CUMBERLAND COUNTY — There are a lot of technical details associated with new energy priorities being adopted by the cities of Portland and South Portland, but the purpose can be summarized very clearly: Climate change affects us all and we’re going to need to take bold action at all levels in order to mitigate its impacts.

“I think that, to me, sums up why we’re doing the energy priorities,” said Julie Rosenbach, South Portland’s sustainability coordinator and one half of the joint effort between the two cities to embrace new, more efficient energy sources. Officials in both cities also praised new efforts on the state level that will help Portland and South Portland realize their long-term goals. The priorities include making efficient, clean energy more affordable; working with regulators to promote better energy usage; developing a long-term plan to phase in a ban on natural gas; and making it easier to measure how much energy everyone uses. The priorities are part of a long-term plan to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and to have all municipal buildings running off of renewable energy, such as solar, by 2050.

The South Portland City Council approved the priorities earlier this month, but Rosenbach stressed that these are long-term goals, so residents need not worry about, say, a ban on natural gas in the city happening in the immediate future.

“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” she said.

Troy Moon, Portland’s sustainability coordinator, said his City Council will be soon be voting on whether to also adopt the priorities. Moon declined to speculate on what the council would do, but said the priorities are in line with current ordinances the council has supported in the past.

Action on the municipal level can be hampered, however, by state regulations, which is why a number of key changes are making it even easier for city councils to move forward toward environmentally friendly goals.


Both Rosenbach and Moon have lobbied Augusta heavily to put measures in place to make it easier for both cities to work toward their long-term goals. One that both cities have advocated for is transparency of data, Moon said. An individual homeowner, for example, might not have much difficulty tracking energy usage, but a large office building, which can have 30 meters, can be hard to assess.

“In that case, there’s no policy in place for whole building (assessment),” Moon said.

Rosenbach and Moon have also lobbied to have the state adopt updated energy codes. New construction must meet state codes and, until recently, state energy codes were based on standards dating back to 2009. Thanks to legislation signed last year, updated codes are expected to be officially adopted later this year.

“Simply updating to the latest standard greatly improves the energy efficiency of new buildings in the city,” she said.

But some building owners might want to improve efficiency, too, and a new measure is working on that as well. Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, said he supported new legislation now in the works to create a commercial Property Assisted Clean Energy program.

“It really offers another potential tool in the toolbox,” Burgess said.


Moon and Rosenbach said the program will allow business owners who want to install, for example, new or more efficient heating systems in their buildings to be better able to afford the upgrades through third-party loans.

“They need to access capital (for these projects) and sometimes that’s a barrier,” Moon said.

Rosenbach said she believes the program will provide incentives to business owners who want to do the right thing.

“I think it does have the potential to be quite effective,” she said.

Burgess said municipalities such as Portland and South Portland have taken a more active role in recent years, inquiring about everything from new solar projects to more efficient heating systems to electric vehicle charging stations.

“It’s exciting to see municipalities leading the way on climate change,” he said.

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