Renewable energy in Maine

Eleven of Maine’s 16 counties have poverty levels that exceed the national average. The International Energy Agency and World Health Organization have linked energy and poverty, claiming that equitable access to affordable energy is a crucial step toward economic development in rural areas. Maine spends approximately $4 billion per year on imported energy, and approximately 55% of Maine’s energy demands are met with imported fossil fuels, which make the state particularly susceptible to price fluctuations. Rural workers and residents in poverty-stricken counties are typically affected most by these price fluctuations. In addition, roughly one thousand Mainers do not even have access to the electricity grid. Approximately 70% of Maine residents rely on fuel oil for home heating, one of the most expensive heating fuels available. Meanwhile, Maine has 17 million acres of forestland and more than 400,000 acres of farmland, which could be used to provide sustainable biomass-derived energy for residents and business owners. Maine has the highest wind energy potential in New England at nearly 34 terawatt-hours per year. There are also significant solar, tidal, and geothermal resources in the State. These renewable energy sources could be harnessed to provide homegrown energy, increase jobs and improve quality of life for all Mainers. In fact, a recent report by the Maine Public Utilities Commission estimates that increasing the penetration of renewable energy in Maines energy portfolio could add nearly 12,000 jobs and increase the Gross State Product by about 2%. This research is using a combination of surveys, cost and feasibility analysis, and environmental assessment to compare the level of public and political acceptance, cost, technical potential, and environmental impacts, respectively, of increasing energy use from a variety of renewable energy options. It is hoped that the comparative results from this project will assist policymakers in drafting renewable energy legislation based on Maine-specific data and analysis.

Investigator: Klein, S.  

Unit: School of Economics

Termination Date: 30-Sep-17