Good Morning. This is State Senator Phil Bartlett of Gorham. I serve on the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee.
Recently a retired couple from Peru, Maine made the front page of the New York Times. Their story was compelling. Living on a fixed income, the Hartfords struggled to make ends meet—heating, alone, cost nearly $500 per month. And by early winter, they could no longer afford to pay for the oil needed to heat their home. They even offered the title to their sixteen year old car in exchange for oil in their tank. Unfortunately, their situation is not uncommon to many Mainers facing a cold winter and climbing heating costs.
It is what happened next that reminds us all of what it means to live in Maine—where we value supporting our community and taking care of our neighbors—it is also what garnered the attention of the New York Times and the generosity of hundreds, if not thousands of Americans across this country.
The owner of Hometown Energy made sure the Hartfords did not go without heat. He delivered oil and paid for it out of his own pocket. This one act of kindness sparked an outpouring of generosity from people around the country leading to donations exceeding $200,000 to Hometown Energy to set up a fund to ensure that other Mainers don’t go without heat because they can’t afford it. And, the story doesn’t end there. The Hartfords then received an offer for a free energy audit—and efficiency improvements to “button up” their home and stop heat from leaking out of the ceiling, walls, doors, and windows. Since their home has become more energy efficient, they report a warmer home that uses less energy and costs fifty percent less in heating.
The Hartford’s story is one, that as lawmakers, we all must heed. We must address the ongoing energy crisis…the crisis of cost and dependence on fossil fuel.
In recent years, Democrats and Republicans have come together to establish clear and common goals for Maine’s energy policy. The goals have been twofold: One, to lower the cost of energy to Maine residents and businesses through efficiency. And, two, to reduce the environmental impact of our energy use through renewable energy options.
Based on these goals, Maine lawmakers have put together a plan to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. And, in fact, over the past two weeks, we have learned that Maine’s energy policy is working.
An independent analysis released just last week found that Maine is leading the region in renewable energy. And, more importantly, ongoing investment in our energy strategy will create 11,700 jobs here in Maine and increase our “gross state product” by $1.1 billion. This is proof-positive that the policies we put in place are making Maine a regional and national leader in renewable energy. And, at a time of great economic distress, we can look to our renewable sector as a beacon of economic growth.
Unfortunately, Governor LePage has made remarks suggesting he wants to undermine Maine’s bipartisan energy policy and jeopardize thousands of Maine jobs. Abolishing renewable energy incentives and funding for energy efficiency will cost Maine people far more money than they could save.
Energy efficiency is inexpensive and proven to be highly effective. As we heard from the Hartfords, energy efficiency can offer a permanent solution and a real cost savings to Maine households and businesses. While we can have little impact on the actual price of energy, we can lower energy costs through energy efficiency. We must continue—as a state—prioritizing energy efficiency programs like the ones offered through the Efficiency Maine Trust. In fact, after becoming an independent agency focused solely on its mission to save Maine people money, it has had its best year ever.
Hundreds of Maine’s businesses—from stores to farms to factories—have improved their bottom line and become more competitive because of Maine’s investment in energy efficiency. In fact, with LePage’s leadership, even Marden’s received grants to lower their energy costs and improve efficiency. If you have ever purchased an energy efficient light bulb then you’ve saved energy and you’ve benefitted from Maine’s efficiency programs. Investing in efficiency has been a cornerstone of Democrats’ efforts to help Mainers. For Maine businesses, the benefits are long term and better than any tax break we could offer. By investing in efficiency, we are making our businesses stronger and more competitive.
And so, we cannot stop here. We have the playbook for how to lower energy costs for Maine households, create jobs, and give a shot in the arm to Maine’s economy. Maine’s emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy is good for our economy, it’s good for Maine people, and it’s good for our environment.
This is State Senator Phil Bartlett. Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.