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Sixty Municipalities Use Funding from Efficiency Maine and The Nature Conservancy to Upgrade Lighting and Heating Systems

Maine municipalities from Alfred to Fort Kent are enjoying improved heating and lighting in township buildings thanks to grants they received from Efficiency Maine in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy in Maine. Town officials in 60 municipalities took advantage of a limited-time promotion to complete 140 energy-efficiency projects. Municipalities should be looking for additional opportunities this year to cut their bills, and lower carbon emissions, by upgrading their energy systems with help from Efficiency Maine programs and from new funding from the federal government.

In December 2020, Efficiency Maine and The Nature Conservancy launched an effort specially designed to assist Maine municipalities of 4,000 residents or fewer. Smaller towns often face budget constraints that prevent them from upgrading municipal buildings. The goal of the initiative was to accelerate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning upgrades and lighting conversions in municipal buildings. Efficiency Maine funded the lighting projects and a portion of the high-performance heat pumps, and The Nature Conservancy provided a bonus incentive for the  heat pumps. All projects were completed by June 30.

“These municipalities are doing right by the local taxpayers and by the environment,” said Michael Stoddard, executive director of the Efficiency Maine Trust. “Their wise investment in energy upgrades is something we hope other municipalities will consider the next time they have access to grants or financing.” 

“Maine’s towns and cities are leading the way to a clean energy future,” said Kate Dempsey, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Maine. “We’re thrilled to see so many municipalities reduce their carbon footprint and save on heating costs, and we’re thankful for the collaboration with Efficiency Maine that enabled us to support these projects.”

Sixty municipalities completed 93 heat pump projects that resulted in the installation of 189 heat pumps. The projects used $300,800 in Efficiency Maine grants plus $186,393 from The Nature Conservancy, equaling $487,192 in total financial incentives. Of those 60 municipalities, 30 also completed 47 lighting projects using $113,770 in Efficiency Maine financial incentives that will result in an estimated annual energy cost savings of $55,072 and an estimated total annual energy savings of 367,148 kWh.

Buildings that qualified for the promotion included community centers; fire stations; police stations; public safety buildings (combined fire and police services); public works facilities (office garages, bus garages); and town halls, libraries, sewer districts, and water districts.

For the town of Hodgdon, the incentives helped pay for two lighting projects and five heat pumps they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. Three heat pumps were installed at the fire station and two others are now making the recreation room at the town’s housing project more comfortable for the seniors who regularly gather there.

“Budgets are tight, but the incentives made these projects much more economical for the town,” said James Griffin, town manager of Hodgdon. “At the fire station we’ve supplemented an oil heating system and are looking forward to more efficient heating this winter. We also installed new bay lighting at the fire station, as well as improved the lighting in the town offices. Not only is the lighting much brighter, but we already are seeing savings on our electric bills.”

Norridgewock focused on similar spaces for the installation of seven heat pumps. They placed them in areas frequented by the public, such as the town offices and the library. Heat pump units also were installed in the fire station training room and lounge area.

“We’re saving a lot of money by getting rid of window units,” explained Richard LaBelle, town manager of Norridgewock. “Our goal was to offset recent increases in utility rates and keep our costs flat. We knew the units are remarkably efficient because many of us have them in our homes. We wouldn’t have been able to do this project without the incentives, so when the opportunity came along it was a no brainer. Partnering with Efficiency Maine helps stretch our local dollars even further.

“Our recent project also made it clear that, with an investment today, we can help save money in the future,” LaBelle continued. “These types of upgrades will be closely considered as federal funding is received because projects like these present strong long-term opportunities.”

The library, police department, and recreational facility also were ideal spots for heat pumps for Van Buren. They installed one heat pump at the police department where pipes were freezing and the multi-zone oil heating system was having a hard time compensating for drafty windows in winter. Another was placed in the recreational facility the town is upgrading so it can be used more frequently.

“The heat pumps were a great opportunity for us to cool and dehumidify the library,” said Nancy Troeger, Van Buren’s current town manager and former library director. “Generally, we don’t need air conditioning in northern Maine, but recently we’ve had to use it. We set the heat pump at 70 and it makes a tremendous difference to our patrons’ comfort, as well as protects the books from damaging dampness. We’re looking forward to using it this fall and winter to supplement the oil furnace. We’re also interested in seeing how it will reduce our costs.”

Van Buren also undertook a lighting project in its highway garage.

“The building is from the 1940s,” Troeger explained. “It’s a five-bay garage with very high ceilings and was very dark. The new lighting is making a tremendous difference to the employees who work there. It has significantly improved the facility.”

The promotion offered municipalities $2,600 per single-zone heat pump system with a maximum of three systems, or $7,800. For each unit, Efficiency Maine contributed $1,600 and The Nature Conservancy contributed $1,000. Lighting incentives, provided solely by Efficiency Maine, were based on the estimated cost savings in the first year and were subject to a cap of 90% of the total cost.

Efficiency Maine offers fixed incentives to reduce the cost of projects and to improve energy efficiency for various sectors, including businesses, municipalities, schools and higher education facilities, manufacturing and other industrial facilities, as well as other non-residential facilities, and multifamily and condominium buildings with five or more units.

To learn more about the fixed incentives for commercial and industrial customers visit https://www.efficiencymaine.com/at-work/ci-prescriptive-incentive-program/.

About Efficiency Maine Trust

Efficiency Maine Trust is the independent administrator for programs to improve the efficiency of energy use and reduce greenhouse gases in Maine. The Trust does this primarily by delivering financial incentives on the purchase of high-efficiency equipment or changes to operations that help customers save electricity, natural gas, and other fuels throughout the Maine economy. The Trust is a quasi-state agency governed by a Board of Trustees with oversight from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Visit www.efficiencymaine.com for more information.

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