Thursday, February 08, 2007

Efficiency the way to shrink our carbon footprint

Thursday, February 8, 2007


Bravo for Saco. This pretty coastal community in York County is showing foresight and fortitude by exploring a host of ways to reduce energy consumption and save money.

As lawmakers in Augusta gear up to consider one of the most far-reaching global warming policies in the nation's history ­ the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative ­ Saco stands for the principle that small actions count, too.

The city of 18,000 has managed to save $100,000 a year thanks to a handful of energy-scrimping investments and purchasing decisions.
Most of the savings have come from simple steps ­ swapping incandescent bulbs for efficient flourescent lighting and eliminating one garbage truck by converting to an automated unit.

But the city is also exploring less -conventional angles: Solar panels are heating part of the wastewater treatment plant. A small wind turbine will contribute about one third of the energy used to power the plant's offices.

Officials are also exploring a way to capture the heat in sewage effluent to warm the facility.

Saco isn't alone. Portland's fleet of school buses and snowplows now run on biodiesel. Maine's largest city also headlines the slew of businesses and institutions that have accepted Gov. Baldacci's challenge to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Increased investments in efficiency will need to play a major role.

In the past three years, the state's Efficiency Maine program has helped homeowners, schools and businesses, Saco among them, save more than 121 million kilowatt hours.

Over the life of these investments, this will translate to $86 million in avoided energy costs.

And lawmakers will soon be asked to approve a bill to implement RGGI and direct funds raised through an auction of carbon credits to efficiency programs. This is one domestic energy resource we should be doing all we can to develop.

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