October 2022 – Maine Policy Update
October 19, 2022
BPA tracks the latest policy updates and legislative issues in many states across the nation. See the latest policy information for Maine as of October 2022.
Disclaimer: Inclusion of any bills/regulations in this state policy update does not equate to BPA’s endorsement.
In September, New England governors from Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, sent a joint letter to congressional leaders requesting at least $500 million in emergency supplemental funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for fiscal year 2023. The emergency funds would be in addition to the annual appropriation for LIHEAP to address increasing home energy bills in the winter related to global energy markets.
Governor Mills has announced a set of programs as part of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan (MJRP) to accelerate energy efficiency upgrades for low- and moderate-income residents, local governments, schools, community organizations, and businesses in Maine. Most recently, at the end of August, Mills announced $4 million in rebates for public buildings located in communities with less than 5,000 people to install energy savings measures and to replace HVAC systems with high-performance heat pumps. Earlier this summer, Governor Mills also announced a $25 million financial incentive program through Efficiency Maine for rebates to accelerate weatherization projects in low- and moderate-income residential dwellings and a $15 million initiative to help Maine’s public schools, towns, cities, and Tribal governments make energy efficiency improvements and reduce their energy costs. Funding for these new initiatives is administered through Efficiency Maine and provided by the American Rescue Plan Act passed through Congress in 2021 allocating $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to Maine.
To bolster workforce development, the Maine Department of Labor announced in June that it will deliver $12.3 million in grants to expand apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships across Maine as part of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. The funding is expected to provide more than 3,000 Maine people with new apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship opportunities with a focus on Maine’s fastest growing industries including clean energy, skilled trades, and advanced manufacturing.
Meanwhile, the state legislature approved new legislation this year that requires Maine to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and boosts funding for weatherization and high efficiency heating system rebate programs. The Maine legislature also passed a bill in April that requires that new affordable housing projects funded by the Maine State Housing Authority use all-electric systems to provide primary heating and cooling. New affordable housing must also meet industry-recognized energy efficiency new building certification requirements.
- The Maine Public Utilities Commission held two public witness hearings in Summit Natural Gas’ Proposed Rate Increase and Alternative Rate Plan Case. The proposal requests a seven-year rate plan that sets a 30% rate increase in year one then increases rates by up to 15% each year in years two through seven.
- The Maine PUC approved stipulations for new optional electric rates for residential, commercial, and large class customers for electric vehicles, energy storage technologies and heat pumps, including those used for space and water heating.
- The Maine Public Utility Commission has given final approval to Efficiency Maine’s 2023-2025 Triennial Plan, which was submitted at the end of November, detailing planning and guidance for the next energy efficiency program cycle in the state. Among other purposes, the plan is intended to ensure Maine is on track with goals set by the Governor’s Climate Action Plan to weatherize 35,000 homes and businesses, including at least 10,000 low-income households, install 115,000 heat pumps, and reduce energy costs by the maximum cost-effective amount by 2030. The finalized Plan launched implementation of the next cycle of efficiency programs on July 1.
2022 Regular Session Dates: January 5 until May 9.
Bills that were enacted in 2022:
- HP 1045 An Act to Implement the Most Time-sensitive Recommendations of the Maine Climate Council requires the State to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and provides increased funding for multiple climate change adaptation programs to meet this goal. The bill includes $905,000 for heat pump incentive programs through the Efficiency Maine Trust, and $485,800 through the Efficiency Maine Trust for home and business weatherization rebate programs. The legislature passed the bill in March and the Governor signed it on March 29.
- SP 674 An Act to Review Strategies for Improving Utility Rate Affordability and To Provide Utility Relief requires the Maine Public Advocate’s Office to convene a stakeholder group by September to identify methods for residents to better afford electricity as the state seeks to meet its renewable energy goals. The group is required to submit a report to the Maine Legislature by December 1, including ways to lower costs by reducing demand through weatherization and energy efficiency, as well as financial assistance programs. This bill was signed into law on April 18.
- HP 1227 An Act to Promote Energy-Efficient Affordable Housing requires that construction projects funded by the Maine State Housing Authority (MSA) must meet certain design standards including that all funded projects use all-electric systems to provide primary heating and hot water needs, provide EV charging infrastructure, and provide the necessary infrastructure and space for solar installation. New affordable housing under MSA must also meet efficiency qualifications based on industry-recognized certification programs. HP 1227 was signed into law on May 3.
Bills considered but not passed in 2022:
- LD 1094 An Act to Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue to Reduce Homeowner and Municipal Energy Bills through Increased Efficiency and Weatherization Projects would have provided $20 million to Efficiency Maine to provide investments in energy efficiency and weatherization for senior citizens and low-income residents. After being carried over from the previous session, this bill will not see further action this year after the Committee removed the bill from consideration on March 22.
- HP 1492 An Act to Improve the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program would provide an additional $2 million to the Maine State Housing Authority to create the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program Administrative Efficiency Fund. The funds may be used to improve the administration of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and reduce application and waiting times. HP 1492 was passed by the House on April 12 but was not considered by the Senate.