The South Portland City Council on Tuesday authorized the adoption of Maine’s Energy Stretch Code as the city’s energy code while recognizing potential unintended consequences.

The code is designed to ensure new buildings will be “net-zero energy,” or consuming as much energy as is being produced, by 2030. The code, devised by the state, sets higher standards for the energy efficiency of appliances, ventilation and insolation, and is just one step in a broader plan to make the city more environmentally friendly.

The code will impact new residential and commercial construction, including additions and renovations, beginning April 1, 2022.

Projections show the initial cost of construction to be more expensive, but the payoff comes in decreased energy bills down the line.

While councilors expressed the need for new buildings to be energy-efficient, they were troubled by the initial price spike and the implications it could have on residents.

“I’ve been very supportive of our climate change goals,” Councilor Katherine Lewis said. “I am concerned that the stretch energy code is an example of the well-intentioned policies we have that drive housing prices up and keeps people out of South Portland.”


She worries that these policies make the city “more elite and gentrified.”

“It’s great to save money in the long run, but if you don’t have the money upfront, you’re not going to get there,” said Councilor Linda Cohen.

Julie Rosenbach, the city’s sustainability director, said renovations can be tricky.

She explained that “if you rip down the drywall and put it back up, but you don’t touch the insulation” then no changes need to be made. However, if one were to put up a new wall or section of a home, one would have to stuff as much insulation into the new walls as possible.

Councilors agreed to consider options, such as direct funding and incentives, in order to aid residents in those initial costs.

“Maybe there’s a way we can do both in helping people, who already own their homes, to get some kind of grant or something to make it more affordable to them,” Councilor Susan Henderson said.


The council will hold a workshop in the near future to explore their options. No date for the workshop was set.

One Climate Future report

The council was also presented a One Climate Future annual report, tracking South Portland’s progress in meeting a number of goals set in 2018, such as using 100% clean, renewable energy for its municipal operations by 2040 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions city-wide 80% by 2050.

The plan was officially adopted in November 2020 and contains 68 strategies and 186 action items in order to meet those goals, ranging from the energy stretch code to single-stream recycling and increased bike accessibility.

A total of 107 of the actions and 58 of the strategies are to be completed by 2025. Of those 58 strategies, 66% are currently in progress, 19% are upcoming, and 15% have not been started.

Strategies in progress include setting an electric vehicle charging requirement for new parking lots, developing an Electrify Everything! program and solar projects at municipal properties that will offset over 85% of municipal electricity usage.

Rosenbach believes that just one year in, they’ve made great progress.

“This has been no-cost or low-cost thus far,” said Rosenbach. “But just to foreshadow just a tiny bit, funding needs are coming.”

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