Grant grows a green grocery

Posted Sept. 30, 2008, at 9:29 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:55 a.m.

HERMON, Maine — Maine’s governor, whose family runs the Italian restaurant formerly known as Momma Baldacci’s, posed at a press conference Tuesday in front of a freezer stacked with boxes of Tony’s frozen pizza.

Momma might not have vouched for the Italian authenticity, but in this case the Danforth Down Home Supermarket freezer — high-efficiency and partially funded by the Maine Public Utilities Commission program Efficiency Maine — was more important than what was inside it.

“As a state, we spend more than $5 billion on energy annually, and most of these dollars fly straight out of Maine to pay for imported fuels and power,” Gov. John Baldacci said. “I want us to do everything that we possibly can to keep energy dollars in our own pockets.”

The freezer is part of that strategy. It’s one element of the new, high-efficiency equipment at the supermarket that will cut the store’s energy bills by an expected $42,000 a year.

That’s cause for celebration for the governor, storeowners Dick and Marley Danforth and other officials who took a tour of the inner workings of the market.

“It’s easy to get frustrated with high energy prices,” Dick Danforth said. “I just think it made sense long term to try and reduce our costs.”

The Danforths built their clean, brightly lit store — which opened for business last December — with power conservation in mind. They invested about $800,000 in top-of-the-line equipment, funds they hope to recoup in seven or eight years.

“Doing an energy-efficient project isn’t like flipping a switch,” Danforth said. “But at the end of the day, it was certainly worth it.”

Efficiency Maine gave the couple a $38,000 grant to invest in the new equipment.

Efficiency Maine is a state-wide effort that attempts to promote prudent use of electricity, help Maine residents and businesses reduce energy costs, and improve Maine’s environment.

It is funded by electricity consumers and managed by the PUC.

Officials want to get the word out about what a difference this kind of product can make to small businesses.

To that end, Efficiency Maine and other groups are holding workshops this month to help businesses reduce energy costs.

“Energy efficiency isn’t as visible as a towering wind turbine or as jazzy as solar panels, but it’s of tremendous importance,” said Brownie Carson, director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the sponsoring groups.

A workshop called “Surviving the Energy Crisis: How to Save Money” will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, in Bangor. For more information, see the Web site www.nrcm.org/energy_workshops.asp.

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