July 4, 2022

Y M L P-298

It Must Be Business

Some Maine businesses are starting down a path to 100% renewable power

7 min read

Joe Walsh, owner of Inexperienced Clean Maine, stands in front of his Portland office environment on May 11. Powering Walsh is a Toyota Prius hybrid the company at present utilizes. Photo voltaic panels are on the roof of the making. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff members Photographer

Joe Walsh stepped onto the pathway six years back when he bought a 4,800-square-foot former radio station on the outskirts of Portland to expand his cleaning company.

Walsh did not comprehend it at the time, but the shock around obtaining a $1,200 propane bill would propel him on a journey towards the ambitious objective of phasing out all fossil fuels at his business, Environmentally friendly Thoroughly clean Maine.

He is not there nevertheless. His most important challenge now is transitioning his fleet of 22 vehicles to electric powered motor vehicles.

Solar panels on the roof at Environmentally friendly Cleanse Maine in Portland on May perhaps 11. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Team Photographer

“I’ve completed almost all the things on the creating which is value-efficient,” Walsh said not too long ago, standing in his parking ton following to a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, sunshine glinting off the solar panels on his building’s roof. “It’s going to get me a though to turn in excess of all my vehicles.”

Walsh’s electricity expedition has manufactured him a product for a new statewide business task named On the Pathway to 100% Clean Vitality. A team of 20 firms from Biddeford to Brooklin kicked off the work this thirty day period. The nonprofit undertaking is supported by company sponsors and attributes a site designed to assist organizations discover the resources and associates to build a unique program to start on a 100 per cent renewable-power pathway.

“Part of the benefit of this challenge is developing a plan to get to that objective,” claimed David Swardlick, a Portland entrepreneur who’s selling the initiative. “It’s the difference between obtaining an curiosity in cutting down fossil fuels and making a determination to get to 100 percent renewables.”

The idea of working a enterprise on 100 p.c renewable energy received a high-profile strengthen previous thirty day period when Hannaford Supermarkets announced designs to shoot for that target in 2024. Hannaford is a regional chain and just one of Maine’s premier employers. It has the technical methods and money that quite a few smaller enterprises absence.

But in 2022, it is becoming progressively doable for practically any retail or compact professional company to commence making a clean up-strength transition, mentioned Michael Stoddard, govt director of Effectiveness Maine. LED lightbulbs and warmth pumps for warming and cooling space and for heating drinking water are greatly out there. Photo voltaic-electric powered farms are popping up all in excess of, and automakers are transitioning to electric powered autos.

“It’s unbelievable that we have arrived at a put in which you can do this now,” Stoddard claimed. “Even 10 a long time ago, individuals had been skeptical when you talked about 100 per cent clean electricity. But if you’re not in producing, you can do it all with electric appliances and equipment. Then the only concern is, ‘Where are you receiving your electrical energy from?’ ”

A significant-performance heat pump at Green Clean Maine in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Workers Photographer

Performance Maine this thirty day period released a free of charge on the web consultation assistance for enterprises. They can indicator up for a digital chat with an specialist who will assess their requirements and tutorial them ahead of they start off an power undertaking.

Taken together, these developments are coming at a essential time.

Strength price ranges are at serious highs and are predicted to stay elevated for the foreseeable upcoming, so organizations are looking at prolonged-expression investments to use less petroleum and electrical energy. Point out policies are encouraging a change to an eventual electrification of the economy, fueled largely by solar, wind and storage.

They complement Maine’s local climate motion ambitions of chopping greenhouse gas emissions by 45 p.c in 2030 and turning out to be carbon-neutral by 2045. Getting additional Maine businesses on the clear-vitality pathway could assist realize these larger sized ambitions.

Going ALL-IN ON Thoroughly clean Electricity

The thoughts for the pathway challenge sprang from discussions Swardlick had last year with Fred Horch, co-founder of Spark Applied Efficiency, a South Portland vitality products and services contractor. Horch noticed that quite a few of his clients preferred to save cash and ended up targeted on a particular area of their company, but hadn’t deemed a holistic intention of weaning themselves off fossil fuels.

Swardlick has many years of background in strategic promoting, so he formulated a community marketing campaign and information for the hard work.

Horch is effectively versed in sustainability difficulties and power performance. He produced online instruments and application, which includes a calculator for companies to benchmark their carbon emissions.

Horch also is putting alongside one another do-it-by yourself guidebooks for tiny small business house owners, industrial assets landlords and eating places. The smaller business enterprise variation is presently online.

Joe Walsh, operator of Inexperienced Thoroughly clean Maine, details out the insulation in his Portland office environment in May perhaps. Walsh’s enterprise is aiming for 100 % renewable electric power. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Workers Photographer

Swardlick and Horch have been ready to line up like-minded monetary sponsors. They include retailer Lamey Wellehan Sneakers, which reduce its carbon emissions by 50 percent in 2020 and is striving to do much more.

One more participant is Geiger, the marketing goods distributor, which renovated its Lewiston headquarters in 2019 to demanding inexperienced building requirements and has a photo voltaic array that materials 100 % of its web electrical power. Androscoggin Financial institution, which last yr grew to become Maine’s initial Certified B Corporation bank and is making ideas to get all its electrical power from renewable sources, also is on board.

These providers and the other pathway pioneers have signed a commitment letter pledging to operate toward zero fossil fuel emissions. They get an emblem they can publish at their enterprises, a way of publicly speaking their intentions. Swardlick hopes the visibility will encourage Mainers to patronize member firms.

“We hope the branding and dedication will be meaningful for the businesses and their customers,” he explained.

Performance IS THE Leading Priority

The renewable vitality label could enable strengthen the branding at Green Clean up Maine, a rising, non-harmful cleansing services in Larger Portland. But for Walsh – and for any small business – the initially action on the pathway is to reduce overall vitality use by performance. With the support of an power solutions consultant, Walsh found out numerous prospects in the drafty previous radio station.

Between his first steps was to switch out wasteful lights for LEDs. With rebates from Performance Maine, Walsh was equipped to retrofit the full making for all over $600, an expense that compensated for by itself in months.

A cleaning support does a good deal of laundry, eight to 15 loads a day of clothing and other products. Walsh pointed out an 80-gallon heat-pump h2o heater in a closet that changed a common electrical unit. It’s upstairs from a bank of substantial-efficiency, entrance-loading washers and dryers.

“That created an rapid change on our electric bill,” Walsh claimed.

Joe Walsh, proprietor of Environmentally friendly Clear Maine outdoors his Portland business office, wherever LED lights, insulation, heat pumps and solar panels have him on the pathway to phasing out fossil fuels at his organization. Transportation, the lacking piece in the transition, will need switching to all electric automobiles. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Employees Photographer

Fourteen ducts blow heat or neat air into workplaces from air-supply warmth pumps mounted outdoors. They replaced the previous propane boiler, at a portion of the operating expense.

Scrambling into the attic, Walsh confirmed where dense-packed cellulose insulation was blown into the rafter bays. Cracks have been sealed with spray foam. There was virtually no insulation in the building when he acquired it. And aside from reduce costs, the do the job has had a extraordinary influence on convenience. The initially winter Walsh moved in, the employees wore sweaters and jackets inside of.

Solar panels on the roof supply about 60 per cent of the building’s electric power usage. The relaxation is offset by subscribing to an offsite solar farm.

Productive h2o heaters at Green Cleanse Maine in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff members Photographer

The missing piece now is transportation.

The cleaning crews travel up to 80 miles a working day in gasoline-successful types, this kind of as the Nissan Versa and hybrid Prius. But switching to electric cars is challenging.

First, world source chain kinks have all but dried up availability this year. 2nd, lots of of Walsh’s cleaners get their vehicles household at evening and live in residences with no outside charging shops. An interim stage might be going to an all-hybrid fleet, Walsh reported, if he could find enough utilised products for sale. It’s a course of action that could just take many years.

“Switching to all hybrids would double my efficiency,” he explained. “That’s a significant get.”

Walsh’s expertise implies that even focused business homeowners will require perseverance to approach the 100 percent objective. The pathway project anticipates that. But it is asking for accountability, to stay away from the visual appearance of corporate greenwashing – that is, basically presenting an environmentally responsible facade.

To validate that pathway, customers are remaining the program. Swardlick explained corporations will be asked to update their strategies every year and report their development, centered on their carbon emission calculations. Then they will be issued a new emblem to screen.

The job intentionally has no target dates, Swardlick explained, since of the understanding that every organization will move along the pathway at a distinctive tempo. A company that makes use of natural gasoline for a production course of action, for instance, will encounter a steeper road.

“Everyone understands that the very last 20 or 30 per cent is the most difficult to get to,” Swardlick claimed.

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