The Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine (E2Tech), in partnership with Innovation Policyworks and the University of Maine School of Economics, released a report comprehensive report studying Maine’s clean technology business sector.
The report’s findings echo previous National Solar Job Census that found clean energy job growth greatly outpacing the rest of the economy.
The report’s executive summary points out some powerful benefits of the growth of clean technology:
- In 2010, modeled total impact for Maine’s clean technology sector was $2.3 billion
- From 2003-2010, clean technology grew 31% in Maine, adding 2,914 direct jobs – the rest of the economy grew by less than 1%
- Clean tech jobs pay, on average, 24% more than the 2012 per capita income in Maine
The report goes into some important definitions as to what exactly ‘clean technology’ is, what makes it different from ‘green economy,’ and a synopsis of the diversity of roles, technologies, and applications within the sector:
The rapid growth in clean technology jobs points to a turnaround in the very nature of Maine’s economy – with 12,212 direct jobs, clean technology is now the #2 sector in the state (second only to forest products and agriculture), and employs more people than either information technology (8,365) or biotechnology (6,033). Nearly half these jobs are in renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass, hydro, geothermal, biofuels).
The report also calls on the rich history of Maine Senator Edmund Muskie (author of the federal Clean Water Act) as it dissect Maine’s clean tech policy environment. While there is plenty to laud – Efficiency Maine’s programs, Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), wind power goals and net metering goals – the report urges lawmakers to continue support for a wide range of initiatives, including R&D, renewable energy support structures, efficiency standards and financing programs for clean tech entrepreneurs to launch their businesses.
Solar: A Bridge from Maine’s Economic Past to its Economic Future
While the report does not delve deeply into market factors that are causing the growth of clean technology, it is interesting to note that during the time period examined – 2003 to 2010 - the cost for solar panels decreased by 74%. Meanwhile, grid electric prices rose by more than 30%.
For inspiration, Maine (and New Hampshire) need only look to the example set by Massachusetts, a state that recently blew by their solar capacity goal 4 years early only to redouble its commitment to solar power. While Maine has made progress, it hovers at #39 in terms of installed solar capacity, while Massachusetts has muscled its way up to #7 in the nation, with nearly 200 MW of solar installed.
The basic reality is that traditional energy is increasing in cost, both economically and environmentally. Simultaneously, the solutions are here to solve the crisis, and those who are forward looking can benefit from exceptional economic opportunities. Maine’s wealth of natural resources (and lack of a single drop of oil) put us in a unique position to transition our economy from one dependent on foreign oil supplies to one supported by the resources endemic to our area.
Meanwhile, at Efficiency Maine…
As we previously reported, Maine’s solar rebate was allowed to expire during this last legislative session largely due to pressure from the Governor’s office. On the bright side, the ‘omnibus’ Energy Efficiency bill did survive a veto by Governor LePage, resulting in a stronger funding position for Efficiency Maine and retention of the Trust’s autonomy.
Efficiency Maine has now launched a $500 air source heat pump rebate - roughly 10% of the cost of the unit (details: efficiencymaine.com). Heat pumps are also eligible for up to a $300 federal credit. With no emissions, quiet operation, performance down to -15°F and convenient heating/cooling modes, heat pumps are a fantastic way to offset heating oil use. They’re even better when combined with solar electric panels!
Check out our comprehensive guide to Northern New England solar energy incentives with information on Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.