GORHAM – Maine Energy Systems has been recognized as part of the first state-sponsored environmental achievement awards handed out in Maine since 2005.

The Bethel-based business was honored as one of six stewards of sustainability presented with the 2012 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence by Governor Paul LePage and Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho in a ceremony Thursday at Jøtul North America’s headquarters in Gorham.

The awards, administered by the Maine DEP and scheduled in conjunction with Earth Day (April 22), recognize entities voluntarily going beyond regulatory requirements to creatively and collaboratively initiate innovation that is both environmentally and economically sustainable.

Maine Energy Systems won in the “Businesses Under 15 Employees” category for helping Maine homes, public facilities and businesses –including MSAD74 and Mt. Abram Ski Resort– transition to a cleaner fuel, sustainability-harvested from Maine’s forests with the sales of their wood pellets and boilers. This conversion can lower fuel costs for users by about half and cut the carbon footprint of an average sized home by about 16 tons per year, while helping to retain and create jobs in Maine’s vibrant forest products industry.

“We are very proud to bring products to Maine people that help define clean, renewable, Maine-made energy for homes, businesses and institutions. We are honored by the state’s recognition of our ongoing commitment to both the Maine environment and economy,” said Maine Energy Systems Founder/CEO Les Otten, who started the company in 2007. “We embrace innovative technology that has a positive effect on the lives of our customers while benefiting the environment and local economy. Historically, those who have been willing to take these risks have had the greatest impact.”

Other winners included IDEXX, of Westbrook; CLYNK, of South Portland; George R. Roberts Co., of Alfred; the Washington County Council of Governments; and the Environmental Living & Learning for Maine Students Project, a collaborative of Chewonki, Ferry Beach Ecology School and the UMaine 4-H Camp and Learning Centers at Bryant Pond and Tanglewood (in Lincolnville).

“For many Maine employers, Earth Day isn’t just one day a year, but a constant commitment to stewarding our natural resources and ensuring a sustainable economy. These Governor’s Award winners illustrate the interdependence of Maine’s economy and the environment and why the choice between the two should never be ‘either or’ because it must always be ‘both,’ ”said Governor LePage.

Commissioner Aho said it was important for the state to start acknowledging Maine’s many environmental leaders who are modeling her department’s vision of a mutually healthy environment and economy.

“Maine has long been a national leader when it comes to environmental excellence and our 2012 Governor’s Awards recipients are carrying on that legacy,” Aho said. “As Maine’s foremost environmental organization, it has great meaning when we respect and recognize these leaders and that the innovation improving our environment and our economy comes directly from Maine employers and people. I want to thank all of the nominees for their commitment of creativity, time and resources toward our shared vision of making Maine a better place to live, work and play for ours and future generations.”

Aho added the awards program is one of the many activities the DEP has advanced under the LePage administration that further the agency’s culture of cooperation with the regulated community. Others include expanded technical assistance, permitting process improvements and pragmatic regulatory reform.