Dozens of people attended a summit on Friday in Augusta to talk about ways small businesses can help reduce their carbon footprint and set environmental goals.
The state has an ambitious statutory goal to be carbon neutral by 2045, and it expects businesses to play a large role in meeting the benchmark.
“Dozens of Maine businesses are thinking about how they can get from where they are now, which is probably burning fossil fuels, to the future that we all want, which is powering their business with clean energy,” Fred Horch, the volunteer project director of ‘On the Pathway to 100% Clean Energy,’ a Portland-based nonprofit project, told Maine business owners at a summit held by ClimateWork Maine, a network of Maine businesses, experts and leaders taking action on climate change, in Augusta on Friday.
Here are three free or inexpensive resources that were discussed by experts and business leaders:
— Maine businesses can sign up for “On the Pathway to 100% Clean Energy” free of charge by joining and signing an open letter to commit to the goal of 100 percent clean energy. Androscoggin Bank, Revision Energy and Lamey Wellehan are some of the businesses that have committed to the pledge.
By joining the pathway, businesses have access to free resources and a guidebook to help them operate their business with clean energy. The organization also helps connect businesses with consultants, contractors and financial service organizations to help with environmental initiatives such as transitioning to clean energy, upgrading buildings to operate without fossil fuels and identifying potential funding sources to make changes affordable.
“We’re really trying to focus on the real stuff that people can do and have a tangible outcome,” said Horch, who is also a co-founder of Spark Applied Efficiency. “We give people a common framework and common goal.”
— For businesses specifically looking for cheaper clean energy alternatives, Massachusetts-based Sustaine provides free software to help small- and medium-sized businesses assess their energy needs and access clean energy that is catered to their specific uses. The company has provided 50 Maine businesses with energy scorecards so far, according to Malcolm Smith, the chief executive officer of Sustaine.
Here’s how it works: Businesses submit their electric bill to the company, which runs it through its software to create a scorecard laying out different clean energy alternatives and how much each one would save the business in terms of energy costs.
meeting maine’s sustainability goals
“If you don’t have a pile of cash laying around, you don’t need it,” Smith said at the summit.
Many of the clean energy solutions come with financing. If not there are federal tax credits and grants to make the clean energy transition cheaper for smaller businesses, he said.
— For Maine businesses looking to create a more comprehensive climate action roadmap addressing every level of their business, from the supply chain to their operations, they can seek consultation for under $1,000 from Yarmouth-based New Eco Consulting.
“I’m not a big shop, and I help small businesses determine their climate impact, risks, costs and challenges,” said Megan Hellstedt, the founder of New Eco Consulting. “I see myself as an educator and advisor for small businesses to guide them through their roadmap in a way that is affordable.”
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.