Efficiency Maine prides itself in the rebates and loans that they make available to Mainers. Unfortunately, a shocking truth has emerged: The funding is unavailable to the majority of Mainers. During the first three years, 85 percent of funding went to the top 15 percent income bracket.
The new funding schemes are still designed for the upper income levels. Homeowners have to hire a contractor to gain access to the incentives, which results in spending much more than the rebates.
To get a $500 heat pump rebate you have to spend at least $2,500. A $5,000 pellet boiler rebate requires at least a $10,000 expenditure. Insulation rebates exist, but the average homeowner spends more than three times the rebate to qualify. There are loans, but most Mainers can’t afford them.
Since the funding is coming from an electricity use tax, every Mainer who uses electricity is paying for these programs. People who have no access to funding are helping finance the wealthiest Mainers’ efficiency projects.
The solution to this inequity is giving Mainers rebates for the work that they do on their own homes if it meets the Efficiency Maine standards for jobs completed by contractors. This should be easy, because there are currently no standards for contractors’ work or quality verification.
Installing complex heating and solar systems may be beyond the scope of most homeowners, but many insulation and air sealing upgrades can be done by them.
I have verified many completed weatherization jobs done by homeowners that rival or surpass those of contractors. Yet there is no funding available for those projects.
It is time for Efficiency Maine to stop taking money from everyone to give to the few. Every Mainer deserves access to Efficiency Maine funding, not just those at the top.