welcome

to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

309 North Aurora Street | Ithaca, NY 14850 | info@tccpi.org

December 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016


December 2016

What’s Up With GYGB? – Karim Beers

Get Your Greenback Tompkins has had a busy year, with several new initiatives underway. Karim Beers, the GYGB coordinator, updated us on Energy Navigators, Energy Advising, and a CSA support effort.

  • GYGB helps people and organizations in Tompkins County take key steps in the areas of food, transportation, waste, and building energy that simultaneously reduce our community’s carbon emissions, save money, and create a socially just local economy
  • Five years old – works with 80 businesses and non-profits
  • Supported by Park Foundation, CCE-Tompkins, and contributions from business and non-profit partners
  • Individuals account for more than 50% of GHG emissions in Tompkins County
  • How to intervene? Behavior change science offers some answers
  • Make things easier – by removing barriers
    • Time/Convenience
    • Know-how
    • $/Cost
  • Use peer pressure – social norms very effective
  • Education that leads to understanding
  • Key barriers for transportation: time/convenience, and in case of biking, safety
  • Policy issues: $$ for TCAT, infrastructure for bikes
  • Bike Walk Tompkins & Streets Alive! & Bronze
  • Carpooling work w/ employers especially
  • Key barrier for local food: mostly know-how and time/convenience
  • Encouraging engagement through bucket gardens
  • Also developed local CSA guide
  • Waste reduction well advanced in community – already part of culture
  • Still room for growth, though
  • Developed Secondhand Shopping Directory to provide information about stores in area
  • Key barrier for home energy? All of them!
  • Where to start? Geothermal? Mini-split? Pellet boiler?
  • Costly: $10,000 average retrofit, heating system and solar also costly
  • Time: not often top priority, especially focus population, though interested, so ends up on back burner
  • Different beast & key source of emissions – new strategy
  • Main barrier with fuel efficient cars is their cost
  • $7500 tax credit for EVs? (e.g. can purchase Volt for $25K) – but not widely known
  • Energy advising: Help people move from interest to action with their energy goals
  • Where to start?
    • Advising (often energy audit/efficiency)
  • Who to trust?
    • Local contractors who agree to good practices
  • How to sort through quotes and reports from contractors?
    • Energy expert to provide 3rd party advice
  • Life gets in the way …
    • Trouble shooting, check-ins, and nudges
  • Elements of energy advising:
    • Outreach: Energy Navigators, 211, Healthy Neighborhoods, Howard Chong, existing initiatives
    • Support tools: website, brochures, including info on local financing
    • Tracking system: CRM using Google spreadsheet
    • Contractor management: Partner w/ local contractors, agree on set of good practices, system for communication and addressing complaints
    • Revenue generation - contractors contribute for business
    • Volunteer Corps (Navigators) support process
  • Energy Navigators:
    • Support residents with their energy-related goals
    • Engaging Training
    • Volunteering – own networks, or supporting GYGB or other initiatives such as Heat Smart
    • Faith groups
    • Neighborhood organization
    • Colleagues
    • Friends and neighbors
  • Held home energy event at Cornell, with support of university, HR, and UAW
    • 80 building care workers so far
    • 400 food service workers in January
    • Rest of 1200 building care following that
  • GYGB is one element in ecosystem helping populations take high-impact steps
  • Tool that works only to an extent that it is used & pairs well with other initiatives (e.g. HeatSmart, Energy Expo)
  • Help build Energy Advising system – try it for 2 more years and evaluate together

 

Energy Expo/Renewable Energy Fair – Discussion

Sara Hess recently convened a group of interested individuals to brainstorm about a possible energy expo/renewable energy fair. A lot of good ideas came out of the discussion and we shared these with the group and continued the conversation.

  • What? Looking to have large gathering of public education and demonstrations involving businesses and programs that promote renewable energy
  • Why? To spark enthusiasm and knowledge about local expertise and opportunities
  • Where? Looking for large indoor or outdoor space
  • When? In spring, perhaps linked to Earth Day in April – perhaps one full day on Saturday
  • How? Establish planning group, including major players in clean energy – could funding for coordinator be obtained from local foundations and/or tourism grant?
  • Ken Schlather: happy to bring idea to staff at CCETC
  • Gay Nicholson: need to aim beyond early adopters
  • Guillermo Metz: could Expo be a launching pad for something larger?
  • How do we bring in new people?
  • What kind of budget are we talking about?
  • Really need to be crystal clear about goals and audience – need to develop compelling shared vision

October 2016

Tompkins County 2014 GHG Emissions Inventories – Ed Marx

The Tompkins County Planning Department has completed its 2014 inventories of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Use by the Tompkins County community and Tompkins County government operations. Ed Marx, Planning Commissioner, shared the key findings with the group.

  • Accounting of GHGs emitted to atmosphere began in 1998
  • Analysis added for 2014:
    • Detailed accounting of energy consumed
    • Tracking of renewable energy resources
    • Tracking new climate science and implications for actions
    • Tracking renewable energy certificates for government
    • Facility by facility energy use and costs for government
    • Detailed fleet inventory for government
  • Community GHG emissions down 21% between 2008 and 2014 – goal was to reach 20% by 2020
  • 6% decrease in overall energy use in community and 9% decrease per capita – 136% increase in renewable energy, primarily in solar
  • Reasons for progress in community:
    • Less energy consumption (except for transportation)
    • Cornell converted from coal to natural gas
    • Growth of renewables
    • Changes to electric grid – accounts for 11% of the 21% reduction
  • Nearly 53% decrease in government GHG emissions between 2008 and 2014
  • County building energy use saw 16% decline – fleets emissions decreased by 30%
  • Reasons for progress in reducing government emissions
    • Buildings:
      1. Purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)
      2. Changing Electric Grid
      3. Energy Performance Contract (Johnson Controls)
      4. Occupancy and behavior
    • Fleet:
      1. Biodiesel
      2. Green fleet policy
      3. Improving CAFE standards for newer vehicles
      4. Changes in vehicle use
  • How to account for use of fracked gas?
  • Nearly all natural gas consumed now from shale gas
    • Methane is primary component of natural gas
  • Research – significant methane leaks from fracked shale
    • Leakage of pure methane from production and distribution range from 5-19% of total produced
  • Global warming potential of methane
    • Short-term global warming impact of methane
    • Quick action necessary to avoid tipping points
  • Assuming a mid-range leakage rate of 12%, government actually saw 10% increase in GHG emissions and community saw 67%
  • Implications for future actions
    • Natural Gas – transition away from natural gas obtained through hydrofracking
    • Transportation – reduce miles driven and use vehicles with fewer GHG emissions per mile
    • Renewables – keep growing

Testbed Ithaca/Testbed Tompkins – Francis Vanek

Francis Vanek, Senior Lecturer and Research Assistant at Cornell’s School of Civil Engineering, explored how our local academic institutions, energy businesses, and grass-roots organizations could join hands to create what he calls “Testbed Ithaca,” an effort to leverage local energy solutions and innovative projects already underway to create an exportable model that could be used by other communities outside of Tompkins County.

  • Example of the test-bed idea: “Smart Santander” in Spain – an initiative and competition
    • Covered on National Public Radio 2013
    • 12,000 sensors embedded in city
    • Hosted competition to encourage applications
    • Spanish student in CEE 4630 entered – did well!
  • Ithaca test-bed idea originated with Master of Engineering students carrying out team projects at Cornell
  • Project parameters:
    • Many students on teams
    • Many engineering & science undergraduate backgrounds
    • Project length: One semester
  • Project focus:
    • Energy and sustainability
    • Can be fixed or mobile energy consumption
    • Economic feasibility of investments
    • Non-economic factors also
  • Why Ithaca?
  • Characteristics of an effective “test bed” city or location
    • Conditions should be representative of much or most of rest of U.S.
    • Conditions should also be “favorable”: easier to try out the first time
      • For example, population is supportive, wants to innovate
    • Purchasing power of our county: ~$248 million/year for energy
      • Based on 2014 figures for Tompkins County
      • Approximate final prices paid for energy
      • Assumes $0.10/kWh for electricity, $0.90/therm gas, $2.50/gallon diesel/gasoline
    • Population: Part of “urban but not hyper-urban middle” in USA
      • Largest cities: NY, LA, a few others
      • Truly rural population: small percentage (15%)
      • Rest is in the middle: 67% of 319M population
    • Significant renewable energy resources
      • Solar is less than San Diego but still significant
    • Temperate climate: Ithaca experiences hot and cold like most of U.S.
    • Strong town-gown relations: Local higher education efforts
      • Cornell University: leader among nationally-ranked engineering schools
      • Commitment of other institutions: Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3)
  • Key local projects:
    • Black Oak Wind Farm
    • IAWWTF
    • Chain Works
  • Black Oak Wind Farm 2010 Feasibility Study
  • Site ~10 miles west of Cornell campus
  • Community supported wind
  • Educational purpose
  • Power purchase agreement (PPA) with Cornell
  • Currently in final approval + finance stage
  • Bottom-line economics of project: 2010 Projection
    • 20-year lifetime analysis based on 2008 technology
    • Predicted 27.4% capacity factor
    • 2 million kWh/y from 50,000 kW capacity
    • Levelized cost: 6.8c/kWh w/incentive, 10.4c/kWh w/o
  • Ithaca Area Waste Water Treatment Facility: Biological waste to energy
    • Estimated 50% sewage / 50% truck waste energy input
    • Capacity of 2,000,000 kWh/y – equivalent to 1000 small home PV systems
    • Food waste supply chain problem: How much energy content is available?
    • Other possible efforts: Further energy extraction from solids after they leave biodigester, find new market for bio-solids to avoid cost of landfilling?
    • Campaign for “Rebranding” WW plants as “energy centers”
  • TCAT Transportation Center
    • Bio-waste could be converted to transportation fuel:
    • Example: Jonkoping, Sweden fueling of public buses
    • Compress methane for CNG
    • React methane to make biodiesel
  • Electricity microgrid: Generation for both normal and emergency conditions
    • NYS vision: Microgrid for 40,000 people
    • Must start with smaller pilot-scale projects
  • Parameters of recommended system from Phase I of NY Prize
    • Existing assets:
      • 260-kW microturbine system
      • 750-kW backup diesel generator
    • Proposed new assets:
      • 500-kW reciprocating CHP system
      • 440-kW solar PV array
      • Substantial investment in microgrid control system
  • Load: IAWWTF + sell excess normally
    • Support two NYSEG feeders during emergencies
  • Microgrid function during normal operation
    • IAWWTF runs microturbines, CHP, PV
    • Sufficient to meet internal demand
    • Excess can be sold to generate revenue
  • Microgrid function during regional macrogrid failure
    • Macro-grid powers down, then microgrid restarts
    • Connect 750-kW generator for increased dispatchable generation
    • Priority loads: e.g., TCAT, highway department, Ithaca High School
    • Some residential customers on feeders also served
  • Repurposing former Emerson Plant to Chain Works District residential-commercial development
    • Potential for combined heat and power
    • Large roof space: Solar PV and water heating
    • Hub for local district energy system / energy storage / geothermal
    • Pilot project for industrial repurposing, common to many U.S. cities
    • Potential electricity microgrid around South Hill substation
  • Other motivations for Chain Works
    • Repurposing former industrial brownfield sites
    • Common problem across USA
    • Avoids greenfield development
    • Preserve open space
    • More sustainable transportation patterns
    • Closer to center of Ithaca, amenities
    • Encourages public transportation, walking
    • Consistent with younger generation wishing to live in urban centers
  • Key observations covered
    • “Test bed” concept: Bottom-up, community-wide
    • Different from but synergistic with “energy-smart communities” program
  • Strive for mix of energy independence and inter-dependence
  • Take advantage of shifting circumstances
    • NIMBYism versus commitment to fighting climate change
    • New York state red tape versus “reforming the energy vision” (REV)
  • Other observations
    • Use dispatchable resources to complement intermittent resources
    • Team up: Academia, professionals, and grassroots groups
    • Synergy between local community and wider world
    • Extend “carbon-neutral campus” effort into the community
  • Using niche sources as dispatchable generation
  • Follows the pattern of existing large-scale hydropower
  • Possible new sources: “one-way” generation
    • Waste to energy
    • Water treatment plant w/ solid waste energy recovery
    • Locally grown biomass
    • Small-scale hydro
  • Compare to energy storage: “round-trip”
    • Pumped storage, stationary batteries, flywheels, etc.
    • Incur “round-trip” energy losses
  • Local energy independence versus interdependence
    • 100% carbon-free, energy-independent Tompkins
    • Make best effort to increase local production
    • More practical to import energy shortfall?
  • Look for “opportunistic” response to changing conditions/opinions
    • Opposition to small-scale hydropower
    • Opposition to waste to energy conversion
    • Opposition to large wind turbines
    • Over-regulated New York State
  • Collaboration between academia, energy professionals, and grassroots
    • Academic research:
      • Win funding for demonstration projects, students take know-how all over world
    • Energy professionals (engineers, trades):
      • Develop experience locally, can apply elsewhere
    • Local grassroots organizations:
      • Advocate for projects, provide sites for implementation and pilot projects
    • Possible next steps
      • Keep doing what we are doing
      • Branding: Establish “Test-bed” as a brand
      • Contest: Conduct a competition similar to “Smart Santander”

September 2016

2030 Districts Network Summit – Andrew Gil, Nick Goldsmith, and Guillermo Metz

Andrew Gil from HOLT Architects, Nick Goldsmith from City Hall, and Guillermo Metz from Cornell Cooperative Extension –Tompkins County will report on the 2016 Districts Network Summit in Toronto, which they attended as members of the Ithaca 2030 District Advisory Board.

  • 2030 Districts seek to improve energy and water performance of commercial buildings in downtown areas
  • Focus on collaboration among stakeholders, leveraging incentives and financing mechanisms, and development of shared resources – seek to make business case for sustainability
  • 2030 Districts work together to learn from initiatives in different geographic locations -- goal for new buildings is to be carbon neutral by 2030 and goal for already existing buildings is to improve performance by 50% over median for their type of building
  • Currently fifteen cities in the network – Toronto is the only non-U.S. participant
  • Over 285 million sq. ft. of commercial building space in 2030 Districts across North America
  • Two new members announced at summit in Toronto: Portland, ME and Austin, TX.
  • Emerging Districts:
    • Ann Arbor
    • Detroit
    • Burlington
  • Ithaca is one of the newer members and the smallest – we signed on in June
  • TCCPI is at the center of this initiative -- this didn’t just happen, it’s been a long collaborative effort
  • NYSERDA grant supporting the Ithaca project – 14 buildings currently in the Ithaca 2030 District
  • Summits bring together District leaders to discuss best practices and share experiences
  • Fourth (inter)national summit – others were in Pittsburgh, Seattle and Cleveland
  • This year focused on strengthening the network, not just individual districts
  • Goals of network:
    • Support peer exchange across Districts
    • Store and share data
    • Use purchasing power of network to secure reduced costs
    • Create national partnerships with USGBC, EcoDistricts, etc.
    • Influence national policy on energy and water performance
  • Building on last year’s announcement of partnership between Architecture 2030 and Urban Land Institute’s Greenprint Center for Building Performance
  • All District members and building owners now have access to a variety of data management and analysis platforms at significant discount
  • Provides range of powerful tracking and reporting capabilities
  • Executive Directors spent a lot of time discussing what their relationship to the new board should look like.

 

Team Takeaways

  • Variety of Resources
  • Small commercial Toolkit (<50K sqft)
  • 2030 Districts.org/toolkits
  • Available to members only
  • Lots of DOE resources available
    • Upcoming Better Communities Alliance (BCA)
    • One-stop-shop for resources
  • Zero Energy Rating and Target Tool
  • Variety of Initiatives
    • Green Building Challenge
    • Case studies on their web site
    • Window stickers/decals for members and sponsors
    • “Lunch and Learns" (topics: PACE, audits, etc.)
    • Evening networking mixers
    • 2030 District Forum(s) to get member property managers/key people to learn from each other
    • Discussing role tenants can play and promote energy efficiency and low-carbon commuting, etc. with them
    • Policy:
      • Get city to provide incentives for building owners to invest in energy efficiency
      • Legislate public disclosure for buildings (Pittsburgh)
    • The North American movement will help build a growing young business community
    • Need to continue to define the 2030 District and how it works with the local economy
    • Need to integrate with existing programs
    • “ZERO IS A BIG NUMBER” /“ZERO IS HUGE” – it would be a huge achievement to get there and we are working with other cities to learn how to do it
    • More information is on the web at www.2030Districts.org

 

Discussion

  • Andrew: Small groups of people broke up into different group – for example, two tracks: money and data, then marketing and PR
  • Question about GreenPrint -- one of the tools available now 
    Nick: It sits on top of Portfolio Manager – better visuals, more user friendly
  • Andrew: Substantial upgrade in January – features that don’t work as well as they should will get better
  • Sara: Are there people representing finance? No formal participating vendors
  • Commercial Building Energy Asset Score Tool now part of small commercial toolkit
    • Focuses on energy efficiency of equipment in building
    • Meant for existing buildings; gives quick feedback about cost-effective improvements
  • In contrast, Portfolio Manager focuses on actual energy use, which can vary depending on behavior, not just equipment
  • Andrew: Districts were established using 2003 baseline – Zero tool was created to use that baseline now that Portfolio is changing its baseline
  • Ken: Was there discussion around creating financing?
    • Conversations about funding the network/districts as a group
    • How to help businesses financially? No but there are tools available
    • Did discuss what can we do to help biz to learn about financing
  • Sara: If you can look at how the data system is working and think in terms of the objective of getting a loan from a bank, maybe that’s the link this project could work on as well
  • We can use this network to see what others have done and make the case
  • Ken: Financing changes and using this network to share financing ideas we haven’t thought about yet
  • Clean Energy Federal Credit Union (CEFCU):  new federal credit union that seeks to offer affordable financing for homeowners to obtain solar and other clean energy technologies and also provide unique, federally-insured investment opportunities that support clean energy
  • Might be able to provide funds for energy efficiency work – based in Colorado, we’re a part of this group
  • Nick: Hopes Ithaca 2030 District will pave the way for a benchmarking policy down the road

 

Maplewood Redevelopment Project – Jeremy Thomas and Scott Whitham (55 min)

Jeremy Thomas, Senior Director of Cornell University Real Estate Department, and Scott Whitham, Principal of Whitham Planning and Design LLC, will discuss the  sustainability, energy efficiency, and climate action elements of the Maplewood project. They will be joined by a representative from Taitem Engineering.

  • Partners: EdR (Developer), Whitham Planning and Design, Taitem Engineering, and Cornell
  • Current Site:
    • Owned by Cornell
    • Built for 20-25 year building standard in 1989
    • 16 acres
    • 32 buildings
  • EdR will build and manage the new building – students will lease directly from EdR
  • 378 beds
  • 40% of grad/prof students live >30 mins walk from campus – recent survey: grad/prof students want to live closer
  • Housing Market:
    • Ithaca’s rent is comparable to NYC or Napa, CA
    • Vacancy rate is <1%
  • Four Goals:
    • Sustainability
    • Affordability (aiming for less than market rate)
    • Walkability
    • Community
  • Scott: Whitham joined design team about year ago
  • Looked at
    • County Road Map
    • Comp Plan for County, City, Plan
    • Energy and Econ Devel Committee
    • Cornell Climate Action Acceleration Group
    • Cornell Standards
  • Community Engagement:
    • Began with presentation
    • Town is lead agency
    • The plan has been revised from public feedback
  • Development Style:
    • Nodal Development - Clustered around existing developments.
    • Form-based Zoning
    • In-fill redevelopment
    • Range of housing styles
    • Near TCAT
    • Rain gardens along the site.
    • Near East Hill Rec Way
    • Complete Street
    • Parallel parking, bike lanes, wide sidewalks, rain gardens
    • Small residential retail (near coal yard cafe)
  • Taxes:
    • Project will be on tax rolls.
    • In the past, Cornell projects of this scale were not
  • Energy:
    • Water Savings Measures -- low flow water fixtures throughout
    • LEED Calc: 75 k less/year than standard code required fixtures (compared to standard, not compared to current development)
    • 27% decrease in use
    • Project is not using natural gas
    • Site energy vs source energy
    • Source accounts for production mix. Largely accounts for inefficiency of plants and transmission losses.
    • Does not look at all GHGs, just CO2
  • Emission amounts:
    • Existing Maplewood complex with 372 residents = 1.14 million kg CO2 per year
    • New Maple wood with 887 residents uses 1.19 Million kg Co2 per year
    • This calculation includes everything associated with living there, like snow plowing
  • Commuting:
    • Used utilities bills averaged over 5 year period + estimates of transportation, etc. – new estimate is a model.
    • The new baseline partially accounts for and takes credit for the number of people who now live closer and are less likely to drive
  • Energy saving measures:
    • Improved windows: U value, solar heat gain factor
    • High performance air source heat for domestic hot water
    • Programmable thermostats. Energy management system
    • Efficient ventilation (heat recovery or other)
    • Energy Star Appliances
    • Lower lighting overall
  • Project is 42% better than current energy code – 2016 energy code is 36% better than 2008 building code
  • Joe: This project will be the bellwether for East Hill – commendable effort to move in this direction
  • Scott: Community feedback has been very helpful to move it in a direction that all parties want to go
  • Joe: Building Boom in the area – the consequences of this building will be with us for 100 years
  • Sidebar: suggest how all of us can positively affect the other building projects, which are not as proactive as this effort has become
  • Bert: The developer was under a lot of cost constraints – success of this project speaks to the validity of Bryce and Gay’s presentation about costs
  • Jeremy Thomas: We are at the point where if costs continued to increase, it would have resulted in increasing costs to students or other expenses – we wanted to share how we were able to meet our objectives in this project
  • Carol: There are strong ties to this area in the larger neighborhood – it’s where our kids learn to ride their bikes
  • There still will be a conversation with neighborhood about the size of buildings along Mitchell St. – if there are adaptations to those buildings, how will that affect the sustainability of the project?
  • Jeremy: We house 5% of our own graduate students – demand far outstrips supply
  • Lou: Apartments are good because they have less surface area and are more efficient
  • Jeremy: We don’t have a good answer yet. We have to have the conversation with the neighbors.
  • Ingrid: How many parking spaces there?
  • Scott: Concern that parking will overflow into the adjacent neighborhoods – but we’d rather design something with less parking, esp because of the neighborhood.
  • Sarah Z: There will be car-share
  • Jeremy: We will include bike share when that program is running again – we are also building bike parking facilities external to the apartments
  • Nick: What’s the relationship between cost per square foot and emissions per square foot? Answer: It varies
  • Sara H: Is NYSEDA funding being used in this particular project?
  • Lou: No, not yet – we’re not eligible for what’s available
  • Ken: Water savings statements said the project uses 75k gallons/year less than standard code and that this is ~27% decrease in water usage – that means that the whole development uses about 300k gallons per year
  • It seems like this could be off by quite a lot
  • Lou: We calculated it at about 40 gallons/day this info was sent to me and I will double check numbers -- for example: 40 gallons per day x 1000 residents x 365 days = 14.5 million gallons per year


August 2016

Climate Change in the News – Peter Bardaglio

It’s August so it’s time for a roundup of the news about climate change so far this year. Some big stories, not all of them bad – just most of them.

  • Northwest Passage now ice-free in summer – Crystal Serenity now slated to become largest ship ever to go through Northwest Passage since it opened up for first time in 2007
    • 820-foot, 13-deck ship includes six restaurants, multiple swimming pools, casino, movie theater, and driving range – cost $350M
    • Between $22,000 and $120,000 for the privilege—plus $50,000 in required “emergency evacuation” insurance – 1,089 passengers: sold out
  • Further south, 1000-year flood in Louisiana – nearly one third of state’s parishes were underwater in mid-August
    • According to Red Cross, worst natural disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Sandy
    • Almost 2 feet of rain flooded southern part of state over 48-hour period
    • 30,000 people rescued from homes, offices, schools
    • Thousand cars trapped on interstate as helicopters dropped food to keep people alive
  • As of 8/24/16, ongoing wildfires have torched more than half a million acres in 10 western states
    • More than half of Western states have experienced their largest wildfire on record since 2000
    • Blue Cut Fire in San Bernardino, California forced 82,000 people to evacuate – 36,000 acre fire destroyed nearly 100 homes
  • Closer to home, worst drought in upstate NY in 10 years
    • Nearly 25% of state in severe drought in late July, according to National Drought Mitigation Center
    • Hardest-hit areas in Western NY and  Finger Lakes – Buffalo has had only half its normal rainfall since April 1
  • Globally, last month was hottest month for planet since records began in 1880 – virtually certain that 2016 will be hottest year ever
  • July was 10th month in a row to break monthly temperature record, according to NASA
  • What Washington Post called “an epic heat wave” swept across Middle East this summer
    • Parts of United Arab Emirates and Iran experienced a heat index of 140 degrees in July
    • Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, recorded all-time high of nearly 126 degrees
    • Cities in Iraq and Kuwait hit 129 degrees on July 22 – hottest ever recorded in Eastern Hemisphere
  • Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in 21st century
    • Arctic sea ice covered a smaller area last winter than in any winter since records began
    • Coral reefs around world are bleaching and dying
    • Drought in southern and eastern Africa has created massive humanitarian emergency – millions suffering from famine
    • Anthrax outbreak in Siberia because of thawing tundra: infected corpses (humans and reindeers) had been locked in permafrost since last epidemic 75 years ago – but no longer
    • Zika virus, which has caused havoc throughout Latin America and Caribbean, has now arrived in Miami Beach
  • Media reported that these catastrophic events largely due to El Niño
    • But figures show that El Niño accounts for only one-fifth of the global temperature rise
    • El Niño phase has passed by now, but still records fall left and right
  • Bottom line: the climate crisis is already here, but very few people want to acknowledge this reality
  • And it’s going to get a lot worse if we don’t so something fast
    • Studies project that, given current trends, agricultural productivity will decline 40% in sub-Saharan Africa by second half of century due to climate change
      • 95% of sub-Saharan Africa crop production relies entirely on rainfall
    • Report issued this past spring nearly doubles sea level rise projections for 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at same pace
      • Oceans could rise by as much as six feet by end of the century
      • Why the dramatic jump? New models incorporate Antarctica ice melting – seas could rise nearly 4 feet due to Antarctic ice loss alone by 2100 
    • What does this mean?
      • South Florida, Bangladesh, Shanghai, and parts of Washington, D.C. would disappear
      • Even by 2100, 36 American cities would be lost and almost 300 cities would lose half their homes under worst-case scenario
      • Florida would lose more than half of its homes to tune of $412 billion
  • Eight months ago in Paris, 177 nations decided to try to limit world’s average temperature to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial level
    • But already temperature has climbed by 1.3C – faster and further than almost anyone predicted
    • Scientists were wrong – they told us to expect climate crisis in second half of century, but it’s already here
    • To meet 1.5C target we’ll have to close down all coal-fired power stations across the planet by 2025
    • By 2030 would have to eliminate combustion engine entirely
    • Even doing all of this won’t guarantee rise of no more than 1.5C, but it’ll give us a chance
  • But there is some good news …
  • Global renewable power generation capacity last year increased by 152 GW or 8.3%, making 2015 sixth year in a row it has shown growth of 8% or higher
    • This growth continued despite fall in global oil prices
    • Increased by about a third over last five years, with most of growth coming from wind and solar
  • 25% of Portugal’s energy consumption in 2010 came from renewable energy (includes hydro)
    • Renewable energy provided 48% of all of its power in 2015 – more than tripled its output of wind energy in just three years
    • This past May Portugal ran on nothing but renewable energy for four straight days
  • As of 8/23/16 Costa Rica had generated 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources for 113 days in a row
    • On track to match last year’s record, when renewable energy accounted for 99% of country’s electricity
    • 2015 included 285 days powered completely by renewable sources
  • In U.S. largest percentage of Americans since 2010 think global warming is happening: 70%
  • 38% of Americans think global warming is harming people in U.S. right now – a 6 point increase since last year
  • Clean Power Plan, issued last year, gives EPA authority to force coal-fired power stations to cut CO2 by a third by 2030
    • First nationwide limit on CO2 emission from power generation – key plank in Obama’s climate protection strategy
    • But U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked implementation of plan in February pending a judicial review
  • President Obama recently pledged to continue his efforts to tackle climate change
    • “There’s no doubt that America has become a global leader in the fight against climate change.”
    • “Paris Agreement not something to tear up – it’s something to build upon.”
  • Renewables accounted for 99.2% of new U.S. electricity generation capacity in the first quarter of 2016
    • Renewables grew from 14% of U.S. electricity in Q1 2015 to 17% in Q1 2016
    • Solar + wind grew from 5% to 7%
    • Solar finally reached 1% of U.S. electricity generation, considered to be an important tipping point
    • Coal dropped from 36% to 29%

 

The Green Buildings Policy Project – Nick Goldsmith

Nick Goldsmith, the sustainability coordinator for the City and Town of Ithaca, spoke with the group about a new green building initiative, Building for Energy Efficiency: Developing New Construction Standards for Ithaca. This project will involve conducting a comprehensive examination of policy tools that Ithaca can use to incentivize or mandate green building standards for new commercial and residential construction.

  • Partners for Places just awarded $50,000 grant to City of Ithaca – Park Foundation is providing another $50,000 as match
  • Why do we need a green building policy?
  • Comprehensive plans for both Town and City of Ithaca have just been rolled out – also both municipalities have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050
  • Buildings account for about 75% of carbon footprint in City of Ithaca and 50% in Town of Ithaca
  • Need to create vehicle for collecting data on building energy performance and benchmarking – also new to establish tougher standards for new construction
  • First stage in grant is a commercial and residential building survey – what will our building stock look like in 2050?
  • Second stage involves exploring range of green building standards and policies already established in other municipalities that aim to incentivize effort to build green
  • Of various standards, what will be their social impact in terms of access and cost?
  • Hope this study will provide basis for establishing new standards locally for new construction and major upgrades
  • CITTAP and IDA changes in tax incentives a good start but we need a more in-depth look at standards and policies
  • Also will develop new guidelines so builders understand how they can meet new standards
  • Should be issuing an RFP soon and hope to get research underway by October
  • Incentives and mandates will both be considered – will apply to commercial and residential

July 2016

The Current State of Community Solar – Robb Jetty

Robb Jetty is the chief commercial officer at Renovus Solar. Robb provided an overview of recent changes in the community solar landscape in New York.

  • Tompkins County has plentiful solar resources – has 90% of solar power available in Florida
  • Germany has only 70% of what’s available in Tompkins County and yet is one of the leading solar power producers in world
  • More solar power was installed in Tompkins County in 2015 than ever before ad 2016 on track to have s much solar installed as in all previous years
  • Onsite solar is either rooftop or ground-mounted
  • Important advantage of community solar is that it does not depend on rooftop conditions, while still providing significant savings over grid electricity
  • One model of community solar: each investor owns certain number of panels and gets credited for their proportion of electricity generated
  • Also receives federal tax credit as well – can take credit along with you if you move within same utility service area
  • Second model: “pay as you go” – involves selling electricity at 10% discount compared to grid electricity
  • Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) is looking to phase out net metering and replace it with new tariff that would capture full value of solar
  • New York’s version of this value calculation is “LMP+D+E”
  • “LMP” is what any wholesale generator in that location would earn for an equivalent kwh
  • “D” is the value of resource to distribution system and “E” is external societal value. 
  • Framework could serve as a model for other states
  • Goal is to allow distributed energy owner to sell power into grid according to value of that power
  • Proposal acknowledges that LMP+D+E will often be lower than retail electricity rate
  • Existing customers who receive net metering credit will be grandfathered in, although they have option of switching to LMP+D+E at any time
  • New regime will be phased in, not implemented immediately
  • More complex than net metering but community solar customers will still see simple credit on their bills

 

The Climate Justice Movement – Reed Steberger and Jane Whiting

Reed Steberger, the TCCPI assistant coordinator, and Jane Whiting, the youth representative for TCCPI, discussed the recent rise of the climate justice movement, exploring two questions: what does climate justice mean and why has it become central to the climate movement?

  • Environmentalism should not operate in vacuum outside of social justice and economic inequality issues
  • Climate justice: term used for framing global warming as ethical and political issue
  • Climate justice analyzes inequities associated with climate change and climate movement
  • Includes analysis of sources and effects of and responses to climate change – also who is impacted first and worst in each case
  • Climate movement refers to broad range of organizations that work on reducing and mitigating impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and oppose growth and development of fossil fuels projects
  • Seeks to promote sustainable systems and lifestyles
  • Climate justice includes analysis of racial and structural power imbalances usually within context of diversity, inclusion, and equity in climate movement organizations
  • If climate change and movement to address it do not exist in vacuum, then we must directly address racism and other forms of injustice
  • Yes, sustainability includes social justice but also important to care about social justice for its own sake
  • Climate impacts follow pathways carved out by systems that already produce marginalization, in equity, and structural violence along lines of race, class, gender, nationality, and more
  • In New York municipal zoning strategy developed in Tompkins County – Implemented across 150 local governments
  • Vast majority of these local governments served predominantly white constituencies
  • NY Communities who banned fracking were, by and large, not facing extreme environmental health crises prior to threat posed by fracking and other oil, gas, and industrial developments
  • Events have unfolded very differently in California
  • During the same period, fracking developed in Kern County, CA
  • Kern County is nearly 50% Latino and includes some of California's poorest towns
  • Fracking wells there are sited adjacent to schools, community gardens, and residential neighborhoods
  • Kern is also home to large-scale industrial agriculture, where pesticide exposure for workers and community members are commonplace, as well as exposure to chemicals involved in gas and oil drilling.
  • Many who work as laborers in Kern are directly impacted by these industries and don't find themselves represented in local government, where representatives win campaigns with financing from Big Ag and Big Oil and Gas.
  • We need to re-think our movement stories and assumptions
  • Widespread assumption that people of color don’t care about climate change and/or sustainability
  • But important to remember structural barriers that exist – for example, from 2007-2009 only 15% of grant-making dollars went to marginalized communities
  • In the same time period, grant dollars donated by funders who committed more than 25 percent of their total dollars to the environment were three times less likely to be classified as benefiting marginalized groups than the grant dollars given by environmental funders in general.
  • People of color actually support environmental protection at greater rate than whites
  • Existing power imbalances and structural inequities result in:
    • Barriers to funding access
    • Persistent organizational obstacles
    • Lack of recognition from dominant group
  • Need to think more deeply about what a just transition looks like

June 2016

Distribution System Platform and the Energy Smart Community – Susan Mann and Drury MacKenzier

Susan Mann and Drury MacKenzer from Avangrid will provide us with an update on the Distributed System Implementation Plan (DSIP) and the Energy Smart Community project.

  • Each utility ordered to file five year plans for improvements required to become the Distributed Systems Platform (DSP) Provider as part of New York Reforming the Energy Vision (REV).
  • DSIP content:
    • Detailed DSP deployment plans with self-assessment and near term improvements:
    • Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) & technical platform deployment plans with costs & benefits
    • Summary of how demonstration projects will inform REV policies
    • Detailed data:
      • Distributed Energy Resources (DER) penetration forecast
      • Investment planning details
      • Distribution system data
      • Locations for DER development
    • Stakeholder & customer engagement plans
    • Costs to implement DSP functions
  • Wanted the plan to be understood by the “informed reader” – not just industry professionals
  • Centerpiece of document will be five-year evolutionary Multi-Generational Project Plan (MGPP) roadmaps
  • Roadmaps will reveal how we see REV developing over a five-year period
  • Start of a long journey to become the DSP – stakeholder engagement and multi-disciplined collaboration will be required to manage large-scale changes required by REV
  • Fundamental shifts are required in core areas of our business.
  • Expanding distributed renewable energy will require planning, market enablement, grid operations, and advanced network automation
  • Our DSIP plan recognizes that customers want more control over their own energy usage, bills, new services, and greater reliability
  • Plan assumes an increasing renewable energy future and our self-assessments and plans developed with this key assumption in mind
  • DSIP Plan Approach
    • Identified specific required DSP operational capabilities for each core DSP function
    • Developed roadmap to address each capability
    • Identified foundational technologies required to enable capabilities and form DSP technical platform
    • Energy Smart Community will be used as pilot to assess feasibility of investments, leverage previously approved funding, and mitigate risk
  • The Energy Smart Community is a demonstration project filed and approved under NYS REV
    • Designed to pilot REV concepts in a small footprint that reduces cost and risk
    • Intended as the first phase of a full rollout of Platform and AMI technology (not a throwaway project)
  • Energy Smart Community will be leveraged to prove technology and market solutions and then bring them to scale
    • Valuable learning experience that will allow us to learn and implement new technologies and processes
    • Many platform technology elements in DSIP will be tried out first in ESC
    • ESC is part of an approach to start a small deployment and manage risk
  • Grid operations require ability to distribute power effectively in real time
  • Integrated system planning seeks to provide beneficial locations to market participants
  • Market enablement requires provision of data to customers and market participants
  • Energy Smart Community key aspect of Avangrid’s DSIP
  • Energy Smart Community will be a concentrated test of our ability to be smart integrated platform supporting and managing increased decentralization of generation and digitalization of grid and customers in support of NYS energy policy goals:
    • Test and prove value of foundational platform technologies
    • Develop new capabilities and processes that support the evolution of utility functionality
    • Create and test new rate designs that support system efficiency
    • Identify new methods for creating value for customers
    • Identify new methods for engaging with the market
    • Create an environment of collaboration
    • Support and inform clean energy policy
  • Phase 1 Pre Planning
    • Regulatory Approval
    • Document project objectives & milestones
    • Budget, resource planning
  • Phase 2 Implementation Plan Development
    • Implementation Plan developed and filed
    • RFPs issued and awarded
    • Baseline data and market research completed
    • PMO and Governance established
    • Stakeholder Engagement and Customer Outreach starts
  • Phase 3 Foundational Infrastructure
    • AMI network completed and functional automation work completed
  • Phase 4 Enabling Technology
    • Innovative rates filed and approved
    • Billing functionality completed
    • Marketplace and customer portal completed
  • Phase 5 Future Opportunities
    • Pipeline development and processes
    • Additions to customer portal, marketplace etc.
    • Identify and initiate new demonstration projects
  • Phase 6 Integrated System Planning
    • Deployment of new ISP technologies and ISP portal
    • Ongoing planning process to identify DER opportunities
  • ESC limited to Ithaca area – involves 4 substations, 14 circuits, and 12,000 meters
  • ESC load proportions:
    • Residential: 83.9% customers, 36.7% kWh
    • Commercial: 14.4% customers, 40.7% kWh
    • Municipal: 1.6% customers, 13.5% kWh
    • Industrial: 0.1% customers, 9.1% kWh
  • ESC program elements include ISP, Grid Operations, and Customer Market
  • ISP:
    • DER performance analysis
    • DER & load forecasting
    • DER hosting capacity
    • Integrated system plan portal
  • Grid Operations:
    • AMI
    • Distribution automation
    • Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS)
  • Customer/Market
    • Customer analytics and segmentation
    • Innovative rate design
    • Digital customer portal and marketplace
    • Innovative bill presentment
  • Hope to bring sophistication of grid monitoring to distribution level
  • Innovation pipeline focused currently on electric vehicles, dynamic load management, and energy storage

Airport Microgrid Project – Ed Marx

Ed Marx, the Tompkins County Planning Commissioner, will speak with the group about the Airport Microgrid project and answer questions about what’s next.

  • NYSERDA’s microgrid competition (NY Prize) offers support for feasibility studies (Stage 1); audit-grade engineering design and business planning (Stage 2); and project build-out and post-operational monitoring (Stage 3)
  • Stage One: $100K to carry out cost analysis – completed: involved 80 projects across NYS
  • Stage Two: Up to $1M each for about 8 projects – requires 50% match
  • Questions about who would be lead applicant for Stage 2 and no decision has been made yet about whether to enter Stage 2
  • Key components of the airport microgrid project:
    • 18 CHP units strategically located
    • Anaerobic digester
    • 15 new PV systems with over 200 kw capacity
  • Entire microgrid can supply about 80% of demand at airport
  • CHPs and digester will provide Baseload
  • Would involve committing to microgrid for 25 years at least – one of key risk factors in entering Stage 2
  • Would reduce carbon footprint by 25% -- would look more closely at energy conservation as part of Stage 2
  • Building microgrid means reliance on natural gas for next 25 years – think demand could be kept flat – would use more PV than typical microgrid
  • Trade off between resiliency and self sufficiency vs. reducing GHG emissions
  • Whole concept of microgrids in its earliest stages
  • Airport area includes many critical infrastructure facilities
  • Is it practical/realistic to separate Stage 2 and stage 3? Might be necessary to commit to using same company for both stages

May 2016

76 West – Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer is the Program Director of 76 West, a $20 million business competition and support program seeking to attract innovative, clean-energy businesses to the Southern Tier. Brian provided an update on the competition and next steps.

  • Rev: Ithaca Startup Works is part of Southern Tier Startup Alliance
  • Besides Ithaca, half a dozen other incubators provide mentorship opportunities, networking events, and workshops
  • 76 West clean energy competition launched after Gov. Cuomo issues ban on fracking
  • Way to promote alternative approach to economic development in Southern Tier
  • $10 million in prizes from money set aside from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – also $10 million in business support
  • Designed to build clean energy business and jobs in Southern Tier
  • Seeks to attract NY, national, and international early stage clean energy companies – startups that are seven years or younger, pre- or early revenue
  • Clean energy: includes increasing energy efficiency, decreasing carbon, increasing renewable energy – not clean tech
  • Four years of competition: one $1 million grand prize, one $500,000 award, and $250,000 to four businesses
  • Includes support services such as connections, mentorship, and incubator space
  • If out of state, the company has to move to Southern Tier – NYS companies, however, do not have to move
  • March 15: application deadline
  • May: semi-finalist events
  • July: finalists and gala events
  • Semi-finalists include 18 businesses – finalists will do deep dive between now and July to persuade judges how Southern Tier will work for them

EEDTF Draft Report – Martha Armstrong

Martha Armstrong, Vice President and Director of Economic Development Planning at Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD) presented an overview of Tompkins County Energy and Economic Development Task Force (EEDTF), which spent the last year studying ways to advance the County’s greenhouse gas emission goals while supporting the growth of jobs and the economy.

  • Tompkins County Energy and Economic Development Task Force launched in wake of controversy over West Dryden Rd. pipeline
  • How can we both promote economic development and achieve the County’s greenhouse gas emission targets
  • Over the past year, 19‐person task force chaired by Sciencenter Executive Director Charlie Trautmann, has been meeting to develop this report and recommendations
  • Task force made up of a mix of individuals with expertise in renewable and traditional energy resources, business operation, real estate development and other aspects of the community
  • The EEDTF charge was to recommend short‐term actions that could be initiated within 3‐5 years and would advance the GHG emissions goals while also advancing economic development in Tompkins County
  • The EEDTF held a series of 18 meetings and two public hearings from June 2015 through May 2016
  • Initial meetings focused on learning about various aspects of energy and economic development, taking advantage of its own member expertise and that of outside experts
  • 18 key recommendations organized in six categories:
    • Reduce dependence on natural gas
    • Provide reliable energy to local industry
    • Reduce fossil fuel use in commercial buildings
    • Develop infrastructure to support renewable energy
    • Reduce fossil fuel use in transportation
    • Reduce energy use in housing
  • Next steps:
    • Energy Focus Areas study
    • Green Energy incentives study
    • Invitation to Public Service Commission to discuss issues raised by the task force study, including the possibility of a “REV for natural gas”
    • Update of Tompkins County Energy Strategy
    • Community Choice Aggregation of energy purchasing
  • Tompkins County and TCAD will provide lead on moving forward with EEDTG recommendations
  • Carbon tax would go longs ways towards moving us in right direction

April 2016

The Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture – Michael Hoffmann

Mike is Executive Director of the Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture and Professor of Entomology at Cornell. He discussed the impact of climate change on agriculture, how it is affecting our menu, and the opportunities and challenges for agriculture in the northeastern U.S., as well as what Cornell and the Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture are doing in the state and region.

  • Atmosphere is like bathtub—filling up with CO2 – plants and trees not able to absorb all of the excess CO2 – like a drain stopped up
  • Main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the US:
    • Electricity 33%
    • Transportation 28%
    • Industry 22%
    • Agriculture 8%
  • Already there has been an average 1.5oF increase over pre-industrial levels across the globe – more extreme at the poles
  • On track for 4-10oF increase by 2100 – would be disastrous – coldest annual average temperature will be warmer than ever before
  • No longer business as usual for agriculture in Northeast:
    • Hotter summers, warmer winters
    • Changes in precipitation patterns
    • Increasing extreme weather events
    • More variability, more risk
    • New pests
  • Plant hardiness zones are moving 30 yards north per day
  • Longer growing seasons – gained 10 days in Northeast since 1950s
  • More extreme precipitation events – 71% increase in same period
  • Longer frost-free period does not necessarily mean longer growing season if more flooding takes place
  • Warmer winters in Northeast means increased pest pressures
    • Better overwinter survival
    • More generations per season
    • Northward expansion of range
  • Dramatic increase in risk of mega-drought in Southwest – 80% by the end of the century
  • Examples of climate change impact on agriculture:
    • Cork and olive trees dramatically affected by hotter weather in Mediterranean area
    • Avocado production off by 40% in California
    • Already 10% decrease in grain production worldwide
    • Half of grape production in California will be negatively affected by mid-century
    • Lobster fisheries moving north
    • Coffee in trouble worldwide – production down 305 in Costa Rica
  • Most of major food and beverage companies understand severity of problem – consultants’ advice:
    • Encourage climate smart farming
    • Carry out supply chain risk assessment
    • Develop and use technology for conservation
    • Invest in suppliers
    • Look at alternative ingredients
  • Need to mitigate emission of greenhouse gases by:
    • Nutrient management
    • Reduced tillage, cover crops
    • Energy conservation
    • Waste to heat and power
    • Renewable energy
      • Willows, switch grass, etc.
      • Solar and wind power
    • Recent Empire State Poll showed that 81% of New Yorkers believe climate change is already happening
    • New initiatives at Cornell include the Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture, USDA Specialty Hubs, and Climate Smart Farming Extension Program
    • Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future another important resource
    • We can meet the challenge of climate change but we need a great social awakening

Methane after COP21 – Bob Howarth

Bob Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell, is giving a briefing at the White House on methane, shale gas, and the COP21 targets in late May and gave TCCPI members a sneak preview. 

  • Obama administration beginning to realize the it has to think differently about methane after Paris
  • Lots of discussion in Paris about temperature target – needs to be well below 2oC – anything above 1.5oC dangerous
  • Methane and black carbon critical to slowing global warming to reach COP21 target
  • Target cannot be reached through CO2 reductions alone
  • CO2 emissions today will influence climate for hundreds of years – because of lags in climate system, reducing emissions now will have little influence during next 40 years
  • In contrast, methane persists in atmosphere for only 12 years – modest long-term influence, unless global warming leads to tipping points in climate system
  • Reducing methane emissions immediately slows global warming
  • Possible tipping points to push Earth into new climate system:
    • Melting of Arctic Ocean ice (with reduced albedo)
    • Change in ocean “conveyor-belt” circulation
    • More thunderstorms in Arctic, leading to more fires
    • Melting of permafrost and methane hydrates
  • Great conveyor belt could slowing – caused by melting of Arctic ice and Greenland ice sheet, making North Atlantic less salty
  • Thunderstorms used to be extremely rare in Arctic
  • 20-fold increase in lightning strikes during past decade and tundra has become significantly drier in summer
  • High potential for massive emissions of ancient methane due to thawing permafrost and release of “frozen” methane (methane clathrates)
  • James Hansen suggests that melting of methane clathrates in ocean could take off above 1.8oC
  • CO2 emissions stable for past few years, yet CO2 concentration in atmosphere rose at fastest rate ever in 2015 and reached record high in Feb. 2016
  • Ability of ocean and forests to absorb CO2 appears to be decreasing, making it clear that methane must be part of the approach for reaching COP21 target
  • Global warming potential (GWP) of methane equals or exceeds CO2 in 10-year time frame – methane has noticeably less GWP in 20-year time period and dramatically less GWP in 100-year time frame
  • The IPCC concluded in 2013 that “there is no scientific argument for selecting 100 years compared with other choices”
  • 100-year accounting time greatly discounts damage from methane over shorter time scales – methane only in atmosphere for 12 years but has huge impact
  • Time scale critical to evaluating other greenhouse gas emissions – for example, clear cutting and burning of wood releases large amount of CO2 now, but carbon-neutral over 100-year time period as forest regrows
  • Better accounting for methane emissions shows sharp increase in GHG emissions overall
  • Top down method (flying over) has shown much higher emission rates than EPA’s bottom up approach
  • Methane emissions from shale gas a lot higher than conventional natural gas – perhaps as much as 3-fold higher
  • Shale gas development is new, so measurements on methane emissions from shale gas are new
  • Why are emissions higher? Imperfect knowledge, with some surprises already, making it difficult to regulate reductions
  • Methane emissions from shale gas and oil development in US may be driving global increase in atmospheric methane, with consequences we are already seeing in terms of increased warming
  • To reach COP21 target will require the world to be largely free of fossil fuels by 2050
  • Methane reductions are critical; cannot reach COP21 target with CO2 reductions alone

Geothermal at Cornell – Sarah Zemanick

Sarah Zemanick, the Director of Campus Sustainability at Cornell, provided a brief update on the latest thinking about geothermal at Cornell.

  • Cornell committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2035
  • Half of non-transportation GHG emissions at Cornell due to heating – clearly need to move away from fossil fuel use
  • Enhanced geothermal looks like it might be a viable solution
  • Countries like Iceland have demonstrated effectiveness of approach – somewhat uncertain costs and feasibility in US because so new
  • Possible to drill down two miles, circulate water, and heat it up this way for use in buildings
  • Would created reservoir at two miles down and recirculate water to minimize waste
  • Roughly equivalent to land-based version of lake-source cooling
  • Implementation many years off – Cornell planning on taking a phased approach:
    • Preparatory phase
    • Phase I: Drill and study test well
    • Phase II: Test porosity and stimulate reservoir
    • Phase III: Drill second well and build surface infrastructure
    • Phase IV: Drill other well pairs and complete campus conversion
  • Report from Senior Leadership Team climate action group due in Sept. – will explore other options

March 2016

2016 NY Solar Outlook – Melissa Kemp

Melissa Kemp, Director of Commercial and Utility Development at Renovus Solar and member of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA) board, where she serves as co-chair of the Policy Committee, spoke on recent trends in NY solar policy.

  • NY had about 570 MW installed at end of 2015, up from 397 MW at end of 2014
  • Annual investment in solar facilities in NY estimated at over $500 million in 2015, excluding other positive economic impacts via employment, business expansion, and their associated increases in property tax and sales tax
  • New York is estimated to currently have around 700 companies in solar sector employing over 8,200 people
  • 2015 marked full launch of commercial solar market in NY as well as start of community solar market
  • Included announcement of new Clean Energy Standard, which could mean the opening of a utility scale solar market in NY in 2017
  • At end of 2015, NY’s installed solar ranked #7 in US, but still trails significantly behind other states
  • California, for example, had 10x more solar per person than NY
  • Residential solar continues to succeed
    • Stable incentive program
    • Expansion of market through community solar
    • Large number of Solarize programs
    • Continued cost reductions
    • Long term private sector financing
  • Update to NY Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (Uniform Code)
    • Public hearings held the week of January 25 – over 50 solar companies and organizations attended and submitted formal written comments in early February
    • Industry concerns about actual need for overly restrictive access pathways – but in end more reasonable standards put in place
    • Reduced space required for ventilation near roof ridge as well as increase options for its location
    • Such requirements would have had significant impacts on rooftop solar system size (as much as a 40-60% reduction from many homes) and associated economics
  • With launch of the commercial & industrial market in May 2015, 165 MW of projects have reserved incentives to date
  • Activity mostly in “Rest of State” (ROS) block – only 2.7 MW in ConEd block downstate
  • Mix of monetary and some volumetric projects
  • Program reported as working for many customers across state, but economics not working for some large customers in ROS under volumetric crediting regime
  • Under current incentives, financial viability of large-scale solar for big users is problematic
  • Update to System Interconnection Review (SIR) announced March 18, 2016 (Case 15-E-0557) and includes these positive changes:
    • Introduction of pre-application report – key data about circuit and substation of interest without submission of full interconnection application and interconnection queue
    • Inclusion of a set of standard screens state-wide in initial review with explicit language that, if passed, project goes directly to execution of interconnection contract with no upgrades and no study
    • If screens are failed, option for expedited supplemental review
    • Elimination of blanket upgrade requirements if pass initial or supplemental review
    • After CESIR completion, payment to execute contract reduced from 100% of upgrade costs to 25%
    • New requirements for greater detail on any upgrades proposed, itemized costs, and limitation of overall contingency to 25%
    • Projects up to 5MW are now allowed to be processed through the SIR, but net-metering limit for projects is still 2MW, so it is unlikely that this 5MW upper limit will be used initially
  • New SIR Process
    • Pre-application report (optional) – $750 and 10 business days
    • Initial Review – free if completed pre-application report recently, otherwise $750, and 15 business days
    • Directly to contract with no study or upgrades if pass standard screens in Initial Review
    • If fail, option for Supplemental Review Screens ($2,500 and 20 business days) or can go straight to full CESIR study ($5,000-$20,000 and 60 business days)
    • After CESIR completion, pay 25% of upgrade costs to execute interconnection contract, which sets your place in the queue and locks in the project’s property tax status
    • Pay remaining 75% before utility begins upgrade construction
  • Remaining Priority Items
    • Creation of best practice standards on technical issues including Substation Level Reverse Power Flow, Remote Monitoring Requirements, Control and Protection Issues including DTT Requirements and Other Anti-Islanding Protection Schemes, and Voltage Flicker and Regulation
    • Addition of enforcement mechanisms and incentives for utilities to meet interconnection process timelines and cost estimates and to innovate to help further reduce costs and other interconnection barriers
    • Creation of complete formal queue transparency and queue management processes
    • Improvements to Supplemental Screen implementation and clarification of minimum load screen
    • Elimination of customer name requirement for interconnection applications and/or ability to update customer name
    • Addition of process for updating initial reviews and CESIRs when minor changes to the system configuration occur
    • Addition of interconnection cost sharing options and other ways to address higher cost upgrades that would benefit multiple projects
  • Community Distributed Generation (Case 15-E-0082 )
    • After July 2015 order and October follow-up order, CDG went live in opportunity zones and for low/moderate income (LMI) projects across the state in November
    • Tremendous opportunity and keys appear to be financing structures and partners for specific models, interconnection, back-end platform for customer service and management, and the zoning/permitting of these projects
    • Addition of creditworthiness requirements for Project Sponsors potential issue being further explored
  • Successor Tariff (Case 15-E-0751)
    • Critically important issue in Q1-Q2 2016 with first comments due on 4/18/16
    • Announced in late December: seeking an interim successor to net-metering in 2016 before and as a bridge to conclusion of REV
    • Following net-metering study and cost/benefit order
    • Requesting more precise interim methods of valuing distributed energy resource benefits and costs, as well as design of appropriate rates and valuation mechanisms before end of 2016
  • Clean Energy Standard (Case 15-E-0302)
    • Potential launch of large-scale renewables in NY
    • Workshop in NYC in March and comments due in April
    • Goal 50% renewable electricity by 2030
    • Discussion of targets along entire way and how deal imports
    • Discussion of structure – REC market and Alternative Compliance Payments with long-term contracts and spot market alongside ISO wholesale markets
    • Discussion of carve out for technologies or just let market choose “cheapest”
  • Other Key Issues
    • Zoning and permitting for commercial and community scale projects
      • Best practices and templates
      • Avoiding moratoriums
    • Property tax education and economic argument for remaining opted-in to exemption at municipal level
    • Recent prevailing wage controversy from Department of Labor for power purchase agreement projects involving government entities
    • Improvement of PACE financing compatibility with solar projects
  • Serious billing issues for remote net-metering monetary and volumetric customers in several NY utility territories
    • Errors in production readings and service classifications assigned
    • Problematic estimated readings at solar host meter
    • Bills for host meter and satellite meters delayed months
    • Bills do not show any details on how kWhs monetized for satellite accounts or how credits roll forward on host account
    • Some utilities have different more complex interpretation of how volumetric remote net metering (RNM) works than expected
    • Bills do not show summary of how RNM delegated to accounts
    • Some continued issues with ESCOs and consolidated billing

 

The New Energy Navigators Initiative – Karim Beers

Karim Beers, the coordinator of Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, introduced the group to the latest initiative from GYGB designed to help Tompkins residents reduce their carbon footprint and save money.

  • Energy efficiency in residential sector vital to reducing community’s carbon footprint
  • Pilot program applications due 3/31
  • Classes held on Tuesdays beginning April 19 from 9 to 11 am at CCETC
  • Collaboration between GYGB and CCETC: goal is to build ream of residents who can be channels of information throughout county
  • Similar to master composter program
  • Energy Navigators will be group of trained residents who help their friends, neighbors, and other community members make environmentally and financially sound energy decisions by providing them with useful, locally relevant, unbiased, research-based information and resources.
  • Energy Navigators participate in a ten-week training that helps them understand their own energy use and make progress towards their goals
  • Prepares them to help others in community with their goals
  • Energy Navigator trainee selection based on an applicant's ability to attend training sessions and their capacity and interest in helping others.
  • Classes will be led by energy expert Mark Pierce, extension associate at Cornell University, along with GYGB coordinator Karim Beers, and other Extension educators

February 2016

The Residential Energy Score Project – Emelie Cuppernell

Emelie Cuppernell of Performance Systems Development is the project manager for the Residential Energy Score initiative. She reported on the progress made since August, when she last spoke with us, regarding the effort to provide energy performance scores for local homes.

  • Voluntary, residential energy score program for homes in the participating municipalities.
  • Use industry backed, nationally recognized asset rating systems to generate “Tompkins Residential Energy Score”
  • Home can be scored at any time, but encouraged at significant points in the homeownership life cycle (real estate transaction, home inspection, energy audit, home performance work, renovation)
  • Homeowners, buyers, realtors, lenders, and contractors can assess energy efficiency of house and compare efficiency of homes across county
  • Draft 1 of the program and implementation plan just completed and Draft 2 scheduled to be completed in April
  • Final version presented to municipalities in May/June for endorsement
  • Building use over 40% of the energy consumed in the US
  • Tompkins County has a goal of 80% reductions in green house gas emissions by 2050
  • This Project is aimed at reducing home energy use by allowing consumers to better understand and value energy efficiency.
  • Once we can measure it and value it, we can change it
  • Energy efficiency hard to see, which makes it difficult to prioritize when it comes to home buying or home energy upgrade decisions.
  • Asset rating provides systematic way to evaluate energy efficient features of a home
  • Removes influence of occupant behavior, fuel price and weather fluctuations – allows easy comparison of one home to another
  • We need to be able to talk to each other about home energy in way that is consistent, meaningful, understandable, and comparable
  • Transparency provides consumers opportunity to value energy efficiency in real estate transaction and motivates homeowners or sellers to improve their score
  • Integrating two nationally recognized and industry backed asset rating systems – combined into one comparable score called Tompkins Residential Energy Score
  • As the program is designed and completed, two primary concerns need to be considered:
    • Avoid creating disproportionate negative impacts on low income population
    • How program may impact a home’s assessed value and taxes
  • The process of putting this program into place is proposed in 6 phases:
    1. Secure funding
      • This project was funded to develop a program NOT to run one or implement it – program cannot move forward without adequate funding
    1. Hire program implementer who will drive the program forward
      • Responsible for overseeing the program and tracking data, guiding program design, and carrying out training, education, and outreach
    1. Complete program design
    2. Pilot program
      • Pilot will allow for testing design and effectiveness of program on a smaller scale
      • May be limited by number of homes, geographical area, or time period
    1. Voluntary program
      • Voluntary option can help build toward and inform a mandate or ordinance down the road
      • Free market may better capture public’s enthusiasm for home energy scoring
    1. Evaluate program and local political environment for readiness for mandate or law
      • Request state legislation explicitly giving municipalities legal authority
      • Without large adoption or mandate program will struggle to meet its ultimate goal of valuing energy efficiency in real estate transactions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Program only becomes significant if widely adopted – how do we encourage, motivate, or incentivize people to have home scored?
  • Scott Bochenek: How can score be integrated into energy upgrade business plans so companies can grow their customer base?
  • Susan Mann: Important to distinguish gathering data for residential energy score, on one hand, and energy audit, on other
  • Energy audit doesn’t allow comparison with other homes
  • Residential energy score operates at unit level in multifamily buildings
  • Brian Eden: Would be good to incorporate value of installing solar – not taken into account by property tax assessors
  • Score focuses on energy efficiency not fuel source – but perhaps could add something like Bus per square foot
  • Reed Steberger: What is target audience for residential energy socre?
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac studies show that one of primary reasons why people default on mortgages is they can’t afford energy bills
  • Residential energy score helps to educate home buyers who are not especially energy savvy
  • Irene Weiser: Big challenge for us as community to figure out how to deal with split incentive, given large size of rental market
  • This program doesn’t deal with this issue – but NYC requires energy benchmarking for all commercial and multifamily buildings
  • David Kay: Why does everyone need to participate?
  • Won’t be able to transform market if you don’t have sufficient number of homes to compare
  • Nick Goldsmith: What main factors should drive design of pilot? Number of homes? Time period? Neighborhoods?
  • Katie Borgella: Where do people think this initiative should be situated?
  • Ken Schlather: CCETC could certainly help get program established and possibly manage it
  • Megan McDonald: County has program for rehabbing low-income homes – Healthy Homes Rehabilitation Program – but more success in carrying out energy audits than in doing energy upgrades
  • Susan Mann: County tax office might be another possibility – but might be problematic because of association with tax valuation – might be confusing
  • David Kay: How long would rating be valid?
  • Valid as long as house doesn’t change
  • Most people have HVAC inspections/cleanings every couple of years – any way to have them do work needed for rating?
  • Nick Goldsmith: Public meeting to discuss the residential energy score project on March 14 at Tompkins County Public Library
     

Update on Cayuga Power Plant – Irene Weiser

Irene Weiser is a member of the Caroline Town Board and the coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins. She updated the group on the recent decision of the Public Service Commission.

  • PSC decided on Tuesday that upgrade of transmission lines makes more sense than repowering Cayuga Power Plant
  • Will not allow Cayuga to pay for conversion to natural gas through increase in electricity rates or special changes
  • Upgrades on transmission line to Auburn will fully address reliability issues
  • PSC did not order close of Cayuga Power Plant but rather denied it ability to charge NYSEG customers to carry out conversion
  • Much less expensive to upgrade transmission lines -- $25 million vs. $145 million for conversion
  • Cayuga Power Plant will not be profitable, however, without subsidies
  • Transmission lines would need upgrading by 2020 regardless of whether Cayuga Power Plant converted to natural gas
  • Riesling Power looking to purchase both Cayuga and Somerset Power Plants – not clear why this company wants to buy them
  • Despite media reports to contrary, plant has not been sold – Riesling in negotiations with  UpstateNew York Power Producers, which currently owns two plants
  • Plant will be open another two years while transmission lines are upgraded

January 2016

Finger Lakes Land Trust and the Climate – Andy Zepp

Andy Zepp, the executive director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, will be updated the group on recent conservation efforts that are also having a positive impact on our community's carbon footprint.

  • Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) established 26 years ago – the Emerald Necklace is effort to develop continuous greenbelt building on 50,000 acres of publicly owned land
  • Involves another 50,000 acres that would connect these areas
  • Working in partnership with the State and on its own
  • Carbon sequestration of forests in rural areas has great potential to help Tompkins County achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target
  • Watershed & wildlife also important issues
  • Tompkins County one of few counties in upstate NY that is growing
  • Typical suburban development patterns would leave ecological patchwork
  • Already seeing intense rain events in Finger Lakes that are causing flooding and runoff issues
  • Even worse in places that have been paved and developed like Wegmans parking lot
  • Road ditches are like manmade streams – they don’t meander, though, so they shoot water straight into the lakes – phosphorus and manure runoff without filtration
  • New normal seems to be super-saturated rain events that are very localized and create serious damage
  • Goal not to own land – not feasible – but to protect it through conservation easements
  • Easements can be amended if they don’t have negative impact on conservation value of land
  • FLLT working with county and state to develop and maintain trails
  • Water quality, recreational trails, wildlife diversity, flodd resiliency are all key issues
  • Green infrastructure is excellent investment – a lot cheaper in long run than gray infrastructure

 

Roundtable Updates on 2015 Accomplishments – All

Members shared their organization’s top climate protection and clean energy achievements in 2015 as well as a brief preview of for 2016.

  • Carolyn Peterson: EPA Local Government Advisory Committee has been very active in engaging EPA around clean power and clean water, among other issues
  • Joe Wilson: Town of Dryden facing increasing fiscal pressures as it tries to stay under Governor Cuomo’s tax cap – will make it difficult to find money for land conservation efforts
  • Also continuing effort to stop West Dryden pipeline – fugitive methane emissions can have serious impact on County’s effort to achieve greenhouse gas targets
  • Ed Marx: Tompkins County Energy Road Map has been a major focus in 2015 – this process coming to close
  • Focus for coming year will be on energy infrastructure
  • Green energy incentives another area of focus
  • What are the steps we need to take to implement the Road Map?
  • Scott Bochenek: Energy Smart Community Project was filed with the Public Service Commission earlier this year – now awaiting PSC approval
  • Once approved, Iberdrola USA will develop more detailed implementation plan
  • Also have been gathering feedback on proposed REV demonstration project
  • Ingrid Zabel: PRI-Museum of the Earth’s exhibit on weather and climate that has been traveling throughout NY – also working on teacher-friendly guide on climate change
  • Don Duggan-Haas, director of teacher programming at PRI, received a national teaching award for his work on improving the teaching of earth science
  • In addition, the Cayuga Nature Center received a Park Foundation grant for developing climate change education
  • Sarah Zemanick: Lots of activity at Cornell around our new solar projects – currently negotiating with state on issue of RECs
  • Also working with New York Solar Industry Association on new NYS fire code that restricts amount of space on rooftops available for solar
  • Climate change seminar series on campus this spring
  • The Sustainability Office is developing sustainability communication internship program – working with Communications faculty at Cornell
  • Brian Eden: Environmental Management Council has developed series of FAQs for County Legislature on wind power
  • Peter Bardaglio: Black Oak Wind Farm continued to move forward this year but hit snag with one of property owners this fall – looking to re-site substation and at least one of turbines and hope to begin construction this summer
  • Alec Mitchell: REV Startup will be launching clean energy business competition, 76West – important job growth initiative for Southern Tier focused on new business development
  • Brian Bauer will head up project – competition each year for the next four years
  • Governor Cuomo has made $20 million available, with $10 million of that for competition awards
  • Katie Borgella: County Planning Department will be updating its greenhouse gas inventory this year – last carried out in 2008
  • Also focusing more activities on climate adaptation work in 2016

Meeting Highlights: 2016