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Petition ups the ante on renewable energy

When Maine residents head to the polls on Tuesday, they will be asked to sign a citizen’s initiative petition seeking to require 20 percent of the state’s power to be renewable by 2020.

Maine Citizens for Clean Energy, the group behind the petition, is an amalgam of businesses, environmental groups and public health advocates. Their goal is to get the required 57,000 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot in November 2012.

“Maine is dangerously dependent on fossil fuels at great cost to the state’s economy, energy security and environment,” said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The group points to the fact that some 80 percent of all Maine households use oil to heat their homes in the winter.

“By dramatically expanding investments in clean energy sources like energy efficiency, solar and wind, this clean energy initiative will help Maine’s economy, our environment and our health,” Voorhees said. “The status quo threatens our health and environment, burdens our economy and is an enormous risk to Maine’s prosperity.”

The group is looking for volunteers to gather signatures of registered voters this Tuesday at the polls, and to continue until enough signatures are gathered.

Rob Brown, co-director of Opportunity Maine, one of the organizations involved in the effort, said it will take a cadre of dedicated people to help in the petition effort, but he said he’s sure they will be successful.

“The people of Maine understand the importance of clean, renewable energy,” he said. “The clean energy sector is one of the bright spots in Maine’s economy.”

In addition to requiring 20 percent renewables by 2020, the citizen’s initiative also requires utility companies in the state to invest in energy-efficiency measures.

Current law requires utilities to get 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2017, including wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power.

Those interested in volunteering are asked to visit www.cleanenergymaine.org and click on the “get involved” link.