An impressive and diverse group of organizations has created a terrific plan called the “Energy Pathway for Maine.” Their plan includes principles that the state should follow to take advantage of rapidly expanding clean energy technologies, protect our environment and public health, increase energy independence, strengthen our overall economy, and increase prosperity for all Mainers.

The group includes an impressive and diverse mix of 20 nonprofits, from advocates for low-income Mainers to general contractors, and from faith leaders to high-tech entrepreneurs. I am grateful to the Natural Resources Council of Maine for keeping me informed about the group’s work and sharing with me the information that is in this column.

The group identified several challenges relating to Maine’s energy economy.

Maine is not keeping pace as the market for clean energy expands rapidly, while many states (as well as corporations, cities, and countries) have started to make a major energy transition.

Maine exports $5 billion per year from the state economy to import fossil fuels, while abundant local energy resources remain untapped and our buildings remain inefficient.

Maine people, including scientists, business owners, and others, recognize that a changing climate poses significant risks to Maine’s economy and environment. Many aspects of our economy and segments of our population remain vulnerable, not only to climate change but also to unaffordable energy, housing, and transportation.

A lack of new opportunity contributes to an aging workforce that poses economic and demographic challenges.

They also identified opportunities.

Maine can keep our energy dollars in state by investing in an energy future that makes our economy more dynamic, competitive and clean.

The state’s advantage and opportunities to create jobs come in part from abundant local energy resources that can increase prosperity and sustainability.

Maine’s established goals for reducing carbon emissions are already aligned with sound science and consistent with goals being set by others regionally and globally.

Finally, Mainers are known for our creativity and work ethic.

I keep thinking about what we could do if we could retain that $5 billion we send out of state each year for our fossil fuels.

The Energy Pathway for Maine was provided to all legislative and gubernatorial candidates along with other stakeholders. Other businesses and organizations can sign on as supporters at www.EnergyPathwayMaine.com.

I expect every one of us is going to have to step up to get the new governor and Legislature to focus on these opportunities. When you do that please emphasize these six principles:

• Maine must act to benefit from significant energy transitions under way around the world.

• Maine’s economy is tied to its environment, a connection that is part of our history and the opportunities ahead.

• Climate change is causing Maine people to experience significant disruptions in their daily lives and bottom line. They want practical ways to do their part to ensure a safe climate for Maine people today and in the future.

• Innovation and competitive markets offer the fundamental solutions to our energy challenges and take advantage of Maine’s entrepreneurial and resourceful spirit.

• Maine needs a long-term energy plan that benefits all Mainers, rural and urban, and across income levels.

• Mainers are concerned about the cost of energy. Reducing energy costs is one of many important objectives for greater prosperity and quality of life in Maine.

I particularly liked what Brooks Winner of the Island Institute said about the plan: “Maine’s rural communities have a high-energy burden and yet many are leading the way with practical, creative, community-based solutions that benefit both the economy and the environment.” That is very encouraging.

It’s time for Maine to step up like so many other states have already done to create clean energy for all its people. I am especially excited about solar power. Turns out that we have lots of sun in Maine.

It’s been particularly sinful that Central Maine Power has been allowed to force homeowners to pay CMP for solar power they generate and use at their home. That needs to change immediately.

If we can convince our new governor and Legislature to embrace these recommendations, 2019 could be very exciting.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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