YARMOUTH, Maine (AP) - U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud on Tuesday called for Maine to cut its dependency on heating oil in half by implementing mandatory energy efficiency ratings for new homes and boosting the state's use of renewable energy such as, wind and solar.
Michaud, a Democratic candidate for governor, said his plan to help residents, business and towns install solar panels, alternative heating systems or other new technology would benefit Maine by cutting energy use while also reducing its impact on the environment.
"Technology is advancing at lightning speed, and we need to take advantage of that," he said Tuesday in Yarmouth during an Earth Day celebration.
Under Michaud's plan, new homes would need a report card on how efficiently they use energy before they could be sold. That small step would empower homeowners to invest in new technology, Michaud said.
He hopes the costs of some of his initiatives would be reduced by federal funding. He also hopes to encourage private sector investment in the renewable energy industry.
Michaud and independent candidate Eliot Culter are trying to unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
Michaud blasted LePage's opposition to renewable energy, including the governor's recent veto of a bill that would have restored a rebate program that encouraged the purchase of solar panels. The Democratic-controlled Legislature failed to overturn that veto last week.
LePage said the bill would have added 60 cents a year to Mainer's electricity bills, and that rates already have increased for many residents this year. The governor has criticized the state's wind and solar policies because of the high cost and argues that officials should be doing everything they can to lower energy costs in Maine.
"LePage's sole goal on energy has been to reduce the costs paid by Maine's senior citizens, families and small businesses," said Brent Littlefield, a campaign spokesman for LePage.
"Liberal Michael Michaud's policies would force senior citizens, families and small businesses to pay more," he said.
Crystal Canney, a spokeswoman for Cutler, said Michaud has an ambitious plan but it lacks a sound strategy to pay for it. "Maine doesn't need another four or eight years of failed energy policy," she said.
Associated Press reporter Alanna Durkin contributed to this report from Augusta, Maine.