June 24, 2018
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Tightening Maine

New energy technologies are exciting in their promise to help end the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. Ending that reliance also combats climate change caused by burning those fuels. Caulking a window frame, spraying foam insulation between floor joists in the basement and adding a foot of cellulose in the attic may seem less exciting, but MaineHousing officials have just proved that these measures — considered collectively — are incredibly effective in the effort to transform our energy economy and reverse climate change.

MaineHousing has broken new ground by quantifying the amount of fossil fuel saved through its efforts weatherizing homes across the state. The savings are translated into carbon credits, which MaineHousing can sell and then use the money to fund more weatherization.

The weatherization campaign — tightening Maine’s oldest-in-the-nation housing stock — has been shown to save 2 tons of carbon emissions each year for every home that has been weatherized. Not only is that an outstanding achievement, but those savings also remain year after year. With 477,000 single-family homes in Maine, the potential exists to combat climate change house by house.

The measurement of carbon saved is not some ballpark estimate or average, but rather a methodology that has been validated by a qualified third-party review. Maine’s landmark achievement has drawn interest from California, Oregon, Wisconsin, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick reports.

Focusing on housing to achieve carbon emission savings makes sense in Maine for several reasons. About 80 percent of Maine homes are heated with No. 2 fuel oil. That’s the fuel that spiked to $4.50 per gallon a couple of years ago. And as a relatively low-population state with high home ownership rates, the goal of weatherizing all Maine homes by 2030 is not beyond reason. The state goal also is to weatherize half of Maine’s business buildings by 2030.

While it makes sense to consider converting home heating plants to cleaner fuels and while backyard wind turbines, rooftop solar collectors and photovoltaics can have significant impact when and where they are practical, the best investment is to improve the way our houses retain heat. Weatherizing a house can be dirty, tedious and labor-intensive work, but it is important work. By spending public funds on that work, a new trade — soon to be on par with plumbing and carpentry — will be launched, yet another positive spin-off.

MaineHousing should be commended for its success in linking carbon emission reduction with weatherization and making it pay for us all.

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