On average the Recovery Act Weatherization Program is reducing a home’s energy consumption by an estimated 20 percent or more.

The weatherization program provided 163.4 full time equivalent jobs in the first quarter. Most of the employment is for energy auditors and weatherization technicians working with the Community Action Agencies (CAAs), who are under contract to MaineHousing to perform or oversee the weatherization work.

Maine is receiving $42 million in Recovery Act weatherization funding, about five times as much money as it receives through the normal DOE Weatherization Program. The agency has spent $8 million.

“We had to ramp up the program to meet our production target,” said McCormick. “I credit the hard work of our CAA partners, and the fact Maine already had a robust Weatherization Program in place, with helping us meet the DOE target.”

That robust program was given a boost of energy when Governor John Baldacci took action against the threat Maine’s oil dependency posed to the people of Maine. When gas edged up to nearly $5 a gallon, heating oil followed suit. Over eighty percent of the state’s homes and businesses are dependent upon oil as their primary heating source. The Governor’s well-established KeepME Warm program was already helping those with low incomes. State agencies had become energy efficient models in the nation. Solar and wind rebates became available. But he believed more needed to be done, so the Governor ramped up the state’s goal for weatherization.

“Having a skilled, trained workforce is essential if we are going to weatherize all the homes and half the businesses in Maine by 2030, and that is the state’s goal,” said McCormick. “The Recovery Act funding is providing critical momentum, but we have to be prepared to continue on our own once federal funding runs out.”

A portion of the Recovery Act funding is designated for training of energy auditors and weatherization technicians.

MaineHousing is working with Maine’s Community College System to offer Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification for energy auditors. Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) has become a BPI Training Affiliate.

MaineHousing also has contracted with Community Concepts Inc. (CCI) to provide field training for BPI certification. The training will be conducted at homeless shelters throughout Maine.

MaineHousing will work with the newly established Efficiency Maine Trust with weatherization efforts. The Trust will provide a one-stop shop of information and programs available for citizens in energy efficient measures starting this summer.

Visit the KVCC website at http://www.kvcc.me.edu or find the link
from MaineHousing’s website at http://www.mainehousing.org/ENERGYAuditServices.aspx for a list of classes and registration.