Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Efficiency Maine?
A: Efficiency Maine has a variety of programs, all geared toward promoting the more efficient use of electricity, helping Mainers reduce energy costs, and improving the environment. It offers information, incentives, training and technical assistance to a wide variety of groups, including residents, businesses, contractors, schools and others.
Efficiency Maine is the result of “An Act to Strengthen Energy Conservation” by the State Legislature in 2002. It is funded by a small percentage of all Maine electricity bills.
Q: What is “energy efficiency” or the “efficient use of energy”?
A: Efficiency is a relative measure of how much of a desired output (light, heat or movement) is created by a given amount of energy input (for electricity, this is measured in kilowatt hours, that is, the number of watts, in thousands, used in one hour of operation).
Example: A 14-watt CFL (compact fluorescent light bulb) is more energy-efficient than an old-fashioned incandescent 60-watt light bulb because it generates the same amount of light using less than a quarter of the energy (watts).
Q: What are Efficiency Maine’s objectives?
A: The five primary objectives are to:
- Increase consumer awareness of cost-effective options for conserving energy.
- Create more favorable market conditions for the increased use of efficient products and services.
- Promote sustainable economic development and reduced environmental damage.
- Reduce the price of electricity over time for all consumers by reducing demand for electricity during peak use periods.
- Reduce total energy costs for Maine electricity customers by increasing the efficiency with which electricity is consumed.
Q: Are Efficiency Maine programs for businesses or individuals?
A: Efficiency Maine has many different programs. Two of the most important are the Business Program, which is designed to help organizations of all kinds, including municipalities, schools and other nonprofits; and the Residential Program designed for consumers. One of the fastest-growing programs is Renewable (Solar & Wind) Energy, which has benefits for both businesses and consumers.
Q: What does Efficiency Maine do for Mainers?
A: Efficiency Maine helps businesses and residents save energy, save money, and reduce pollution created by the generation of electricity. It provides incentives, technical assistance, professional training, educational curricula and other services.
Since it began in 2002, Efficiency Maine has helped avert the consumption of 3.8 million megawatt hours of electricity—enough to power nearly 600,000 Maine homes for a year—saving Maine business and residential consumers nearly $400 million.
These savings will help avoid the emission of health-threatening pollutants from electric power plants, as well as pollution that contributes to climate change—in fact, as much carbon dioxide as would be produced by 44,545 cars over ten years will be avoided due to program efforts.
The above findings are as of the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009.
In addition, Efficiency Maine provides training in efficiency products, services and techniques for professionals (like industrial facilities managers, architectural engineers, or residential solar equipment installers). Efficiency Maine provides free energy audits and low-cost loans for small businesses.
Efficiency Maine provides expert speakers for businesses, trade shows, community and other groups seeking tips on energy efficiency, and provides comprehensive information about efficiency incentives, products and services. Efficiency Maine also collaborates with other private and public entities to promote efficiency strategies, and works with Maine schools to develop energy-awareness workshops and curricula.
Q: How Does Efficiency Maine help Mainers save money?
A: Efficiency Maine provides cash incentives and rebates for businesses and residents to purchase energy-efficient appliances, equipment and light bulbs. Examples include high-efficiency HVAC and compressor systems, high-efficiency industrial lighting, Energy Star appliances and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
Best of all, residents or businesses save on their electric bills for many years after buying efficient fixtures or products And because investing in efficiency is 72% cheaper than purchasing new energy supply, cutting electricity use helps to keep rates lower for all.
Q: How does EM calculate the savings it claims to stimulate?
A: Efficiency Maine participates in efforts such as the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership’s Evaluation, Measurement and Verification forum to keep up with the latest ways to measure energy savings.
In addition, Efficiency Maine’s programs are subject to independent, outside review every five years. The last such review of the Business Programs, for example, took place in December, 2006, and the next one will occur in 2011. All program evaluations can be found here.
Evaluation criteria include costs per kilowatt-hour of electricity saved, lifetime economic benefits to the state, and benefit-to-cost ratios.
Q: Does Efficiency Maine apply a cost-effectiveness test before deciding to spend money on a program?
A: Yes. By law, all of Efficiency Maine’s main programs are subject to one of two cost-effectiveness tests, described here.
Through Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, Efficiency Maine has achieved a benefit-to-cost ratio of nearly 3-to-1. That is, for every qualified dollar spent in 2007, the program has saved Maine consumers $2.99.
Some efforts are more difficult to quantify. For example, Efficiency Maine sponsors a regular schedule of technical training for facility managers. The actual energy savings from these programs and energy curricula in schools, to use another example, are difficult to quantify.
Q: Are Efficiency Maine services delivered by government or by private contractors?
A: Efficiency Maine’s programs are currently managed by five state employees. Business Program offerings are delivered by private contractors chosen through a competitive bidding process. More than 150 mechanical and electrical contracting businesses are Efficiency Maine “Qualified Partners,” who work through the program to provide efficient products and services to commercial customers.
On the residential side, Efficiency Maine partners with more than 300 retail stores to help promote sales of high-efficiency CFLs and ENERGY STAR appliances. Many stores also provide CFL recycling centers administered by Efficiency Maine.
Other services, including programs for low-income Mainers, are delivered by partners such as the Maine State Housing Authority or local Community Action Programs. By working with a number of people and organizations throughout the state, Efficiency Maine is able to deliver its programs effectively and affordably.
Note: The organizational structure will change significantly as of July 1, 2010, when Efficiency Maine will leave the Public Utilities Commission to become a new semiautonomous State agency dedicated to delivering energy efficiency programs in a unified, coordinated and well-planned fashion for all sectors and all fuels in Maine. The EMT will also manage funds generated by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Q: How do Efficiency Maine’s administrative and overhead costs compare with similar programs?
A: A study conducted for the Connecticut Energy Advisory Board by GDS Associates found that of the 15 efficiency programs analyzed in the Northeast, Efficiency Maine had the lowest program administrator cost per lifetime kWh saved.
Q: Do Efficiency Maine programs target any geographic area or income level?
A: Efficiency Maine tries to make sure that all of its opportunities are provided proportionately to the population statewide. Its programs, services and partners can be found in every county in the state.
To ensure that savings are realized by small businesses and low-income populations, by law Efficiency Maine must allocate 20% of its budget to help each of these constituencies realize electricity savings.
Q: Who pays for Efficiency Maine programs?
A: The bulk of Efficiency Maine’s funding to date has come from what’s called the “systems benefit charge,” which is included in all electric bills and calculated on a per-kilowatt hour consumed basis. The systems benefit charge for a typical Maine home amounts to about $8 a year. The revenues flow to EM via the Conservation Program Fund.
Beginning on July 1, 2009, Efficiency Maine also began receiving funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Programs (ARRA), which can be used for efficiency programs geared to reducing the use of not only electricity, but other fuels as well.
Q: How is the Efficiency Maine budget set each year?
A: Efficiency Maine’s funding through FY 2009 was almost entirely based on the amount of electricity used by Maine’s consumers each year. If overall electricity consumption went up, so did program revenue generated by the systems benefit charge. And if electricity use went down, revenue went down also. Other factors such as federal grants have also affected the overall budget figure.
With the additional funding sources discussed above starting this fiscal year, the budget process is subject to additional fluctuations based on Federal funding and Maine’s implementation of RGGI, as well as electricity use.
Q: How much money does EM spend every year?
A: Over the last few years, Efficiency Maine’s budget has been around $15 million, and program participants have contributed about an equal amount. As noted earlier, spending on energy efficiency has yielded about three times as much in economic benefits, on average.
Q: Does Efficiency Maine change its programs to take into account new technologies, such as solar energy?
A: Yes. Efficiency Maine’s Program Managers are constantly evaluating program offerings for their effectiveness, making adjustments where needed. For example, in recent years, solar energy installations have received increasing support.
Q: How does Efficiency Maine get the word out about programs and services?
A: Efficiency Maine’s managers and its marketing agency work together to take advantage of the most cost-effective marketing and publicity opportunities to promote efficiency products and services to Maine residents and businesses. These include personal appearances at venues statewide, television and radio spots, print ads, trade materials, website design, and online email and newsletter campaigns.
Q: Does Efficiency Maine coordinate or collaborate with other state agencies and entities?
A: Yes. Efficiency Maine works with the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, the Maine State Housing Authority, the federal Department of Energy, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Maine Energy Conservation Board, the Energy and Carbon Savings Trust, Maine Partners for Cool Communities and many others.