Casco energy committee draws conclusions

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CASCO — A local energy committee honed in on its goals, and listed public awareness as one of its top priorities.

The group will coordinate an energy expo at the Casco Community Center during municipal elections in November 2011. The Energy Expo has been in the planning stages for a while and will coincide with the town’s polling day, committee members said.

Now, an energy booklet is in the conceptual stage.

In addition to publishing a listing of agencies and businesses that specialize in energy conservation, the booklet will offer some historical examples of alternative energy uses. The goal is to have the booklet completed before the energy exposition this fall, and to provide information on the town’s website.

On May 10, the Casco Energy Committee met with a facilitator from the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG).

The discussions and priority- setting exercises were designed to help towns’ energy committees make steps toward pinpointing reasonable goals, according to Ben Lake, an energy and transit program analyst with GPCOG.

The topics included transportation, public and private buildings, local sustainableenergy sources, and solidwaste disposal and emission reductions.

Participants reviewed each topic — weighing in on the feasibility, and the importance of particular green issues to residents living in this rural community.

Attending the workshop were Casco Board of Selectmen Chairman Barbara York and committee members Lynne Potter and Margaret “Peg” Dilley. The Casco Energy Committee was formed earlier this year. Selectman Mary Vienessa-Fernandes also serves on the committee, but was not present at the Tuesday workshop.

During the November 2010 elections, local officials and residents organized a small business exposition at the town’s polling place, the Casco Community Center.

Dilley said that event was successful since it was held during elections, when foot traffic in and out of the center typically increases.

Holding an Energy Expo would be congruent with the energy committee’s goal of gathering information about energy conservation, and giving that information to residents, Dilley said.

Dilley said she was particularly excited about sharing green tips from Mother Earth News articles, and rounding up the historical accounts of how Mainers harnessed alternative energy in the 1800s and 1900s.

Two issues of concern to many Casco residents are home heating bills and potentially costly energy audits of their homes.

When discussing how to reduce energy use and save money in buildings, Potter said education will be the cornerstone for homeowners not sure where to start.

Some residents want to “get an audit done,” but this means they would have to get new windows put in their home. They see dollar signs, so they don’t even want to take that first step, she said.

“We need to concentrate on getting people to take that first step,” Potter said.

York agreed with Potter’s assessment.

“I wrote down, ‘Raise awareness about building efficiency and some of the solutions that don’t cost much money,’ ” York said.

Potter added that it was important to provide tips on low-cost ways to lower household bills. She liked the idea of holding a community day that addresses the issue, and involving local nonprofit groups like the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.

Another green issue the group discussed was: How to reduce the amount of gasoline used for transportation.

“From our standpoint, living out in rural area, the bus and rail station would be beneficial for us as well as having access to alternative fuels,” Potter said. “I think shopping local, developing the local exposure, and information to the community of what is local. People don’t have to drive an hour away, when it’s in our backyards.”

Lake said pushing the industry to make bio-diesel stations more available in rural areas is a more difficult, long-range task.

But, cutting gas costs behind the wheel could be as easy as sitting in front of the computer, and logging onto a site that coordinates car-pooling arrangements.

“I really encourage anyone who has questions about car pooling to use Go Maine,” Lake said. “Gomaine.org helps with car pooling. You put in where you live and where you work and what shift you work. Then, the computer data matches you with someone.”

Dilley added the service is not just for commuters. For example, residents can use the site to arrange rides to doctor appointments, or to attend a performance or concert in Portland, she said.

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