Maine gets $30M for energy upgrades

Posted April 21, 2010, at 3:36 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — State and federal officials announced Wednesday that Maine will receive $30 million for a program that will give homeowners additional options to pay for energy efficiency and weatherization projects.

The $30 million was announced as part of a package of $452 million in federal stimulus funds going to 25 communities or states across the country for innovative programs to retrofit homes and businesses with more energy-efficient technology.

In Maine, homeowners will soon have the option of reducing the upfront costs of weatherization and efficiency projects by rolling the loan payments into their property tax payments over 10 or 20 years. If the property is sold, the loan payments will transfer to the new owner.

When combined with existing state and federal rebates for energy efficiency, the new revolving loans offered by the Maine Home Performance program could help more homeowners afford improvements to significantly reduce household heat and energy usage, officials said.

John Brautigam with the Maine Public Utilities Commission said some homeowners could see the energy savings immediately offset the additional property taxes, depending on the project, the resulting efficiency and the length of the payback.

To be eligible for the program, homeowners must undertake efficiency or weatherization projects that reduce fuel usage for heat and hot water by at least 25 percent. Additionally, homeowners must have an energy audit performed by a certified auditor and the projects must meet program criteria.

Lastly, the homeowner would have to live in a community that has adopted the state’s guidelines for the program, known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE.

Brautigam stressed, however, that the program would be entirely voluntary.

“Nobody is going to see this on their tax bill unless they decide they want to do it,” said Brautigam, who is director of the PUC’s energy programs division.

Maine is already using $9 million in federal stimulus money to offer homeowners cash rebates of $1,500 for weatherization projects that reduce fuel usage by 25 percent and $3,000 for projects that achieve reductions of 50 percent or more.

Additionally, the federal government is currently offering $1,500 in tax incentives for weatherization projects.

Brautigam said he hopes the new stimulus money will be available to homeowners in time for this year’s building season.

State officials praised the announcement from the Obama administration that Maine was among the 25 recipients of the funding. The White House reportedly received $3.5 billion worth of applications for a slice of the money.

“Energy costs are a constant challenge facing families and small businesses in Maine,” U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, said in a statement. “This investment will help expand energy efficiency renovations that will save families and businesses money and create much needed jobs for our state.”

“This funding will help guarantee loans for energy efficiency projects all around Maine,” said Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in a joint statement. “Not only will these energy efficiency retrofit projects create new jobs, but they will also go a long way toward conserving energy and reducing overall energy bills.”

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