The Maine Public Utilities Commission’s Efficiency Maine program has awarded grants totaling $4.8 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to 87 Maine communities for energy efficiency improvements.

The funds provide an opportunity for Maine cities and towns to obtain support for energy use planning, for “shovel-ready” projects that previously could not be funded, or for launching early steps of projects that promise long-term energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions. Projects include municipal weatherization work, solar and wind installations, energy audits and planning activities.  

Projects receiving grants are mainly weatherization and heating system retrofits at existing municipal buildings. But towns also received grants to install solar hot water systems and wind turbines, conduct building energy audits and establish new, innovative residential weatherization programs to complement Efficiency Maine’s statewide Home Weatherization Program. The commission also awarded “template” grants to 36 towns to support community energy planning initiatives. The qualifying projects all support the state’s energy goals by reducing peak electric energy use, consumption of fossil fuels, and greenhouse gas emissions, and by building private sector jobs in the clean energy sector.

The grants are part of the commission’s Federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, which can be used by municipalities and county governments to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The program is being funded for the first time with federal stimulus spending under ARRA. In November 2009, the commission was awarded approximately $9.6 million in block grant funds from the U.S. Department of Energy, of which approximately $5.8 million has been set aside for local units of government. 

The commission anticipates that a second round of application requests will go out to bid in early March for the remaining $1 million in grants. 

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