A proposed program from a local environmental advocacy group could soon cut both greenhouse gas emissions and heating bills in Freeport.

On Tuesday night, the Freeport Town Council will consider using pandemic relief funds to provide rebates to residents who purchase heat pumps, electric vehicles and other efficient devices, which program sponsor Freeport Climate Action Now says would put a dent in the town’s largest sources of emissions.

“We all realize that we’ve got a global existential crisis with respect to climate change,” said FreeportCAN volunteer Mason Morfit. “We’re just trying to do our part.”

Based on programs in Auburn, Bangor and South Portland, FreeportCAN’s proposal would set aside $150,000 for qualifying residents who weatherize their homes or purchase any of a wide range of electric devices. Households making up to 90% of the area median income (or $80,280 for a two-person household) would be eligible for the rebate.

Heat pump rebates could be as much as $1,200 or $2,000 per household, according to the proposal, helping lower-income residents more easily bear the typical $5,000-$10,000 cost of installing the devices.

“Most of the people who are buying heat pumps and other devices now are those who can afford them,” Morfit said. “People at the lower- and moderate-income scales have a more difficult time.”


South Portland has given away about $35,000 since its rebate program launched in September, according to Julie Rosenbach, the city’s sustainability director. She said her team is seeing widespread interest from residents looking to buy everything from electric scooters to heat pumps, which can play a role in helping the state reach carbon neutrality by 2045.

“The core approach we have to climate mitigation and climate adaptation is to electrify everything,” Rosenbach said. “It’s far easier to have your heating source run on electricity and green the grid than it is to try to get everyone a renewable energy heater in their home.”

Heat pumps’ power lies in how efficiently they transfer heat from the outdoors to living spaces, according to Andy Meyer, residential program manager at Efficiency Maine. Over the past decade, the devices have become far more efficient than oil heating systems, even at sub-zero temperatures.

Switching to heat pumps can cut the amount of energy needed to warm a home by 50%, Meyer said. Besides eliminating thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year, the switch can also cut household heating bills in half, savings that will only grow as the price of oil rises.

Mainers have recognized the potential of heat pump technology, which Meyer called “the biggest revolution in heating since the invention of fire.” Efficiency Maine’s own heat pump rebate program, which Freeport residents would be able to stack with the town’s proposed program, is on pace to help 20,000 households this year.

“We are issuing a rebate for a residential heat pump every five minutes,” Meyer said. “It’s the fastest change in heating that we’ve ever seen.”

The Freeport Town Council will discuss the local proposal at their 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday evening.

Residents interested in learning more about heat pumps and Efficiency Maine’s rebate program can find resources, including a list of over 700 registered heat pump vendors, at efficiencymaine.com.

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