Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a news conference at General Insulation in Brewer on Nov. 4, 2021, highlighting a new weatherization program. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy on Tuesday ranked Maine fifth among all states for its energy efficiency and energy equity efforts.

The organization, which is based in Washington, D.C., and advocates for policies to reduce energy waste and combat climate change, also recognized Maine as the most improved state. Maine shot up 11 spots in the rankings since 2020.

The State Efficiency Scorecard cited Maine signing laws to promote electrification and decarbonization for affordable housing, and a continued investment in weatherization and heat pump incentive programs, as reasons for the ranking.

Maine has also developed a “clean transportation roadmap” that outlines ways the state plans to reduce emissions within the transportation sector and equitably advance the adoption of electric vehicles, ACEEE said.

In addition, last year Maine adopted energy- and water-saving standards for more than 15 types of products, it said.

Maine scored 35.5 points out of 50. It ranked behind California, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, consecutively.

“As the most home heating oil-reliant state in the country, and with electricity prices increasing as a result of global events, energy efficiency is a critical tool for helping people reduce energy costs and making it more predictable,” said Dan Burgess, director of the governor’s energy office. “We need to make sure our programs are designed to reach everyone.”

ACEEE collects data for this report from state energy offices and public utilities commissions to scale energy efficiency in six key policy areas: utility and public benefits programs, transportation, building energy efficiency, state government-led energy efficiency initiatives, industrial energy efficiency, and appliance and equipment standards.

In previous years equity was not used to rank states on energy efficiency, but this year ACEEE expanded its focus to include equity in its criteria.

“Maine has made energy efficiency a key part of its state strategy to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, but it’s also doing so equitably,” said Sagarika Subramanian, a senior research analyst at ACEEE and the leading author of the report.

Currently, only 26 states, including Maine, have an energy efficiency resource standard, which requires electric utilities to achieve a certain amount of energy savings from energy efficiency measures, she said.

“The state continues to maintain a fairly robust energy resource standard, a policy that sets efficiency goals for an annual savings program, administered by Efficiency Maine Trust,” Subramanian said.

During the past few years, the state has implemented subsidy programs to encourage people to heat their homes with heat pumps. The state pays for the cost of the installation of heat pumps for qualifying homeowners, given that propane and oil-based heating systems consume more energy and release greenhouse gasses.

Maine aims to weatherize 35,000 homes and businesses, and to heat at least 115,000 homes with electric heat pumps by 2030.

Since 2020, the state has weatherized 9,100 homes and installed more than 82,000 heat pumps, according to the Maine Climate Council’s two-year report on the progress of its four-year climate plan.

“One of the things we are proud of at Efficiency Maine is the geographic distribution of heat pump programs, which shows that Aroostook County has some of the highest penetration of heat pumps per capita in the state,” said Michael Stoddard, the executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust, a quasi-state agency.

An important element of equity in Maine is ensuring that efficiency programs are reaching consumers in northern and rural parts of the state as much as they are in the southern parts of the state, he said.

Maine has led initiatives for efficiency upgrades for low-income households and for renters, ACEEE said. It specifically cited LD 1656, a bill that became law this year, which requires building construction projects funded by the Maine State Housing Authority to use non-fossil fuel systems for heating and to be designed to maximize energy efficiency.

The state also ranks eighth in the country for the number of available electric vehicle chargers per capita, according to ACEEE.

Gov. Janet Mills said energy efficiency is a critical need for Maine residents.

“​​This recognition by ACEEE affirms Maine’s leadership on energy efficiency, which is even more critical now given the unprecedented energy prices our region is experiencing since the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Mills said. “I am proud of Maine’s progress and will continue to make available programs and incentives to help Maine people reduce their energy costs and improve energy efficiency.”

Mehr Sher is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for this reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.

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Mehr Sher

Mehr Sher reports on the Maine environment. She is a Report for America corps member. Additional support for her reporting is provided by the Unity Foundation and donations by BDN readers.