Augusta, Maine [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Gov. John E. Baldacci announced that Maine is joining the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Challenge. The Challenge calls on states, businesses and institutions to make building improvements that can reduce energy use by 10 percent or more. Baldacci has made a habit of announcing “green” plans for the State’s government on St. Patrick’s Day. Last year he signed an Executive Order to reduce energy usage, unhealthy air emissions, and greenhouse gases from state vehicles.“The State is excited to join the EPA’s Energy Star Challenge,” Gov. Baldacci said. “Energy conservation and efficiency in state facilities saves taxpayers money, reduces our dependence on foreign energy sources, and reduces our contribution to global warming.” The Challenge calls for three important actions: assessing building energy usage, establishing efficiency improvement goals of at least 10 percent, and making efficiency improvements where cost-effective. To support the goals, the EPA has a national building energy performance rating system, which has been used to assess the energy efficiency of almost 20,000 buildings across the country. Through Baldacci’s administration, Maine will promote these same goals with building owners and operators throughout the state. Maine currently tracks energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions from the building and transportation sectors of state government, and has reduced these emissions by 8 percent over the past two years. State owned facilities were subjected to energy surveys, and a preliminary estimate of the cost of energy improvements, and the associated energy and cost saving benefits was developed. Data gathered in the survey is being used to develop a priority list for buildings that require efficiency improvements. “Improving the energy performance of State buildings is one of 54 options identified in the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) Climate Action Plan to meet the State’s greenhouse gas reduction goals,” Baldacci said. “If each building owner met this challenge, EPA has estimated that in 10 years we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equal to the emissions from 15 million cars, and save approximately $10 billion in energy costs each year.” Facilities are being treated through a variety of mechanisms including performance contracting and system benefit programs, and energy use is being tracked through building benchmarking. All new state buildings and publicly funded schools are being designed to be 20 percent more energy efficient than required by the State’s commercial building energy code, as well as to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standards. According to recent articles in the Portland Press Herald, Baldacci is working on an energy agenda, which would support the renewable energy industry in Maine and make the state a leader in renewable energy technology.