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State to expand promotion of heat pumps to help consumers and climate

WCSH-TV Portland, ME logo WCSH-TV Portland, ME 2/15/2019 Don Carrigan

Gov. Janet Mills' administration is hoping to persuade thousands of Mainers to invest in heat pump systems to heat their homes.

The governor revealed the plan in her budget speech Monday night, saying the goal will be to install heat pumps in 100,000 more homes an businesses over the next six years.

The goal, said Gov. Mills, is to save money for consumers and reduce carbon emissions from oil and gas, which contribute to climate change.

The administration is discussing options for increasing financial incentives for heat pumps, especially for lower income homes.

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Heat pumps use technology similar to refrigerators to extract heat from air, even at low temperatures, and use it to heat buildings. The systems can also work in reverse for air conditioning.

Efficiency Maine, the state energy conservation agency, says consumer interest is already high. The agency says it has provided 35,000 rebates for heat pumps in the past five years. Hannah Pingree, director of the governor’s Policy & Management Office, says they hope to increase the current rebates.

"There is a focus over the next few years of finding the funds to have an increased rebate for low to moderate income people, small and mobile homes, places where the technology really makes sense," Pingree said.

Heat pump dealers like Scott Libby of Royal River Heat Pumps in Freeport say consumer interest continues to be very strong. Libby says using those systems saves significant amount of money on heat, which explains the growing popularity. Libby says expanding Maine’s current rebate program would help sales, as well as helping consumers reduce fossil fuel use.

"I'm excited about any increase in rebates that will make us more competitive with New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts," Libby said. "Those states get four times the rebates to homeowners that we do in Maine."

The governor’s office says it hopes to have more details of the plan in the next two weeks.

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