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Maine Energy in 2050

Paul Kando

To combat climate change and air pollution, create jobs and stabilize energy prices by converting to clean, renewable energy looks like a daunting challenge. But a new study by scientists at Stanford University and University of California-Berkeley outlines how each of the 50 states can achieve such a transition 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. The state plans call for aggressive changes to both infrastructure and the ways we currently consume energy, but the conversion is technically and economically feasible through the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies. To change, people must know what is possible. Showing on a local scale what is technologically and economically feasible can help lower the barriers – all political and ideological – to large scale transformation.

The California scientists analyzed the current energy demands of each state’s residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors, and how those demands would change under business-as-usual conditions by the year 2050. Based on current consumption and source of fuel data, they then calculated fuel demands assuming all fuels were replaced with electricity. The result: a 39% reduction in power demand by 2050 across all 50 states; 6% of that gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure and the rest from replacing current sources of combustion energy with electricity.

To power the new electric grid composed of smart microgrids, each state's power demands can be fully met by renewable energy available to each state. The report lays out a roadmap for each state to achieve this transition. For Maine, for electricity, transportation, industry, heating/cooling, the 2050 projected energy mix is 70% onshore and offshore wind, 22.2% solar, 5.8% hydroelectric, and 1% each wave and tidal power. The transition is expected to create 17,771 construction jobs and 13,381 permanent operating jobs. Improving energy efficiency and using wind, water and solar electricity for everything, instead of burning fuel, and means Maine will need 33% less energy.

If we retain the status quo, Maine’s 2050 average fuel/ energy costs are projected to be 11.0 ¢/kWh. However health & climate externality costs will add 5.7 ¢/kWh, for a total of 16.7 ¢/kWh. After a successful transition to wind, water and solar energy, the state’s average electricity costs will total only11.4 ¢/kWh. This translates to an annual energy cost savings per person of $143 for energy alone. However, with health and climate cost savings included, the annual savings per person rises to a whopping $8,912 compared to the current status quo. Ending Maine’s reliance on fossil fuels will lead to $0.9 billion per year (1% of state GDP) saved, due to avoided mortality and illness-related costs. Every year 136 deaths resulting from air pollution will be avoided.

To accommodate the changes outlined above will take only 1.36% of Maine’s land area. And the best news of all: the plan pays for itself in as little as 7 years, from air pollution and climate cost savings alone. What’s not to like? Let’s do it! Damariscotta and its neighboring communities can lead here – one solarized house at a time.