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Environment and Outdoors

Maine schools, towns get new incentives to upgrade public buildings with energy-efficient heating

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Nicole Ogrysko
/
Maine Public
Gov. Janet Mills at the Maine Climate Council's first-ever community conference Friday, June 17, 2022 in Augusta. Municipal leaders from Eastport to Kittery spoke about how they're engaging their communities, meeting the goals of the governor's four-year action plan and developing their own local roadmaps.

Maine schools and municipalities will soon have new incentives to make public buildings more energy efficient.

Under the program run by Efficiency Maine, schools and local and tribal governments will have a crack at $15-million-dollars in new incentives to install heat pumps and more energy efficient lighting and refrigeration.

Gov. Janet Mills made the announcement Friday morning at the Maine Climate Council's first-ever conference in Augusta, where several hundred people gathered to discuss their strategies for combatting climate change in their local communities.

"Whether you’re a manager of a small town or a commissioner of a state agency or a member of Congress or the chief executive, combating climate change can seem like a daunting, if not impossible task, but 1.3 million people working together, that’s how Maine becomes the leader," Mills said.

At Friday's conference, municipal leaders from Eastport to Kittery spoke about how they're engaging their communities and developing their own local roadmaps for combatting climate change.

Gina McCarthy, the White House's national climate adviser, applauded Maine for writing a plan that puts the state on a path to achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

"During a time when we lacked climate leadership at the federal level in our country, you stepped up," she said during a virtual speech at Friday's conference. "You passed a climate action into law."

The governor's four-year climate action plan sets a goal of installing 100,000 new heat pumps in Maine households by 2025. Mainers have installed about 60,000 so far over the last three years, Mills said.

The number one source of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings comes from heating homes, offices and schools, said Michael Stoddard, director of Efficiency Maine.

But heat pumps are 60% more efficient than traditional heating sources, Stoddard says, and the case for shifting away from expensive heating oil or propane is clearer now than ever before.

"Why not do it now when we’re really suffering from these high energy prices from imported oil?" Stoddard said.

Under the first phase of the program, schools can apply for $8 million in available funds starting Monday. Around $4 million will be made available for municipal offices starting in August, and a third phase with $3 million in funding will launch for non-profit residential facilities some time in the fall.

The funding comes from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, which the state's legislature approved last summer.