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Year-end Energy Inventory

Paul Kando

Industry, transportation and heating make Maine the highest per capita energy user in New England. We also have the most energy-intensive economy. With over five-sixths of Maine forested, forest products are both an energy-intensive industry and a source of wood-sourced fuels such as pellets.

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Our dominant fuel is petroleum. Over two-thirds of Maine households use fuel oil for home heating. This heavy use of fuel oil makes the state particularly vulnerable to shortages and price spikes during winter. Home heating accounts for 40%, and transportation for 50% of the state’s energy use, making Maine the highest per capita petroleum consumer in New England.

About two-fifths of Maine's natural gas is used for electric power generation and another two-fifths by industry. Five of our ten largest generating stations are fueled with natural gas, but only about 1 in 20 Maine households use natural gas for heating, because most of the state lacks a natural gas distribution system. Where gas service is available, constraints on pipeline capacity have led to price spikes during winter demand peaks, when homes and businesses compete with electricity generators for the available natural gas. Both gas and electricity prices have risen as a result.

Coal is only burned sporadically for heating and in two cogeneration plants at the Rumford and Westbrook paper mills. Both of the latter are fueled primarily with wood and operational wastes but also burn some coal, which they aim to eventually eliminate altogether.

Two-thirds of Maine's electricity is generated by renewable energy, primarily by the state’s 782 hydroelectric dams and wood waste products burned in biomass generators. Another 25% is generated by natural gas. The rest comes from wind and petroleum, with less than 1% produced by coal and solar power. Petroleum-- less than 5% of the supply -- is used mainly as a winter backup fuel.

The industrial sector generates more than 20% of Maine's electricity, primarily using natural gas and biomass. The state has the lowest average electricity rates in New England, mostly because of its low industrial sector rates. Yet only about 1 in 20 households use electricity as their primary energy source for heating.

Maine leads New England in wind generation with 611 megawatts of online wind capacity. Our largest wind facility is a 148-megawatt wind farm in Aroostook County. We have significant wind resources along our mountain ridges and the Atlantic coast. A floating grid-connected test-turbine, off Castine, is the first offshore wind turbine in east coast federal waters. The tidal power generating facility in Cobscook Bay is also a first. But Maine has no utility-scale solar photovoltaic power generation, and only about 20 megawatts of distributed PV panels installed on homes, businesses and small solar farms.

Maine does not produce fossil fuels. They must be imported to the tune of billions of dollars annually. The legislature has set goals of reducing petroleum usage, below the 2007 consumption level, 30% by 2030 and 50% by 2050. But we lag behind.

Can we do better? Absolutely. Opportunities abound. Stay tuned. Here’s to a smarter 2017!