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September 27, 2018

Coalition unveils blueprint for Maine's energy future

Photo / Renee Cordes
Photo / Renee Cordes
From left, Elizabeth Rogers of Coastal Enterprises Inc., Jeremy Payne of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, Frederick Greenhalgh of ReVision Energy, Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Meredith White of Mook Sea Farm and Ben Polito of Pika Energy, after Wednesday's press conference unveiling an “Energy Pathway for Maine.”

A group of 20 Maine businesses, nonprofits and associations representing a broad mix of sectors and interests on Wednesday unveiled six guiding principles they say the state should follow to secure a clean, competitive and sustainable energy future.

In its four-page "Energy Pathway for Maine," the nonpartisan group calls on Maine's political, business and municipal leaders "to come together to act anew."

Among other things, the blueprint says that Maine must act to benefit from significant energy transitions happening worldwide, and that the state needs a long-term energy plan that benefits all Mainers — rural and urban — and across all income levels.

It also notes that Maine has a chance to keep its energy dollars in state — rather than exporting $5 billion a year for fossil fuels from elsewhere — "by investing in an energy future that will fuel a 21st-century economy."

The document also touches on:

  • The close link between Maine's economy and the environment.
  • Climate change and established goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Supporting entrepreneurial innovation and business growth.
  • The need to reduce energy costs to ensure greater prosperity and quality of life.

The group admits that while its ideas may not be entirely new, they deserve focused attention from all legislative and gubernatorial candidates.

Speaking at a press conference in Portland, Natural Resources Council of Maine climate and clean energy director Dylan Voorhees spoke of clean energy as a "rural economic development opportunity."

"We think we should and we can create an energy plan that benefits all Mainers," he added

Maine ‘can, should and will do better’

Representing the solar industry, Frederick Greenhalgh of ReVision Energy noted that much of the company's growth is occurring in New Hampshire and Massachusetts rather than Maine because of more supportive solar policies. He's the company's creative services director and one of more than 250 employee-owners.

"Today we join this broad coalition of people who share this vision that Maine can, should and will, do better, so that current and future generations can enjoy the sun," he said.

Ben Polito, co-founder and CEO of Pika Energy, had a similar message, saying the Westbrook-based renewable-energy storage startup sells most of its equipment to places like Hawaii, Puerto Rico and California that are "way ahead" of Maine in adopting clean power. On the positive front, the firm is up to 25 employees and actively hiring.

"We are importing talent and exporting high-tech products," Polito said, "and the Maine economy needs a lot more of this."

Giving another sector's perspective, R&D director Meredith White of Mook Sea Farm oyster hatchery in Walpole told of how climate change has wreaked havoc on shellfish growers around the country.

She also said that while Mook Sea Farm has a new facility that includes solar panels on the roof, smaller farms may not have the resources for doing something like that.

She joined the call for policies "that all Mainers deserve."

The economic rationale behind committing to a clean energy future was highlighted by Elizabeth Rogers, chief communications officer at Coastal Enterprises Inc., which has invested more than $11 million in clean-energy deals since 2013 representing more than 270 jobs created and retained.

Committing to a clean energy future not only benefits the environment, Rogers said, "it also opens the door to new jobs and investment at a time when many rural communities are undergoing tough economic transitions."

She added that "we need to work together to support policies that allow businesses and communities to plan for and access clean energy technologies, workforce training and infrastructure development."

Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, had a harsh warning for political leaders, saying investors can't and won't ensure another governor actively trying to push them out of Maine. He also said that while there used to be a choice between clean and cheap energy, "now we can have both."

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