Clean Energy Spells Hope for Maine's Economy

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Alan Caron, photo courtesy of Envision MaineOn June 12, 2015, Envision Maine convened an unprecedented gathering of some of Maine’s largest chambers of commerce, environmental, energy and research organizations to explore the changes that climate change is bringing to Maine’s economy, including both its challenges and its opportunities. The event was called, "Maine's Economy and Climate Change". Green Energy Maine was there and brings you this report.

The conference, held at Bowdoin College, opened with a remote video greeting from Senator Angus King. He mentioned the impacts of climate change on Maine's major industries and what we can do to mitigate these impacts, applauding Envision Maine for bringing people together to have this conversation.

Further welcoming remarks were made by representatives of some key organizations, beginning with Lisa Pohlman, Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Pohlman noted that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of other ocean waters on the planet. This becomes an economic issue for Maine. We have been doing a number of good things to counter this effect, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and more needs to be done.

Cathy Lee of The Climate Table told us to be watching for more from this broad partnership across sectors, whose goal is to engage more people in talking about the issue of climate change.

Andrew Sturgeon of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce said that promoting a positive business climate for our region includes sustainability.

Jeff Marks, E2Tech Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine (E2Tech) also gave a warm welcome. Marks is a former employee of UTC, a company which has cut its own energy usage by 30%. E2Tech is a diverse organization that brings together forward-looking businesses, nonprofits and the University of Maine to advance the clean technology sector.

Dan Reicher photo courtesy of Envision MaineKEYNOTE ADDRESS: DAN REICHER

Executive Director of the Steyer–Taylor Center at Stanford University, former Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives at Google, and a former Assistant Secretary of Energy.

According to Reicher, the low-hanging fruit is always re-growing. The solutions to climate change  are actually pretty boring: things such as more efficient refrigerators, insulation, low-power light bulbs and power meters. There is now a healthy race among companies to get at the intersection between energy efficiency and the standards of comfort expected by Americans.

The 2014 raising of the CAFE standards has been one great solution. Plug-in vehicles are a little more exciting than insulation. In a nearby future where "ET meets IT", plug in vehicles can charge up at low cost in the night time and sell power back to the grid from their batteries in the day.

The cost of solar has declined dramatically since 1992 and deployments have begun to skyrocket.  Maine's solar resource is better than Germany's, and we have fallen behind other New England States in deployments because of lower incentives. This is both a great pity and a great opportunity.

Wind power costs have also dropped since 1984 and deployment is ramping up. Maine has a strong wind resource, particularly offshore. Maine already has one of the world's first floating wind platforms. Statoil is ready to deploy floating turbines off Scotland in 2016.

If you can add energy efficiency and storage into the mix, it will take the intermittency out of solar and wind production.  Natural gas (NG) can play a part in this mix. While NG is a carbon emitter, there are synergies to be gained from integrations with renewables.

Reicher also pointed out that policy matters. The production tax credits (PTC) offered by the federal government are here one day and gone the next. Construction stops every time it expires; this is not the way to run a train.

Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) have led to a great deal of renewable power generation; in Maine it has exceeded 15%. These also led to carbon cap programs such as the Regional Green house Gas Initiative (RGGI), which lower carbon emissions through the imposition of standards.

According to forecasts by the Energy Information Agency (EIA), $38 trillion will be invested in renewables globally between now and 2035. This is being referred to as the "clean trillion" that will have to be invested every year to achieve this goal.

Greenhouse gases, or GHG, CAN be decoupled with GDP; it is not a zero sum game. Maine's emissions have fallen over the past decades, while its GDP has risen.

LEED built costs have dropped radically from 1986-2010. In fact, US building efficiency is now a booming industry that presents economic growth opportunities.

Clean technology innovations have shown great potential for investment return. We can actually invest directly in "fixing" climate change, shifting from current risks to looming opportunities. Clean tech stocks are up while coal stocks are down. Investors are beginning to ask about the carbon footprint of companies before choosing to invest in them.

Reicher closed with three pearls: The future is no what it used to be. The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Maine is on the right track if we can just accelerate things.

Q: Can you talk about the divestment of Stamford University from fossil fuel investments?
A: This was done because of pressure from faculty, staff and students. We should talk not only about DIvestment but INvestment in clean technologies.

Q: Can you give some examples from the investment side?
A: Some of the largest sources of capital are large pension funds and endowments.

Q: How can we get the government to stop subsidizing fossil fuels?
A: This is tricky in Washington right now; I don't see it as being easy.  We need to make sure that some of the investments that have been lost such as the PTC have to get back on the books.  Tax incentives are not the best vehicle. Master limited partnerships are used by fossil industry but are not available to the renewables industry. Let's make this tool available for renewables, too.

Q: The fact that "dirty power" is needed to back up wind power is a common criticism we hear in Maine.
A: Storage is a big part of the answer.  We need to make progress on batteries for EV's and this will drive the technology forward. Demand must be managed in sophisticated ways.

Q: Oil companies have begun to put a price on carbon; speak about this.
A: Statoil of Norway has advocated for a carbon tax. We need smart, economically-driven incentives like this and such legislation has recently been introduced in the US Senate.

Q: Why has hydropower been left out of the discussion?
A: Yes, and geothermal has, too. Hydro is a big resource with its own set of challenges, such as the western drought. The technology is evolving to be more fish-friendly, so YES it has a part to play.


After the keynote address, the conference spent an hour focused on the evidence of climate change, presented in two segments. The first of these was called, "What the Data Tells us".  Presenters were: Cameron Wake of the University of New Hampshire, Ivan Fernandez of the University of Maine and Andy Pershing of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

The second part was a series of first-hand reports, called, "What we are Seeing", where representatives of Maine's traditional industries spoke about changes they observe in nature.  Presenters were: Richard Nelson (on lobsters), Tom Doak (on small woodlots), Steve Getz (on dairy farming) and Si Balch (on forestry).


Next, attention turned to the efforts that are underway to mitigate or stave off the effects of climate change here in Maine. Each speaker's message is summarized below.

Phil Coupe, Revision Energy

Coupe proposes to establish a common, visionary goal to turn Maine into the crown jewel of New England and for us to all pull together in the same direction toward this goal.

We in Maine export $5 billion each year to heat our homes with fossil fuels. Revision Energy is combining solar power with air source heat pumps to heat homes at a cost of 89 cents per gallon equivalent. With half a million oil boilers to be replaced, we can retrain paper workers to install these new systems, rejuvenating our economy.

Fifty percent of our energy use is for transportation. Revision Energy built Maine's first solar powered car charger, allowing electric vehicles to run at a cost of 4 cents per mile, compared to 15 cents per mile with fossil fuels.
Ocean acidification is threatening our coastal industries. One way we could solve this might be to launch a new industry here: the Tesla of boats.

Solar power is a mature industry in Maine, which lies at the same latitude as Marseille, France. Maine gets more sun than Houston, TX and as much as Richmond, VA.

Revision Energy has partnered with Pika Energy, a manufacturer of small scale wind turbines, to develop hybrid systems.

Doug Baston of North Atlantic Energy Advisors, Alna, Maine

In coming years, Massachusetts will spend $1.5 billion and Rhode Island will spend about $150 million on efficiency. Efficiency is invisible and solar has a cache. Neither is enough in climate terms. What it will take is 50% of our power generation needs coming from wind. That equates to about 1 million turbines across the US. Under this model, Maine would need about 5,000 turbines to produce enough power for its own demands.

Maine has already become the wind plantation to provide the power for southern New England, since these other states cannot or will not site enough turbines to provide their power needs. This could bring the number needed in Maine to 50,000 turbines. Whether this will happen or not depends upon US. The opposition to wind power is greater near population centers; political realities may be barriers. This may mean that we will have to open up discussion about natural gas and nuclear alternatives to complete the supply chain.

Julie Rosenbach, Sustainability Director for the City of South Portland

South Portland has shown strong leadership and guidance by signing onto the US Mayor's Climate Agreement in 2007. In 2010, the town passed a sustainability resolution, which applied to all city departments.

There have been tangible results, including the completion of a climate action plan in 2014, which was honed down from 51 to 25 action recommendations. Upgrades were paid for through energy savings over 10 years with no upfront costs. Light bulbs have been converted to LEDs, starting with Christmas lights and then (most) streetlights. Solar panels were installed on city buildings.

In 2014, two EV's were added to the city's fleet and 2 EV charging stations were installed for public use. The city passed a Clear Skies Ordinance and created a full-time position of sustainability coordinator. All staff has accomplished a lot; it has just taken time. The opportunity is there for more municipalities, businesses and schools to create dedicated sustainability management positions. Investments in these positions are very cost-effective for cities and towns.

Ben Polito, Pika Energy

Pika is an electronics company, dedicated to accelerating the transition to this new economy. The transition to cleaner energy has to happen faster; costs are coming down so we have to balance supply and demand. We need to integrate energy storage into our buildings. Tesla has recently announced an affordable battery system. We need to manage smart loads during off-peak demand times to minimize power generation needs.

One new product developed by Pika Energy is a ReBus micro grid, an operating system for clean energy, that includes an energy hub that integrates energy sources in a home and allows users to operate independently of the grid. Using this system, the renewable power generation systems become supporting supplies for the grid.

The company has grown from 2 to 12 people in the past 5 years and is hiring recent graduates at this time. Pika is also developing partnerships with larger companies in the industry.

Esperanza Stancioff, University of Maine

Planning for adaptation to a changing climate must be a participatory process. Stanicioff outlined three projects as examples. South Thomaston's lobstering industry is co-developing resources such as data and price modeling to help fishing communities to adapt to climate change. Stormwater has been identified as the most common impact of climate change, so a culvert functionality governance project involving municipalities has been launched. Phonology is the simplest process in which to track changes in the ecology of species in response to climate change.  A program to increase public literacy in this field is underway.

Vaughn Woodruff, Insource Renewables

Insource Renewables is s solar company based in Pittsfield, Maine. Woodruff celebrated the changes he is seeing going on in Maine. He expressed his wish to engage in ideological change here in Maine, so that our children don't have to choose between economic opportunity and living in the home where they grew up. In rural Maine, we have to break through the problem of exporting 90% of the educated and upwardly mobile population from the economy and to keep more money in our economy through the local foods AND local energy movements. Rural communities can work together to increase long-term sustainability by reclaiming the conversation about the crises they face. Renewables and energy efficiency are the way to bridge this conversation.

Nate Johnson, Ocean Renewable Power Company

Many areas of the Earth have no access to energy. Remote communities face many stressors in their environments and vulnerability to climate events. They are paying between 40 cents to $1 per kWh. Diesel is barged or flown into these areas. Many of them are located where there are local hydrokinetic resources, such as rivers and tides. ORPC is taking its experience and technology to remote areas such as Alaska to provide predictable and affordable energy supplies.

ORPC's systems are modular, so they can be deployed without the use of heavy equipment. There is great potential to deploy systems in remote communities to be part of the solution.

Patrick Arnold, SolidDG and Eimskip Shipping

Arnold's mission is to mitigate the human contributions to climate change while marketing Maine's ports. His company has rehabilitated Maine's Ports through cost space geography. This determines how Maine can participate in the global economy. For example, the cost to move freight to Norway by ship is lower than trucking the same freight to New Jersey. Freight is the circulatory system of the economy.

Arnold has noted that Statoil has dived into renewable energy opportunities. Meanwhile, there is a paralyzing debate in Washington; we need to step beyond it in order to find true solutions to climate change. We need to build long-term, sustainable relationships rather than focus on the “us versus them” conflict that becomes lose-lose.

Kathleen Meil, Evergreen Home Performance

Evergreen Home Performance specializes in home energy efficiency improvements. We have endured record-setting winter storms and can expect more.  Most homes in Maine are not prepared for colder winters and hotter summers. This is an opportunity.  Most of us are to overwhelmed when we thing of what to do about it.  Comfort, cost and chores we need an amazing solution that saves us from chores such as raking roofs and chopping wood. Evergreen has transformed hundreds of inefficient homes into energy-efficient buildings.

Evergreen has 22 employees in 2 offices; these are well-paying jobs with benefits. The company is reducing dependence on oil and gaining a buffer against volatile oil prices, energy security, sustainable jobs and profitable business. We have the opportunity to protect our climate and our communities through building efficiencies.

Richard Schuhmann, The Landing School of Boatbuilding and Design in Arundel, Maine

Rainfall is going to become more intense and this results in greater stormwater load, especially along the coasts. This is a complex problem with an elegant solution. Rainwater harvesting is a 100's year old practice. The rainwater is cleaned of debris and then stored in tanks so as to use it or let it leak out slowly to restore the aquifer. We can use it for non-potable uses such as gardens, toilets and industry.

We can also minimize emissions through the low-hanging fruit of our daily lives. Much of our food is traveling thousands of miles.

The carbon footprint of building a wooden boat was found to be greater than that of composite boats because they were using wood from everywhere but Maine. It was not hard to reduce this footprint 90% by simply changing to Maine-grown woods.

A rapt crowd at the Maines Economy and Climate Change conference in June 2015 photo courtesy of Envision MaineLUNCH KEYNOTE: KATHRIN WINKLER

Winkler is the Senior V.P. and Chief Sustainability Officer for EMC Corporation, the worldwide leader in cloud computing, and a Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

EMC is an informational technology firm headquartered in Hopkinton, MA, with 7,000 employees doing B2B work. Winkler offered a run-down of sustainability measures taken by the company to increase sustainability, as a case in point.

The company uses materiality assessments identify the biggest potentials to drive change. The four reasons that climate change is always on this list are cost, risk, importunity and the concern of stakeholders. Winkler then addressed each reason.


The majority of carbon impacts have to do with power generated from fossil fuels. The largest tool to react to this is efficiency.  EMC pursues this aggressively; one example was a redesign of its environmental testing chambers.

While saving money is an easy justification, it does not matter whether the motivation is cost savings or environmental sustainability. What matters is when the people on the ground learn about the benefits of efficiency and get inspired by them. This has happened repeatedly.


Many people say climate change is not a risk in itself, but a risk magnifier and multiplier. Climate change will increase the frequency and/or severity of catastrophic negative events such as storm damage, absenteeism, tropical disease, natural disasters, etc.  Multiple risks happening at the same time are potentially many times more damaging.  With data centers, a power outage in one location can often be covered by servers in another location, but droughts and floods are often co-occurring these days. Unpredictable energy prices are better than high ones.

The carbon footprint of EMC's products are multiplied 8-10 times by their customers when the products are put to use. From 2013-2020, there will be a tenfold increase in the amount of data generated every day.  Data centers do not want to handle this much more data without a competitive advantage.


Winkler mentioned four types of stakeholders they consider. The first was their own current and future employees. Millennials want their work to contribute something to the world and to be proud of who they work for.

Secondly, EMC's customers are asking for their supply chain to have a positive impact on the environment. "Noisy investors" are increasingly asking about climate change in order to drive long-term values. Engagement with NGO's, from activists to collaborators, is essential.


The company is talking about their sustainability efforts. They think that putting a price on carbon will unlock capital for innovation and level the playing fields. Investors have embraced the company's stance; there has only been positive feedback to the company's stance in favor of a carbon tax.

EMC has set aggressive goals for greenhouse gas reduction, renewable energy, water recycling and more. A shadow carbon price is integrated into capital investment decisions. They also work  to educate and inspire employees. The company has built relationships with cross-industrial organizations, such as Earthwatch Institute and Schoodic Institute.

Whether a company is B2B or B2C, for profit or nonprofit, sustainability has positive impacts for your business. The most important stakeholder is our children.


Q: Maine has a robust portfolio of renewable energy.  We have fiberoptic cables.  Maine's data centers are very traditional. We need a sustainable data center.
A: We need to engage the internet companies, who are building data centers. They are getting creative about where they are placed.  Maine is a great idea for placement of data centers.

Q: EMC signed onto the letter of resolution for the clean power plan (CPP). There will be a charged debate about this in Washington.
A: When is a company expanding beyond its boundaries of expectations?  The major business voice in climate change is that which has a lot at stake and may feel threatened by the CPP. We wanted to show that a robust economy will come from cleaner power.

Q: EMC is publicly traded. Is there any tension between stockholders and stakeholders over investments that will have impacts further into the future?
A:  This is a core issue. How do you measure investment in the future against short term returns? There is now much more interest on the part of investors in sustainability. Analysts are seeing that GDP needs to be integrated with other metrics that take into consideration economic and moral values, such as beauty.


This last round of presentations responded to Environment Maine's invitation for some game-changing ideas that we can start to work on today.

Sue Jones: Community Solar

Sue Jones of Community Energy Partners spearheaded Maine's first in the nation climate action plan. She has since been working on a new project with Revision Energy: developing community solar farms (CSF's). Any of us can help to start one today. CSF's change the paradigm of corporate-owned energy into one of community ownership. Shareholders own and control their own energy generation: this changes the game.

CSF's are already operating in Maine. The one in Edgecomb will be commissioned in just a few weeks and about a dozen more are already in the planning stages. Individuals and grassroots groups can take leadership by finding a host site (one acre will do it) for ground-mounted solar arrays, and 9 family members and friends to get started.

Ask your friends and family: "Are you planning to install solar this year?" Asking the question is the first step.

Sam May: Refinancing Farming

CO2 from farm emissions is a principal culprit in climate change. Between 50-80% of carbon in the topsoil has escaped into the atmosphere since 1970. The impact of erosion due to use of synthetic fertilizers is equivalent to the damage done by burning fossil fuels.

Maine has a growing local food movement committed to producing sustainable foods. The trend toward a commodifed food supply chain is being reversed. This will have enormous impacts.

Paul Williamson: Offshore Wind

The Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative (MOWII) is an economic development group for wind energy. In Maine, wind energy is very abundant. Development of 1000MW of wind power capacity is planned for in Maine. Many jobs are being created and a limit will be reached at some point.

Williamson presented what he called two science fiction concepts: 1) that interstate cooperation is possible and 2) that energy resources can work collaboratively.  Joint development will  benefit all concerned; wind, solar and natural gas are all needed and do not have to compete.

If huge, offshore wind infrastructure is proposed to be built in front of people's coastline mansions, it is not likely to happen. Protecting local views is not the same as protecting local economies.

Naomi Beal, Passive House Maine and Friends School of Portland

The Friends School of Portland is the first school in Maine and the third in the country to meet Passive House standards. The costs of this were completely competitive. The first Passive House subsidized housing project has just opened in Brewer, with the same budget as a conventional one. Another low income project meeting Passive House standards is about to open in downtown Portland.

Passive House Maine's vision for the future role of lumber produced in Maine is for it to be used for sustainable buildings. Cross laminated timbers lend themselves to better building for lower thermal bridging, while keeping manufacturing in Maine and creating an exportable product. Cellulose is a sustainable insulation that we can also export. Many buildings built to passive house standards can feed the grid by being energy positive.

Passive House Maine sees a bright future for Maine's built environment.

Jesse Thompson, Kaplan Thompson Architects

Kaplan Thompson designs net zero homes, including the "brightbuilt barn", which gives power back to the grid: first net zero building in Maine.

Thompson posed the question, "What does good look like"? Less bad does not equal good.

Buildings are like flowers: they don't move, they get all their energy from the sun and they return to the earth. Beauty, materials, equity, water, energy, and place are the markers that define the new territory in building design. Buildings should be beautiful, sustainable, and attainable.

KTA has been living the green building challenge 3.0: Maine does not yet have an entry in this category.

Barry Woods, Plugin Vehicles

Plug-in America, a leading, nationwide advocacy group working on impactful transportation solutions and decision-making. The transportation sector accounts for 1/3 of GHG's produced in the USA and all are dependent on oil products. Sixty percent of Americans own 2 vehicles and commute less than 30 miles per day. All of these people would be able to use an EV for daily transportation needs.

There are 333,000 EV's in use today in the US. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV's) and battery electric vehicles (BEV's) have been adopted at a ratio of 50-50% to each other. The adoption curve of EV's has been 2.5 times faster than that of the Prius when it first came out. We started with only 3 models to choose from and there are now over 20 models. Electric SUV's are about to debut. The Chevy Bolt gets a 200-mile range on a single charge.

Woods showed some key findings from a study of the PEV promotion landscape:
There is a profound alignment with social/economic and environmental goals;
A lack of awareness about EV's is a widespread roadblock;
Evangenlists offering test drives drive sales because they are fun to drive.

Electric vehicles are in Maine. On September 13th, there will be a celebration of National Drive Electric Day at South Portland Community Center. All are encouraged to try out the vehicles for free.


The conference concluded with about 20 participants each presenting their own "big idea" in one minute or less.  Envision Maine will be summarizing these for sharing at a later time. Please check with Envision Maine.

Images of Alan Caron, Dan Reicher and audience all courtesy of Envision Maine.