FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
David Gibson, CEM, LEED AP BD+C | Executive Committee Vice Chair, Sierra Club Maine | firstname.lastname@example.org | 207-323-2208
June 16, 2021 (Augusta, Maine) - Today, the Maine State Legislature voted to pass LD 1659, An Act to Create the Maine Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator (final vote for enactment to be held tonight). The bill, sponsored by Representative Stanley Paige Zeigler with bipartisan cosponsors, received support from numerous groups including Sierra Club Maine, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, 350 Maine, the Governor’s Office of Policy, Innovation and the Future, Maine Youth for Climate Justice, Maine Real Estate and Development Association, the Environmental Priorities Coalition, and an array of municipalities, non-profits, and businesses. The bill, which takes an exciting step toward financing an array of climate solutions identified in the state’s climate action plan, will head to Governor Mills for her signature (after tonight’s final vote to enact).
This critical legislation creates the Maine Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator as a new initiative under Efficiency Maine Trust. This will significantly expand Efficiency Maine’s loan programs by requiring Efficiency Maine to partner with local banks, credit unions, and Community Development Financial Institutions. The Accelerator will substantially increase the availability of loan funds while decreasing interest rates and reducing barriers like credit scores and income requirements.
“Maine continues the exciting national trend of creating state green banks to drive private investment, create jobs, and reduce energy costs. It’s no surprise that Maine’s legislation is bipartisan,” said Jeffrey Schub, Executive Director of the Coalition for Green Capital, a national advocate for green banks. “But Maine and other states can only realize the full benefits of this policy with matching federal action and funding. I hope the adoption of this wise state policy spurs the entire Maine congressional delegation to support the bipartisan national Clean Energy Accelerator as part of federal infrastructure legislation.”
The Accelerator will make funds available for efficiency and clean energy projects for households and businesses throughout Maine, with a specific emphasis on climate equity. LD 1659 requires that at least 40% of funds be invested in vulnerable communities, including low- income communities, communities of color, and tribal communities. This is a huge step to helping to address the long-standing systemic inequity perpetrated by the fossil fuel industry.
“Maine currently spends more than $4 billion each year importing fossil fuels,” explains Sierra Club Maine Vice Chair David Gibson. “This disproportionately affects low-income households. These homes tend to have higher energy costs, and have the least ability to pay for efficiency improvements, heat pumps, and clean energy measures. LD 1659 will reduce lending barriers, making it easy for every household in Maine to participate in the clean energy transition, reducing their energy bills and emissions in the process.”
The Maine Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator is modeled after the Connecticut Green Bank, which has leveraged seven dollars in private capital for every dollar of public capital. In this manner, the Connecticut Green Bank has generated more than $2 billion in clean energy investments over the last decade. “Public-private partnerships should always seek to bring the best of private industry and government to bear, and a clean energy accelerator in Maine will do just that,” said Eamonn Dundon, Director of Advocacy at the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. “That is why this legislation is so notable and why we give our unqualified support for this market-based initiative that addresses financing gaps in funding clean energy initiatives by bringing government and private industry together.”
There is currently federal legislation moving forward (H.R.806 / S.283) which would create a national Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator. This legislation has been co-sponsored by Maine Representative Chellie Pingree, and President Biden has included $27 billion in the 2022 budget to fund the initiative. Maine anticipates receiving $100 million or more from this federal effort to finance the Maine Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator. LD 1659 takes a giant step forward for financing climate solutions in Maine.
“This bill couldn’t have come at a better time for the people of Maine. With federal legislation in the works, we are in a prime position to capitalize on additional funding for energy efficiency projects” noted Sarah Leighton, Chapter Director for Sierra Club Maine. “The success of this bill is thanks to a robust grassroots movement and the hard work of Maine people. We couldn’t be prouder.”
Sierra Club Maine is one of 64 chapters nationally with 4 million members and supporters. Working in Maine for over 40 years, Sierra Club Maine has over 20,000 members and supporters across the state. As a volunteer-run, grassroots organization, Sierra Club Maine believes in the power of people working together to make change happen. Their mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means necessary to carry out these objectives.