As the Maine Climate Council surveys the resources to be brought to bear to meet the climate crisis, I encourage Gov. Mills; Hannah Pingree, director of the Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, and Environmental Protection Commissioner Jerry Reid to include the unique experiences and expertise of New Mainers in proposed solutions.

Like many in my class at Southern Maine Community College, I am excited about the prospect of a job in Maine’s emerging clean energy economy. My dream work is to bring clean power and clean water to people around the world – Maine included. But unlike many of my classmates, this is not my first experience with clean energy or my first degree.

I am originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I earned a bachelor of science in engineering from the American Christian Liberal Arts University in Kinshasa and did graduate coursework in engineering and energy project management at Technische Universität Berlin in Germany. There, I was project coordinator assistant for Greening Africa Together working to promote renewable energy throughout Africa. Our particular focus was solar energy and access to clean water.

I have lived in Portland since April 2019 and am studying at the Southern Maine Community College. My passion is for solar energy and I am studying electrical engineering.

My education and work experience throughout Africa and Europe and my studies here have shown me the economic potential of a clean-energy future to put Maine on a strong economic and environmental footing. Advancing this future is also the single most important thing I can do to help those that are still in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I am able to build a new life, provide electricity to those in my community, build equity and help my friends and family elsewhere in the world.

There is more to be done. We should and must do more to ensure that all Mainers, including New Mainers, can access the money savings and environment saving opportunities afforded by clean energy. This should include growing municipal solar projects, including school solar projects, and educating Mainers who may not yet see the benefits of solar energy. We’ll need to build a lot more renewable energy in Maine, especially solar and wind, if we are going to meet the emissions reduction targets set by Governor Mills and planned for by the Maine Climate Council.

To those, like me, who are recent arrivals in Maine – I challenge you to consider the impact of your consumption choices here in Maine. As you are able to join the workforce and have the opportunity to buy a house or a car, consider the recent news that by 2070 “extreme heat could encompass a much larger part of Africa, as well as parts of India, the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia and Australia.” Join the conversation in Maine around what our future transportation systems should look like and advocate for change wherever you live to encourage healthier, cleaner ways of getting around like transit and affordable housing located close to walkable, bikeable streets that connect to other services.

We must think radically and consider our place on the globe. Our actions in Maine impact our friends and family in Africa and elsewhere in the world. Protecting our woods and waters by using renewable energy, cleans the air, fights against the warming temperatures, and helps maintain the global ecosystem.

To the state of Maine – let us rise to the challenge to ensure that affordable clean energy, clean transportation, and energy efficiency opportunities are available to all Mainers, New Mainers included. Cost savings and efficiency opportunities that are only presented in one language do a disservice to our efforts to meet our climate goals and reach the state’s newest residents. In the same way that we think about how our heritage industries – from fishing and farming to the forest products industry – help us meet the climate crisis, my challenge to the Mills administration is to think about how New Mainers can help the state meet the climate crisis.

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