Jerry Hayes instals a heat pump in a room at Sarah's House in Holden on on Aug. 6, 2014. Credit: Ashley L. Conti / BDN

Gov. Janet Mills set a new goal on Friday of installing 175,000 more heat pumps in Maine through 2027, updating an older benchmark that proved easy for the state to meet.

Both the Democratic governor and former Gov. Paul LePage, her Republican predecessor, put heat pumps at the center of their efforts to make Maine less dependent on heating oil. Incentives for the machines, which usually use electricity to heat and cool buildings, that began under LePage have expanded during the Mills era.

After Mills took office in 2019, the Democratic-led Legislature authorized a climate bill that set a goal of installing 100,000 new heat pumps between 2020 and 2025. The state will be spurred along by generous federal incentives in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act that will add up to knock thousands of dollars off the cost of a heat pump for many consumers.

“We are setting an example for the nation, and with our new and ambitious goal, we will continue to lead the way when it comes to embracing efficient, climate-friendly technologies that strengthen our economy, protect our environment, and save people money,” Mills said in a statement.

The governor announced that Maine hit the old goal and laid out the new one on Friday alongside White House Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. They will join members of Maine’s congressional delegation later in the day at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a wood fiber insulation plant in the former Madison paper mill.

Maine’s heat pump goal ended up being one of the easiest climate benchmarks to hit. The early ones included moving Maine’s electricity supply to 80 percent renewables by 2030 and putting 219,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. The state is making progress toward the first goal, but it is sitting only at 4 percent on the latter one.

If Maine meets the governor’s new heat pump goal, it would add up to 275,000 installations during her eight-year tenure and 320,000 overall in Maine. Community colleges have trained 558 installers to date, the system said on Friday.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...