Island Institute to help Maine’s island communities address energy challenges

Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine

The Island Institute announced that week that it will be awarded $330,000 over three years by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to work alongside Maine’s island communities to help address their energy and infrastructure challenges. The Institute is one of five organizations in the United States awarded a contract for the Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP), a new partnership sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The project provides resources and access to on-the-ground support for remote and islanded communities in the U.S. seeking to transform their energy systems and lower their vulnerability to energy disruptions.

Residents of Maine’s island communities face electricity rates as high as four times the national average and heating fuel costs that are a dollar more per gallon than their mainland counterparts due to aging infrastructure, seasonal fluctuations in demand and lack of efficiencies of scale, said the Institute.

For more than a decade, the Island Institute has been working with year-round island communities in Maine, and beyond, to increase access to cleaner, more reliable and more cost-effective energy sources. As a result, investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects are helping to increase community resilience to equipment failures, transportation disruptions and fluctuations in energy markets, but additional need remains.

Nearly all remote and islanded communities in the U.S. today share one thing: They are pursuing holistic, long-term strategies to shore up their vulnerability to major shifts in the environment, economy and society. However, more resources than what is available are needed. Island Institute aims to bridge that gap by providing technical assistance and on-the-ground support for communities seeking to research and implement new clean energy initiatives.

Building on the Islanded Grid Resource Center (IGRC), a previous collaboration between the Island Institute, NREL, New England island communities and partner organizations from Alaska and Hawaii, the Institute will connect Maine islands with the tools and resources provided by NREL.

Since 2007, the Institute has supported island communities in making investments in local infrastructure, developing model programs that have been replicated across the Maine coast and beyond and by informing policy to better address the clean energy needs of islands. For eight years, the Institute hosted the annual Island Energy Conference, a venue to highlight Maine island community leadership with a national audience and connect with peers and technical experts.

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