How the Efficiency Maine Trust is Saving Consumers and Businesses Billions | Alliance to Save Energy

How the Efficiency Maine Trust is Saving Consumers and Businesses Billions

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12/02/20 / Michael Stoddard

How the Efficiency Maine Trust is Saving Consumers and Businesses Billions

The Efficiency Maine Trust is the independent administrator of energy efficiency programs in Maine, and was named the Alliance to Save Energy’s 2020 Star of Energy Efficiency for its work on beneficial electrification, weatherization, and other programs which are saving consumers and businesses billions in lifetime energy costs. The Trust’s Executive Director Michael Stoddard writes on what makes its programs so successful.

This week, the Maine Climate Council released its new plan to cut statewide carbon emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 (and 80% by 2050). The core principle of Maine’s climate plan is pretty simple: shift away from using high-carbon fuels, like gasoline and heating fuel, to electricity generated by clean renewables like solar, wind, and hydro.

This pivot to “beneficial electrification” is a tall order in Maine, a rural state where the winters are long and cold, and we consume a lot of gasoline and heating oil. Implementing beneficial electrification here will entail a major market transformation in the vehicles we drive and the systems we use to heat our homes and businesses. Maine’s ongoing success in promoting heat pump technology is a case study in bringing beneficial electrification to scale.

In 2013, the Efficiency Maine Trust began offering rebates on cold-climate, air source heat pumps. Since then, Maine’s homeowners and businesses have installed more than 60,000 high-performance units to displace their use of heating oil and propane (cutting greenhouse gases by 60% for every BTU they produce). Following several years of 25-30% annual sales growth, in 2019 Governor Janet Mills introduced legislation establishing a goal of installing 100,000 more high-performance heat pumps in Maine homes and businesses by 2025 and securing funding commitments to help achieve the goal. Since then, the rebate level doubled and sales rocketed to a 100% increase year over year. This is the kind of growth in beneficial electrification that will be necessary for Maine, and states across the country, to make meaningful progress on climate change.

How did we do it?

First, we set a very high bar for performance of the heat pumps in cold weather. The program generally requires a minimum Heating System Performance Factor (HSPF) of 12.0, well above the standard needed to meet ENERGY STAR® certification. This maximizes the units’ capacity to deliver heat during the limited times when outside temperatures sink below 0o F, putting a dagger in the myth that heat pumps don’t work well during the winter.

Second, we made the program easy and accessible to all. The rebate terms are simple and consistent, year after year, so trade allies can plan hiring and marketing strategies around the program. We accommodate hybrid systems where the existing central heating system is left in place to serve as a backup to the heat pump. We also ensure participation from the state’s commercial consumers, as well as from the low- and moderate-income residential sector, installing more than 4,000 units in those homes. And we achieved high levels of participation in the state’s rural areas north and west of the coast.

Third, we fostered a robust supply chain. In 2015, there were 429 unique firms providing heat pump services. Today there are 968. Efficiency Maine requires vendors to sign a code of conduct, complete training, and hold proper insurance and licenses in order to be listed on our searchable online tool that conveniently matches customers with local contractors. With so much competition in Maine’s heat pump marketplace, high quality at low prices is the norm. This makes the cost-savings and increased comfort from heat pumps an easy sell.

Fourth, Efficiency Maine has developed a comprehensive educational campaign. Using online ads, YouTube videos, an extensive website, and a training module and leave-behind materials for contractors, the program is working overtime to ensure that customers are informed about how to optimize their comfort and savings.

The result? Customer satisfaction is exceptionally high and word-of-mouth advertising is selling this product.

Efficiency Maine’s success with heat pump water heaters (HPWH) tells a similar story.  According to ENERGY STAR®, of the total number of HPWHs shipped nationally in 2018, more than 9% were shipped to Maine where the population of 1.3 million residents represents just 0.4% of the U.S.

Maine’s Climate Council has done the modeling and found that by 2030, 45% of all homes in the state must be heated by at least two mini-split heat pumps or a whole-home heat pump system. We are up for a challenge, and with our experience bringing beneficial electrification to scale, we are optimistic about our prospects.




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