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New program in Portland pushes use of renewable energy

The new 'Electrify Everything!' program is designed to offer competitive prices for things like solar panels, heat pumps, chargers, etc. to Portland residents.

PORTLAND, Maine — The city of Portland is continuing to take steps to address climate change with a new program called "Electrify Everything!", designed to de-carbonize homes, small businesses, and transportation.

"Electrify Everything!" will help Portland residents move from the use of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources through competitive pricing for things like solar panels, heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, chargers, and community solar subscriptions.

Right now, an RFP process is underway, as city officials work to find an energy service company willing to act as a partner. The goal is for residents to be able to sign up for the program starting in early 2022.

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"A lot of people are interested in clean energy and heat pumps and other technologies, but they really don't know where to start. It sounds confusing -- there's this rebate and that rebate; and this technology and that technology," Troy Moon, Portland's sustainability director, said. "The 'Electrify Everything!' program is really designed to help reduce that barrier of entry."

Moon says acting now is crucial in the larger fight against climate change. About 60 percent of emissions in the city come from the use of fossil fuels (like oil and natural gas) to heat and cool buildings. Another 30 percent come from transportation. The Portland City Council has already declared a climate emergency. 

Moon says the hope is that enough people will want to participate in this program that the selected company can lower its purchase and installation prices for electric appliances. A key factor in this program is making green energy available to everyone by finding funding, so lower-income people can also get involved. Moon says the city has been working with Efficiency Maine and other agencies to do so.

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In the long run, Moon says the process of switching energy resources is worth it -- and he's excited about the prospects of "Electrify Everything!". 

"We can help reduce peoples' costs (of) heating and cooling homes with heat pumps and hot water heat pumps. It's cheaper than using other alternatives (fossil fuel alternatives) right now, so that helps people with their day-to-day budget," said Moon. "It also is really important from a resilience perspective. One thing we've seen for every summer is the hottest summer on record, so that's just going to continue."

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Moon says the electric grid in Maine is one of the cleanest in the nation and is getting cleaner. By 2030, about 80 percent of electricity in our state is expected to be from renewable energy. That number increases to 100 percent in 2050. 

Companies that are interested in submitting a proposal can contact the city's purchasing office at purchasing@portlandmaine.gov for more information about the RFP.