The Maine State Legislature is expected to soon put its seal of approval on LD 1101, “An Act to Support Lower Home Energy Costs by Establishing a Home Energy Scoring System.”
If signed into law, the bill would require the Efficiency Maine Trust to establish a “home energy scoring system” by June 30, 2024 that would evaluate the energy efficiency of residential buildings.
Think social credit score but for how well a residential building is living up to the greenhouse gas emissions goals set by politicians in Augusta.
The Efficiency Maine Trust will have the freedom to decide on the specifics of how this score will be calculated, but the bill requires that it “must estimate energy use and associated costs and assist with the identification of energy solutions to improve the building’s efficiency.”
The bill also mandates that a process be established by which people can voluntarily report their scores to the Efficiency Maine Trust, who would then enter and store them in a database.
Rep. Rebecca J. Millett (D-Cape Elizabeth), the sponsor of the bill, testified before the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology that LD 1101 “would help Mainers make informed decisions about purchasing and making improvements to their homes by establishing a statewide, easy-to-understand home energy scoring system.”
“LD 1101 is an important first step to help people choose homes they can afford to heat and cool and provide information on available programs to assist in making improvements,” she said.
The Executive Director of the Efficiency Maine Trust, Michael Stoddard, testified in opposition to LD 1101. It is important to note that while the specific provisions to which he objected were eventually removed from the legislation in the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology’s amended version of the bill, one of his objections still stands. He argued in his testimony that it was unnecessary to pass a bill authorizing the Trust and municipalities to develop and implement a “voluntary home energy score that could be used in Maine,” something for which Stoddard does advocate in his testimony.
Prior to the Committee’s amendment, LD 1101 contained several controversial provisions, especially with regard to the potential uses of a home energy score detailed in the bill. Most notably, concerns were raised during the hearing about a clause in the original version of the bill that explicitly allowed municipalities to “require a home energy score at the time a residential building is advertised for sale.”
While the bill no longer contains this language, there is no guarantee that municipalities will not individually institute a similar requirement, nor that legislation will not be passed in the future expounding upon the allowed, or mandated, uses of these home energy scores once they become available.
Andrew Cashman, testifying on behalf of the Maine Association of Realtors, argued that should a requirement like this be put in place, it would create “an unnecessary obstacle that could delay the transfer of property.”
“People are aware of the importance of energy efficiency…Maine property owners and potential buyers do not need mandates and additional regulation from government for these changes to occur. Market demand will make it happen,” he said.
Jacob Stern, testifying on behalf of Sierra Club Maine, argued the opposite, however. “You may hear concerns that this bill would damage Maine’s real estate market, but I can assure you that they are unfounded…With energy and heating costs rising around the region, empowering consumers to make decisions that benefit both the climate and their pocketbooks is in everyone’s best interest,” he said.
Should the legislature pass LD 1101 as expected, it will remain to be seen not only how home energy scores will be calculated and at what cost, but also how and when they will be allowed, or mandated, to be used.