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November-December 2015
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November-December 2015

CEC Demonstration Project, Pt. II – Scott Bochenek and Sara Culotta

Scott Bochenek, manager of Smart Grid Programs for Iberdrola USA, and Sara Culotta from Taitem Engineering picked up where we left off at our last meeting. After a quick review, we moved into a discussion about the project and people will have a chance to ask questions that we didn’t have time for in October.

  • Sara reviewed the presentation from the last meeting
  • Iberdrola USA/NYSEG and Taitem Engineering partnering on effort to explore what value they can bring to renewable energy transition
  • Hope to provide model that can be scaled up and adopted by other communities – “participatory action research”
  • NYSEG recognizes that it has not been as effective as it could be as facilitator in community – message has been loud and clearas it has beun process of community engagement for this project
  • Business as usual in past has involved utilities covering costs of service by raising their rates
  • Under REV, utilities are being asked to develop a self-funding approach
  • Possible components:
    • Residential solar
    • Community solar
    • Distributed wind
    • Residential weatherization
    • Smart thermostat appliances
  • Aiming beyond early adopters and looking to generate new revenue streams
  • How and why is this a good idea?
    • Local employment is important
    • Community solar could be solution for renters
    • Model for people how to share excess solar with other customers
    • Feed-in-tariff to solar owners
    • Advantage of solar sited on premises: increases awareness among neighbors
    • Community solar would be good at community sites like airport
    • How can solar contribute to greater resiliency?
    • Who should get credit for reducing peak demand?
    • Community solar good for those who don’t have access to premises-based solar
    • Energy efficiency has potential to build on HeatSmart Tompkins
    • Residential solar could overlap with Solar Tompkins efforts
    • Wind could be useful to promote for farms – small turbines
    • Have effort be community based and working with municipality
    • Have community be sponsor of whatever it is that we are promoting
    • What are opportunities to encourage co-ops?
    • Concern with landlords taking advantage of net metering with tenants paying retail rate
    • How can we make solar available to low income households
    • Can we use right-of-ways to host solar?
    • Heating and cooling is bigger bang for buck – air and ground source heat pumps
    • Lease options can open door for many people
    • Lots of issues regarding interconnection and infrastructure that need to be addressed
    • Need to change business model of utilities so that revenue generated based on outcomes/quality, not volume
    • Focus on peak demand important


Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Sustainability Plan – Ed Marx

Ed Marx is the Tompkins County Planning Commissioner. He presented a progress report on the Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Regional Sustainability Plan, with a particular focus on Tompkins County.

  • Plan adopted in May 2013
  • Goals of plan:
    • Reduce building energy use.
    • Develop, produce, and deploy renewable energy sources and advanced technologies across the Southern Tier.
    • Create a regional multi-modal transportation system that offers real transportation choice, reduced costs and impacts and improved health.
    • Reduce fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions from transportation by reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT), increasing efficiency, improving system operations, and transitioning to less carbon intensive fuels and power sources.
    • Strengthen and revitalize existing cities, villages and hamlets
    • Support development of housing that is energy and location efficient and offers choices to reflect changing demographics.
    • Create and retain more good paying jobs by building on the Southern Tier’s regional strengths, including advanced energy and transportation technologies, globally-competitive industry, and workforce development and technology transfer partnerships with educational institutions.
    • Support tourism industry development with coordinated marketing, preservation, and enhancement of historic, cultural, educational, and natural resources and events.
    • Support farming and related businesses to reinvigorate the rural economy, enhance residents’ incomes and standards of living, and promote local food and agriculture.
    • Promote best management of fields, forests and farmland to keep working lands in production, protect natural resources, and increase carbon sequestration.
    • Preserve and connect natural resources, open spaces and access to waterways, to protect regional environment, ecology, habitat and scenic areas, and support outdoor recreation.
    • Identify and plan for the economic, environmental and social impact of climate change.
    • Minimize flood losses by preserving and enhancing floodplain and watershed functions, and by limiting development in flood-prone areas.
    • Efficiently manage and upgrade existing water, sewer, and other utility infrastructure to support compact development and reduce energy use.
    • Improve and protect water quality and quantity.
    • Promote innovative waste reduction and management strategies.
    • Increase collaboration among regional agencies, institutions, and local governments.
    • Increase fiscal efficiency and effectiveness in local government through energy and waste reduction, coordinated investments, and integrated planning.
  • Made progress in Tompkins county on 56 of 65 actions and 20 of 22 priority actions
  • Tompkins County highlights:

    Action 1.  Promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in residential and commercial buildings

    • NY Prize Microgrid Feasibility grants
    • Tompkins County Commercial Energy Efficiency Collaborative to encourage energy efficiency in commercial buildings
    • Residential Energy Score Project
    • Ecovillage Passive House Neighborhood
    • Ithaca 2030 District

    Action 2.  Develop a regional energy roadmap

    • Tompkins County Energy Roadmap

    Action 3.  Explore and create financing options for renewable energy and energy efficiency systems

    • Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca PACE Financing through Energize NY
    • Special Solar PV financing was offered by local financial institutions as part of the Solar Tompkins program.

    Action 5.  Facilitate deployment of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems

    • Cornell University 2 MW solar farm
    • Tompkins-Cortland Community College 2.6 MW solar farm
    • City of Ithaca proposed 2 MW solar farm on property leased from the Ithaca-Tompkins Regional Airport
    • Solar Tompkins generated 400 residential solar installations totaling 3 MWs

    Action 10.  Facilitate use of biomass for heating 

    • The Southern Tier Bulk Wood Pellet Infrastructure Boost Program received a Cleaner Greener Communities grant to develop infrastructure for and demonstrate the feasibility of bulk pellet delivery for industrial and commercial customers.

    Action 11.  Facilitate use of combined heat and power in private development projects and public facilities

    • Center Ithaca on the Ithaca Commons is installing a Combined Heat and Power system.

    Action 19.  Encourage development and strategic investment in cities, villages, and hamlets

    • Feasibility Study for moving NYS DOT maintenance facility from the Ithaca waterfront to allow mixed use redevelopment
    • Emerson/Chain Works Redevelopment project
    • Tompkins County selected preferred developer for the County’s Old Library site
    • Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services 210 Hancock mixed use infill project
    • Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services opened the new Stone Quarry Apartments
    • Spencer Street Pocket Neighborhood
    • Carey Building redevelopment for REV business incubator and micro housing units
    • The Lofts at Six Mile Creek market-rate apartments
    • Marriot, Hilton Canopy and Hotel Ithaca
    • Multiple Collegetown projects
    • Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program update

    Action 23.  Update local land use regulations and design codes and provide technical assistance to implement projects

    • The City of Ithaca adopted its updated 2015 Comprehensive Plan.
    • A 2013 Cleaner Greener Communities grant is supporting the development of a model Form Based Code for the City and Town of Ithaca.

    Action 44.  Incorporate anticipated climate projections, impacts and proposed mitigation strategies into Hazard Mitigation Plan updates

    • The Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan Update adopted in 2015 includes a specific section on Climate Adaptation.
    • The Tompkins Multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan updated in 2014 incorporated Climate Adaptation.
    • The City of Ithaca is undertaking a Flood Inundation Study of Six Mile, Cascadilla and Fall Creeks.
    • Village of Dryden and Tompkins County are undertaking a flood inundation study for Egypt Creek.
  • Cleaner Greener Grants for Tompkins County:
    • Residential Energy Score
    • Southern Tier Bulk Wood Pellet Infrastructure
    • EV Charging Feasibility
    • City/Town of Ithaca Form Based Code
    • Finger Lakes ReUse
    • 2030 District
    • 210 Hancock
    • Chain Works District Redevelopment
  • Cleaner Greener Grants for Rest of Southern Tier:
    • City of Elmira Comprehensive Plan
    • Painted Post/Riverside Comprehensive Plan
    • Schuyler County Technical Assistance
    • 2 municipal comprehensive plans
    • 2 zoning code updates
    • Schuyler County Comp Plan Update
    • Guide to Environmental Planning
    • County-wide training
  • Actions for Future Activity:
    • Action 6. Study and facilitate mid-scale wind projects
    • Action 37. Develop a regional program to promote sustainable forestry and wood products
    • Action 41. Maximize farm-based renewable energy production opportunities
    • Action 64. Identify and share examples of existing efficient practices

October 2015

Tompkins County Energy Roadmap, Pt. 3 – Katie Borgella

Katie Borgella, deputy planning commissioner for Tompkins County, provided an overview of the public reaction so far to the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap and the various scenarios that have emerged for achieving the County's goal of 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

  • Katie explained overall goal of Energy Roadmap: to assess the potential of  renewable energy and energy efficiency in the County and present alternative scenarios that would meet the County, City of Ithaca, and Town of Ithaca goal of an 80% reduction in community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
  • Has now given presentation 17 times – lots of feedback from community, mostly around messaging and making presentation clearer
  • Will be compiling all comments and bringing them to the steering committee
  • Of the scenarios present, the middle one seemed to gain the most support – offered a mix of different approaches.
  • Business as usual would result in only a 33% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
  • About 50 people attended TCAD Energy and Economic Development Task Force presentation previous evening at Sciencenter
  • Katie has presented energy roadmap to the TCAD Energy and Economic Development Task Force – received very positive response but concerns expressed about cost of implementing changes needed to meet the 80% goal
  • TCAD task force is focusing on first five years – what do we need to accomplish in the short term to ensure we achieve our GHG emissions reduction goal?
  • Not a static roadmap – will be updated on a regular basis
  • Clear opportunities:
    • Retrofit existing buildings and build new, more efficient ones
    • Install lots of solar PV for electricity
    • Transition away from natural gas to heat pumps and biomass for heating
    • Reduce vehicle miles traveled by building housing in population centers, encouraging car pooling, etc.
    • Transition away from gasoline to electric vehicles
  • Generally positive response to plan from meeting attendees – everyone agreed on importance of educating community but some disagreement over the best approach to messaging
  • One approach emphasized the need to focus on resiliency, making sure homeowners can be “king of your own castle” – making changes necessary to prepare for more volatile climate
  • Other approached stressed the need for a more collective approach – focus on building a stronger, more resilient community and making sure everyone is included
  • Despite their differences, both approaches shared an understanding that climate change is already underway and we need to prepare for it


CEC Demonstration Project – Scott Bochenek, Lou Vogel, and Sara Culotta

Scott Bochenek, manager of Smart Grid Programs for Iberdrola USA, Lou Vogel, president of Taitem Engineering, and his colleague Sara Culotta, discussed the status of the Community Energy Coordination (CEC) Demonstration Project. Among other goals, this effort seeks to improve collaboration between NYSEG and the community in order to create alignment with community energy goals.

  • NYSEG, RG&E, and CMP are all part of the Networks division of Iberdrola UUSA
  • Iberdrola USA one of 81 companies that have signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge
  • Iberdrola’s goal to reduce emissions 50% by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2050
  • Iberdrola Renewables now operates over 6,000 MW of renewable power across the US
  • More and more communications in Iberdrola USA about environmental sustainability as a key priority
  • Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) calls for increasing the efficiency of the grid by relying on distributed energy resources
  • Direction from NYS on demonstration projects:
    • Must test new business models (new ways of creating value)
    • Should include a partnership or collaboration with a third party
    • Should encourage competitive markets
  • Why demonstration projects?
    • REV is ambitious and complex….we have a lot to learn
    • A way to generate incremental change at utilities
    • Doing demonstration projects will be “the new normal”
  • Energy Smart Community is a suite of projects, while Community Energy Coordination is one specific project
  • Iberdrola USA Demonstration Projects include:
    • Community Energy Coordination
    • Flexible Interconnect Capacity Solution – Technology to reduce the cost of large scale interconnections
    • Marketplace – Residential customer information portal with opportunity to purchase energy efficiency products and services
  • The first two have been approved by the Public Service Commission – last one still awaiting approval
  • National Grid Demonstration projects include:
    • Neighborhood Solar – utility-owned PV on low income buildings
    • Distributed System Platform – utility integrated planning and communications with a campus
    • Resiliency – utility-owned microgrids for increased resiliency
    • Customer Convenience – fixed rate energy plans that may include energy, granular data, smart thermostats, LEDs, and demand response
  • Key questions:
    • How can the utility be an enabler of community energy goals?
    • Can utility / community collaboration create value?
  • Community Energy Coordination seeks to establish community-level market coordination to increase adoption of clean distributed energy resources
    • Coordinated planning and community engagement
    • Customer solicitation
    • Market solicitation
  • For this project to be a success it must be:
    • Embraced by the community as a way to help achieve energy & sustainability goals
    • Embraced by the market as an improvement over current practices
    • Embraced by Iberdrola USA as a worthwhile activity
  • Taitem brings to the project:
    • Commitment to scaling up clean energy adoption
    • Technical know-how in renewables and energy efficiency
    • Program management experience
    • Best practices for both research and implementation
  • Taitem will be adopting approach known as “Participatory Action Research” (PAR)
  • Emphasizes participation and action -- seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection.
  • One of Taitem’s strengths is conducting research, identifying best practices and educating others
  • CEC Demonstration Project operating with two main hypotheses:
    • NYSEG, collaborating with Taitem, can create value for our customers, energy service providers, and communities by playing a role in the planning and marketing of distributed energy resources (DER)
    • NYSEG, collaborating with Taitem, can efficiently reach and connect with large segments of the population
  • Planning and Engagement:
    • Decide what resources will be offered
    • Engage with key community stakeholders – identify synergies with other initiatives
    • Identify locations and sectors where certain resources might add the most value
      (or cost the least)
    • Partner with one or more service providers that can offer the chosen resource
    • Create detailed specifications of product offerings
  • Customer Solicitation:
    • Build a marketing campaign to offer the selected resource to customers in Tompkins County
    • Leverage utility outreach channels such as bill inserts, direct mail, and social media
    • Potentially leverage utility data to offer solutions that are optimized for the targeted customers
  • Market Solicitation:
    • The participating service provider(s) will close the sale with the customer
  • Key features of project:
    • There will be a community advisory board
    • Taitem will be the facilitator between NYSEG, service providers, and other stakeholders
    • This project seeks to connect with customers that may otherwise not engage
    • We should think about Tompkins County as an “incubator” for this concepts and remain conscious of how the learning will apply to other regions
    • Ultimately, Taitem could scale this concept with other utilities
  • Resources options could include:
    • Residential Solar PV
    • Commercial Solar PV
    • Community Solar PV
    • Distributed Wind
    • Residential Weatherization
    • Other residential energy efficiency measures
  • Online platform for CEC project will be essential:
    • Expected to be a key tool for the demonstration project
    • Easy and feel-good customer experience
    • Efficient and integrated operations
  • Taitem will be undertaking research and facilitation in beginning, but will eventually become one of service providers
  • How will Taitem manage potential conflict of interest?
  • How can development of new business models strengthen communitites? Should be more than just an appeal to individual self-interest


Dataloggers Project – Howard Chong

Howard Chong, assistant professor of economics and sustainability at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, made a brief presentation on his new Dataloggers Project, which is gathering data on 200-500 houses in the Ithaca area focused on the overall thermal performance of these residences.

  • Hope to focus on how quickly houses lose their heat – if we compare how quickly temperature drops, we can find most leaky houses
  • Putting dataloggers in house for 15 days during winter
  • Computer analysis will run data and provide a score
  • Social comparison will drive interest and action: individualized, contextualized, easy to understand
  • Tie people into already existing programs for retrofitting homes
  • Goal is to demonstrate how dataloggers can be a good first step towards full energy audit
  • If you’re a community group interested in energy efficiency, you can collaborate on Dataloggers Project – will provide devices on loan
  • Also working with a small community in Iowa
  • Community-based research – also working with Al George at Cornell
  • This approach will work with programmable thermostats
  • Generally ask people to put device in center of house – will provide more devices in some cases
  • Talking with Heatsmart Tompkins about possible collaboration
  • Not working with rental properties because they often use several kinds of heating sources

September 2015

Climate Changers – Jim Armstrong

Jim Armstrong, the founder of locally-based Factivist, will present on his latest project, “Climate Changers”, an interactive web site designed to reveal how people around the world are taking action to address climate change. Factivist is a communications consulting practice that focuses on socially responsible and sustainably-based messaging.

  • Key question: Do we operate in space of fear and us vs. them or in space of “we’re all in this together”
  • “Climate Changers” chooses the latter path – looking to provide hope and solutions
  • Climate change has no boarders – doesn’t have any borders – doesn’t accomplish anything to shame, blame, or point fingers
  • “Climate Changers” seeks to put positive human face on dealing with climate change
  • Presents “I can change” attitudes that lead to “I can do” actions
  • Tries to elicit sense of “I can see myself doing that”
  • Presents inclusive, interactive environment where you can connect with people or organizations’ Will track werhe people go on website and how they interact
  • Two-way street where you can share what effective changes you’re working on
  • Working with advisory board of science, environmental, policy, and communications experts
  • Also group of Cornell grad students helping out with research
  • Uses Square Space as platform for website
  • Currently moving from prototype to actualization
  • Will use more video going forward
  • Making it as big and inclusive as possible
  • Research shows that solid 43 percent of Americans think climate change is problem and want to do something about it, but don’t know what to do
  • How can we move towards more collective action?
  • Approach of “Climate Changers”: Start with connection to one individual and go from there
  • Is it possible to incorporate way for people to donate to organizations that inspire them


2030 Districts Network Summit – Peter Bardaglio

Peter Bardaglio, coordinator of TCCPI, reported on the recent 2030 Districts Network Summit held in Cleveland. The Ithaca team, which included Martha Armstrong, Dave Astorina, Katie Borgella, and Nick Goldsmith, also visited Oberlin to find out more about the climate protection and sustainability efforts there.

  • 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
  • Goal of 2030 Districts: make business case for sustainability
  • Currently over 241 million sq. ft. of commercial building space in 2030 Districts across North America
  • 2030 Districts Network now consists of 10 members:
    • Albuquerque
    • Cleveland
    • Dallas
    • Denver
    • Los Angeles
    • Pittsburgh
    • San Francisco
    • Seattle
    • Stamford
    • Toronto
  • Six “Emerging Districts”:
    • Ann Arbor
    • Detroit
    • Grand Rapids
    • Ithaca
    • Portland, ME
    • San Antonio
  • Third national summit – first two were in Pittsburgh and Seattle
  • Summits bring together District leaders to discuss best practices and share experiences
  • This year’s summit in Cleveland focused on building capacity of the network, not just the districts
  • Reflected new way of thinking about the initiative
  • 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
  • Big news this year was 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 Greenprint’s data management and analysis platform at significant discount
  • Big improvement over Portfolio Manager in terms of reporting capabilities
  • Discounted access to ULI Greenprint platform for all 2030 Districts for annual base fee of $15,000
  • Network will pick up tab on base fee for at least the first two years
  • Annual fee of $80 per building
  • Training and continued support for all District members on use of Greenprint for benchmarking and reporting
  • Got behind scenes tour of Cleveland Indian’s Progressive Field – many sustainability features
  • Free tickets to baseball game that evening!
  • On Friday Ithaca team went to Oberlin to get a closer look at campus and Oberlin Project
  • Chris Toddy, architect and Cleveland 2030 District board member, arranged trip
  • Oberlin Project: collaboration involving City of Oberlin, Oberlin College, municipal electric utility, and community and business stakeholders
  • Goal: make Oberlin a national model for sustainable economic development – “full spectrum sustainability”
  • Met with Steven Varelmann, College Architect, and Bridget Flynn, Sustainability Coordinator – took tour of campus, including nationally recognized Lewis Center
  • Home of Oberlin’s Environmental Studies Center – completed in January 2000
  • Still one of greenest buildings in U.S. – carbon neutral
  • Living machine purifies waste water by mimicking natural systems
  • Uses system of engineered ecologies: microbes, plants, snails and insects
  • Team takeaways:
  • Being part of North American movement, with lots of youthful energy and bright, cutting-edge ideas, could really help Ithaca leverage its growing young business community
  • 2030 District concept has potential to create good jobs – Seattle and Pittsburgh have made it a cottage industry
  • Ties in nicely with the concept of a funded roadmap forward to a net zero region
  • Need to define how Ithaca 2030 District works within matrix of local energy, transportation and economic development efforts
  • Integration with existing programs will improve results and ensure success
  • Our communications strategy should strengthen business community by engaging them – avoid overwhelming them with one more flood of information
  • Keep it simple – easier it is for members to participate, the greater participation and greater the results

August 2015

The Residential Energy Score Project – Emelie Cuppernell

Emelie Cuppernell of Performance Systems Development is the project manager for the Residential Energy Score initiative. She spoke with the group about this new effort to provide energy performance scores for local homes. The goal of the project is to use market forces to improve the energy efficiency of existing housing stock by providing meaningful home performance information to future home buyers.

  • Project team: Darby Kiley, C.J. Randall, Irene Weiser, Katie Borgella, Anne Rhodes
  • Buildings matter: overall they consume 40% of energy and we spend 90% of our time in them
  • Residential buildings consume 20% of energy used and GHG emissions in the U.S.
  • Goal of RESP: Develop a local home energy rating and disclosure program.
  • Seeks to evaluate relative energy efficient of a home and make this information know to consumers
  • Raise the consumer awareness about energy performance and encourage building energy improvements through greater market transparency
  • By end of March 2016:
    • Home energy rating & disclosure program
    • Implementation schedule
    • Evaluation plan
  • Building assets:
    • Envelope
    • HVAC
    • Domestic hot water
    • Lighting
  • Two main systems currently used: HERS and HES
  • HERS is expensive – mainly used for single and multifamily – primary market is new construction – lots of detail and more complicated
  • DOE’s HES is cheap and applies only to single family and townhouses – for existing homes – simple and much less detail
  • “Rating” and “score” are used interchangeably. Part of the project is to come up with consistent language
  • Difference between energy rating vs. energy bill -- law already exists in NY to disclose 2 years of energy bills for a house before someone buys
  • Energy rating, however, doesn’t include the behavior of the occupants – it looks at the energy assets
  • Question: Can we translate investment in greater energy efficiency of low-income homes into equity?
  • Building energy rating and disclosure not new idea – used all across world
  • Ordinance in Austin, TX requires any home or building to undergo inspection and get rated
  • DOE’s Home Energy Score (HES) used by more than dozen states
  • Residential Energy Score Project in Tompkins County is funded by NYSERDA’s Cleaner, Greener Communities grant – project kicked off this year
  • First such effort in New York
  • In Tompkins County there’s a real-estate group that’s created a list of measures of the energy use of a building but not summarized as a score.
  • Realtors are trying to respond to the demand for more information about comparing the energy efficiency of homes but they don’t have the tool
  • We need to create a single local label that will be branded for our region – trying to find way to combine HERS and HES into one score
  • HERS and HES are both calculation engines that produce outputs – how we combine these and communicate this is up to us
  • Voluntary effort – relying on market forces
  • 81% of people who expect to buy new home in next two years say higher energy efficiency would be important factor in their decision
  • Question: How are items like pools and saunas taken into account by rating systems?
  • Answer: Luxury goods, like a pool or sauna, are not included in the assessment.
  • Something like air conditioning would be included
  • One of issues with ratings: you get credit for high efficiency appliances such as a dryer but no credit for not having a dryer and using a clothes line
  • HES usually takes about an hour of collecting measurements and specs – there are about 40 data points
  • The HERS index usually takes about 4 hours in home and another 4 hours back at office – there are many more specific measurements
  • For a label that combines information from both, we would create a system that accepts inputs from either
  • We have to think about how to present this on a local label – you would still have the HERS index but there would be something easily digestible
  • DOE will let you use their engine for calculations, but you have to include their scores on your assessment.
  • Nick passed out a FAQ sheet for the project


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 this year, not all of them bad. Just most of them.

  • California drought so bad that farmers in Central Valley forced to tap underground aquifers for their crops
  • Between May 2014 and January 2015, parts of the Central Valley sank by as much as 13 inches.
  • Subsidence is damaging crucial infrastructure like aqueducts, train tracks, bridges, roads, and flood-control structures – millions of dollars to repair.
  • Drought has spread into Northwest – worst wild fires in Washington’s history this summer
  • So far this year, more than 7.4 million acres have been burned by wildfires in U.S. – most ever recorded in country
  • Terrible heat waves throughout northern hemisphere this summer
  • Late May heat wave in India caused 2,500 deaths – 2nd deadliest heat wave on record in India and 5th deadliest in world history
  • In New Delhi, temperatures surged to 113 degrees F, so hot roads melted.
  • At height of heat wave in Mumbai, the heat index – what the air feels like given the combination of heat and humidity – was close to 100 degrees even at night
  • Last month the hottest July for planet on record – 2015 on track to becoming hottest year ever
  • Likely that July 2015 hottest month ever, dating back to late 1800s
  • Independent task force report from U.K. and U.S. on food security (8/14/15): Climate change increases “food shocks” threat – 1 in 100-year disruption to increase to 1 in 30-year event by 2040
  • Biggest impact of these production shocks most likely in Africa and Middle East
  • Agricultural productivity expected to fall 40% in sub-Saharan Africa by second half of century due to climate change
  • 95% of sub-Saharan Africa crop production area relies entirely on rainfall
  • Recent report: speed of glacier retreat worldwide “historically unprecedented”
  • Glacier in Greenland now moving at rate of 46 meters a day, 17 kilometers a year – twice the speed recorded in 2003, which in turn was twice as fast as measured in 1997
  • New research published earlier this month revises how much West Antarctica could contribute to sea level rise by end of this century: increased estimate from 39 to 47 inches, nearly four feet just from these glaciers alone
  • Bombshell climate study, released in July, warned sea levels may rise 10 feet by end of century, rather than previously predicted 3 feet
  • Report led by James Hansen contended that increasing melting of Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets will lead to shutdown of ocean’s currents 
  • 10 feet rise in sea level would make many of world’s coastal cities, from New York to Shanghai, unlivable
  • Would also flood South Florida, making everything from Ft. Lauderdale on down, unlivable
  • In June Pope Francis issued an encyclical on climate change – emphasized that problem is urgent and requires “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet”
  • Humanity's "reckless" behavior has pushed planet to perilous "breaking point“
  • Insisted that “revolution” needed to combat climate change
  • UN Climate Change Conference in Paris gets underway in November“race against the clock,” according to French foreign minister
  • Can a plan based on honor system work when economic growth of nations at stake?
  • 56 countries responsible for two-thirds the world’s GHG emissions have submitted their INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions)
  • About 52% of Americans think that global warming is mostly human caused – little change since spring 2013 – another 32% think global warming is occurring but mostly caused by natural changes in environment
  • Recent surveys indicate that 74 to 78% of Americans think climate change poses a very serious or somewhat serious threat to U.S.
  • Percentage of Democrats who think climate change should be a top priority for the administration and Congress has increased from 38 to 54% between 2013 and 2015 – Independents went from 31 to 39% -- Republicans little changed (13 to 15%)
  • A poll taken in January 2015 showed that 78% of Americans believed that federal government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions
  • In other good news, renewables accounted for 98% of all new U.S. electricity generation capacity in June
  • George Marshall on how our brains are wired to ignore climate change: George Marshall: “We are very well adapted to respond to immediate threats but slow to accommodate moving change. Climate change is a process, not an event.”
  • As he observes: “We need a narrative of positive change, in which our adaptation to climate change does not just protect what is already here but also creates a more just and equitable world.”

July 2015

The Tompkins County Energy Road Map, Pt. 2 – Katie Borgella and Max Zhang

Katie Borgella, deputy planning commissioner for Tompkins County, and Max Zhang, associate professor of engineering at Cornell University and project consultant for the Tompkins Energy Road Map, will pick up on last month's presentation and focus on the various scenarios that have emerged for achieving the County's goal of 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

  • The County developed its energy strategy in 2010 and began work on the energy road map in 2014 – will be followed by an energy strategy update in 2016
  • The following guidelines were used in quantifying the potential of various energy sources in the County:
    • Used only technologies that are commercially available today
    • Were conservative in assumptions about feasibility here
    • Used sound methodology and defensible numbers
    • Thorough review by Steering Committee and Industry Experts
  • The goal: develop scenarios that achieve emissions reduction goals utilizing, to maximum extent practicable, resources that can be developed locally given reasonable, but conservative, assumptions about resource availability and reasonable assessment of constraints
  • Scenarios should balance the needs of the environment, economy and an equitable society
  • Guidelines for developing scenarios presented today:
    • Be conservative in estimating potential
    • Use no more than 50% of the potential
    • Only use currently available technology
    • Meet goal of 80% reduction from 2008 levels by 2050
  • Three preliminary scenarios for discussion at today’s presentation:

    1) Scenario A – “Balanced”

    Still using 20% of natural gas and all under 50% of potential except for light/appliance efficiency, which is at 80% of potential

    2) Scenario B – “Natural Gas Maintained as Much as Possible”

    Still using 55% of 2008 levels of natural gas, but:

    • Light/appliance at 100% of potential
    • TDM at 100% of potential
    • Air sealing/insulation at 76% of potential and
    • Solar at 55%

    3) Scenario C – “No Natural Gas Used”

    No natural gas used at all in 2050 and all under 50% of potential except for:

    • Air sealing/insulation at 64% of potential
    • Solar at 55%
  • All three scenarios achieve GHG emission goals by 2050
  • Take Home Message: The problem is real but solution also real. It won’t be easy, but possible to achieve needed greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals
  • Max walked group through all assumptions that went into scenario generator
  • Biomass not viable for electric generation at a power station – creates large spike in consumption and forests cannot sustainably meet this. Biomass is viable for home heating, which has a slower growth rate
  • From a communications perspective, it’s important make language less technical if the planning dept is soliciting input from general public and not just energy expert.
  • The analysis is not full life cycle – in other words, the CO2 profile does not include the energy used in actual production of a solar panel or extraction of coal – just the energy consumed locally.
  • Storage is obviously the important area to explore – pumped hydro may work locally because of the availability of land and elevation.
  • The cost of ground source heat pumps is affordable for new residential construction but not for existing residential – air source heat pumps are more affordable for existing homes.
  • Key assumption in transportation analysis is 24% increase from 2008 to 2050 in vehicle miles traveled – but ITCTC has just completed analysis that shows it may only be 6% - these figures are being refined currently.
  • Other key assumption: CO2 emissions from electric vehicle’s electricity usage counted in electricity section
  • 2015 NYS energy plan establishes 2030 goal of generating 50% of state’s electricity by renewable energy. But plan does not address in any detail how that goal will be achieved
  • Renewable design factor considers capacity of intermittent energy resources that have to be oversized to meet inflexible energy demand
  • According to work done on the 2030 Project, we should build out renewable energy system at twice the size needed to meet peak demand
  • Following discussion of various assumptions that went into each of scenarios, Max focused on Scenario A, the “middle” scenario
  • Next steps:
    1. June-Sept TCPD Facilitated Public Discussions
    2. Sept/Oct Public Outreach
    3. October ID Preferred Scenario
    4. Nov/Dec Preferred Scenario to Legislature and Public
    5. 2016 Update Energy Strategy
    6. Request Legislature endorsement of the Updated Energy Strategy

June 2015

Solar Cooperatives: Connecting Energy and Equity – Krys Cail

Building on last month’s discussion on energy and equity, Krys Cail presented on the potential for a shared solar consumer cooperative to offer low and moderate income residents the opportunity to help plan and own a shared, remote-net-metered solar installation, as well as benefit from lower electric bills. Krys is a longtime consultant focusing on small business and land use planning and a leading social justice and sustainability advocate.

  • Krys is project leader of DE2 (“Distributed Energy, Distributed Equity”) – Stefan Minot and Shad Ryan working with her on project
  • DE2 is response to opportunity created by Public Service Commission policy changes known collectively as REV (“Reforming the Energy Vision”)
  • REV which will institute shared renewable energy remote net metering options
  • Years ago, Sustainable Agriculture faced many of the same hurdles faced today by Sustainable Energy
  • Strong market demand for localized product but difficulty gaining access to necessary capital
  • Systems organized around centralized production coordinated by virtual monopoly players
  • Accelerated the growth of the Sustainable Agriculture sector by employing structures that allowed capital of people who wanted local natural foods to support the increased availability of these products
  • Included Community Supported Agriculture, Food Cooperatives, and Slow Money, among others
  • Solar cooperatives already underway in other states
  • Those aware of climate threat and thus opposed to extreme fossil fuel development are:
    • working hard to encourage a movement to divest from owning equity in fossil fuel companies – succeeding in getting institutional investors and citizens interested in divestment.
    • interested in assuring that their own homes, businesses, nonprofit organizations and churches are powered by clean energy sources.
    • looking for ways to jump-start renewable power source industries to replace fossil fuels for everyone.
  • “Solarize” programs utilize an approach familiar to cooperative organizers: the purchasing co-op
  • Like a group of farmers joining together, “solarize” program participants get better price by banding together to make joint purchases and qualify for discounts
  • But “solarize” projects leave out many people who want solar energy:
    • those who have too shady or crowded a site
    • those who do not pay income tax, and so can’t make use of income tax credits to make the energy cost-effective
    • those who don’t have good enough credit to qualify for loans needed to obtain up-front cash for panel installation
    • those who rent rather than own their homes
    • those who have such low energy costs that the PV installation would not be cost-effective
  • Consumer electric generation co-ops can work for everyone – requires planning work, outreach, and community development in early stages
  • Electric cooperatives already working in the U.S. and Germany – Nebraska, for example, has 121 publicly-owned utilities and one of lowest electricity rates in nation
  • In U.S. energy cooperatives serve 13% of all electric customers.
  • Rural Electrification Act started most of cooperatives through large, centralized generation projects such as Hoover Dam using federal funds, but today many are developing distributed renewable energy installations
  • Current business model for all generation utilities is to sell as much electric power as possible, but we need to be on path to use less energy, not more
  • Wall St. finance model does not have right incentives to deliver what we need to make transition
  • Using money from outside community at high interest rates increases wealth inequality as well as spatial divide between rich and poor
  • Renewables have capital-intensive cost structure but low cost energy production structure – need new approach for financing these projects, a Main St. model
  • Consumer cooperatives do not have maximization of shareholder value as their main incentive – they exist to serve their consumer members’ needs
  • Possess the right incentive structure to drive both rapid technology adoption and socioeconomic equity
  • Cooperatives provide way to overcome SEC regulations that restrain ability of small investors to hold equity in renewable energy projects
  • Initially cooperative might only include nearby neighbors but over time could extend to more remote members
  • Important way to democratize economy


Tompkins County Energy Road Map – Katie Borgella and Max Zhang

Katie Borgella, deputy planning commissioner for Tompkins County, and Max Zhang, associate professor of engineering at Cornell University and project consultant, shared a preliminary draft of the County’s energy road map for feedback and questions. The project is designed to assure that Tompkins County achieves its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

  • Katie reminded group that project has been underway since last June – will be holding public sessions later this year but wanted to get some initial feedback to draft report from TCCPI – introduced Max
  • Report is focused on potential of already existing technologies and their respective challenges and opportunities
  • Currently working on developing scenarios based on this analysis
  • Major assumptions:
    • Electricity: point of consumption – emissions from Cayuga Power Plant not included
    • Emissions associated from air travels are not included due to lack of commonly accepted accounting practice
    • Cornell, Ithaca College, TC3 will all accomplish their carbon neutrality goals by 2050
    • Focuses on potential and scenarios, not actual implementation
  • Assesses potential of solar, wind, micro-hydro, biomass, energy efficiency, demand response, district energy systems, and transportation
  • Installed capacity for solar PV about 2200 MW and annual energy output of around 2450 MW – enough to power about 282K households
  • Installed capacity for wind about 284 MW with annual energy output of about 990MW, enough to power about 58K households
  • Installed capacity for micro-hydro about 88 MW with annual energy output of about 725MW, enough to power over 11K households
  • Potential for biomass energy to heat is about 5.1 million MMBtu/yr, enough to heat about %%K households
  • County-level electricity consumption in 2008 was roughly 780 GWh/yr
  • Electricity consumption per household averaged 7,835 kWh/yr -- number of households: 37443
  • County-level heating demand totaled 5,200,000 MMBtu/yr with average heating demand per household of about 91 MMBtu/yr
  • For solar PV analysis of non-PV farms, randomly sampled 1,480 rooftops over different types of buildings
  • Residential: urban 4kW; rural 7 kW – Non-residential: available roof areas
  • For PV farms used GIS-based multi-criteria model that took into account land acreage, land structure, land availability, and proximity to substations
  • Installation capacity for small-scale wind (<25 kW) estimated at 38 MW; medium-scale (between 25 and 500 kW) at 295MW; and large-scale (>500 kW) at 120MW
  • Analysis showed only  weak correlation on issue of how complementary wind and solar are
  • For micro-hydro, selected 232 potential sites with highest potential for micro-hydro – total generation potential: 88 MW
  • A total of 199 sites could generate between 100kW to 600kW
  • Limitations: unable to quantify the potential for sites <100 kW due to large uncertainties – small number of flow measurements a main limiting factor in quality of analysis
  • Biomass analysis focused on forests and inactive agricultural lands
  • Active agricultural land can provide agricultural residues and waste products, but combustion technologies are not ready
  • Biomass from forests and inactive agricultural lands within County could yield roughly 4.2 million MMBTU/year of thermal energy.
  • Biomass from active agricultural lands will add another 800K MMBTU/year.
  • In comparison, the total annual heating demand of in the County at the 2008 level is about 5.2 million MMBTU
  • Biomass can lead to better forest management and can reduce GHG emissions if carried out with sustainable management
  • Can also increase pollutants and degrade local air quality with current combustion technologies
  • Due to moderate underground temperature gradient, enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) most appropriate for direct heating.
  • Cornell University has been planning an EGS demonstration that eventually will provide 98% of the heating demand on campus
  • Cornell’s plan includes small amount of electricity generation, but its purpose is to keep wells active during summer time.
  • Advantages of EHS: renewable source of heat with small land-use and visual impacts
  • Disadvantages: not been demonstrated as viable technology in eastern U.S. -- also cost estimates highly uncertain
  • To improve energy efficiency of buildings, need to retrofit existing buildings, construct new buildings that are highly efficient, and deploy efficiency appliances, especially heat pumps and solar thermal
  • EUI = Total energy consumed by the building in one year/ the total gross floor area of the building, kBtu/ft2
  • Two types of EUI:
    • Site energy: accounts for energy (fuels, steam, and electricity) directly consumed in the buildings, resembling the utilities bills.
    • Source energy: accounts for the primary energy to generate electricity consumed in the buildings.
  • For Energy Roadmap, total energy use in County calculated using methodology consistent with site EUI
  • Total electricity consumption for residential buildings estimated at 283 million kWh/year and for commercial buildings about 348 million kWh/year
  • Total energy consumption, including electricity, for residential buildings and commercial buildings roughly 3.4 million MMBTu/year for each
  • County average EUI: Residential, 87 kBtu/ft2; Commercial, 220 kBtu/ft2
  • Taitem Engineering deep-retrofitted small office (from an old house) and achieved EUI of 28.4 kBtu/ft2
  • LEED median EUI nation-wide is 69 kBtu/ft2
  • Energy certified house in EcoVillage in 2002 achieved 50 kBtu/ft2 and 2013 passive house declined to 7.13 kBtu/ft2
  • Challenges for building energy efficiency include lack of incentives for insulation, split incentives for energy efficiency in rental properties, enforcing new building code, and work force training
  • Opportunities:
    • The Residential Energy Score Project (RESP)
    • Ithaca 2030 District
    • Energize NY Commercial Property Assessed Energy
  • Opportunities in other areas include:
    • District energy systems: microgrid proposals for NY Prize; and combined heat and power
    • Demand response and dynamic pricing: peak load reduction and integration of renewables
    • Transportation: electrification and transportation demand management (TDM)
  • Due to lack of time, review of scenarios and discussion left for July meeting


May 2015

Remembering Lew Durland – All

  • The group took several minutes to remember Lew Durland, the sustainability and energy director at Ithaca College – his contributions to the community and Ithaca College as a sustainability and clean energy leader will be missed
  • Lew passed away suddenly last Thursday, May 21
  • His commitment, generosity, and kindness all stood out – he was always ready to help out


The Energy-Equity Connection – Gay Nicholson and Elan Shapiro

Gay Nicholson, president of Sustainable Tompkins, and Elan Shapiro, a longtime community educator and activist, facilitated a conversation on the twin challenges of climate change and inequality. They have been members of a working group that has been meeting for several months now, exploring how to connect the dots between building a clean energy economy and addressing the issues of poverty, unemployment, and racial injustice.

  • Original paper published on 4/5/11 – first one to look at whole life cycle of methane emissions from drilling through delivery
  • Other members of working group: Karim Beers and Ann Rhodes
  • Cannot properly address systemic issues if we stay in our silos – hope to use this presentation as a learning tool for groups and organizations in community
  • Many people already working on the connection between energy and equity – examples at Sustainable Tompkins include the Finger Lakes Climate Fund and the DIY Home Energy Learning Circles
  • Jan Schwartzberg: Taitem Engineering has made conscious decision to expand pool of job candidates to increase diversity of its workforce
  • Developed apprenticeship program in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County to meet increased demand for PV systems as result of Solar Tompkins
  • Irene Weiser: Creation of the Coalition for Sustainable Economic Development has brought together labor, environmental, and social justice groups to try to shape economic development in Tompkins County that integrates these concerns into process going forward
  • Bert Bland: New program at Cornell, Towards New Destinations, seeks to increase diversity of workforce at Cornell
  • David Astorina: CCETC in-home workshops seek to give people tools, materials, and information about how to increase energy efficiency of their homes – sealing windows, for example
  • Bob Rossi: Concerned that our efforts may be too little, too late—how do we expand and accelerate our efforts?
  • Gay Nicholson: We need new social norms and relationships, not just new policies
  • Climate disruption hits poor the hardest in Tompkins County and across the globe
  • Poor often live in flood plains – most affected by increase in food prices due to droughts
  • Clean energy and climate protection work lead to 1) living wage green jobs; 2) lower household energy bills; and 3) more money circulating in local economy
  • Need to ensure that all members of community benefit from these efforts
  • As we carry out this work, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions that help mitigate damage caused by climate disruption
  •  Community solidarity results in: 1) full engagement on climate and justice; 2) whole systems understanding of complex problems; 3) less friction and delay in finding solutions; and 4) strong relationships more resilient under stress
  • What we can do differently:
    • Discuss our differences in order to build understanding and empathy
    • Consciously reach out beyond our cultural comfort zone
    • Educate ourselves about structural racism and poverty, and how they perpetuate inequality today in our community
    • If you enjoy privileges of identity such as being white, male, middle class, or heterosexual, choose to use these advantages to create thriving community-oriented economy that works for all
    • Learn about and support policies and programs such as living wage campaign and Black Lives Matter that address systematic injustice
    • Use energy-conscious lens when developing programs and plans about energy, food, and transportation systems
    • Ask what voices are missing and why
    • The group broke into pairs and discussed how we can move forward with these questions in mind – after few minutes we went around the room and reported back to the whole group


Cayuga Lake Modeling Project – Bert Bland

Bert Bland, associate vice president for energy & sustainability at Cornell University, updated the group on the Cayuga Lake Modeling Project (CLMP). The CLMP, which began in 2012, is investigating the sources and fate of phosphorus in Cayuga Lake. The modeling project is a condition for Cornell to secure regulatory approval to continue operation of its Lake Source Cooling facility

  • Launched study of potential for lake source cooling in 1993 – put system into operation in July 2000
  • Lots of controversy over impact, particularly on the southern end of lake
  • Renewal of five-year permit in late 2012 came with requirement to engage in modeling to determine source and impact of phosphorus in Cayuga Lake
  • Wanted to measure relative importance of non-point sources (watershed) vs. point sources
  • Lake’s water quality so bad in 1970s that swimming was banned
  • Lake Source Cooling draws water about two miles out at depth of 70m/250ft – water at that level at constant temperature of 39-41o F
  • Water returned at shallow level at temperature of 48-56o F
  • Draws phosphorus from deep water and returns it to shallow water – the question is, what impact does that have on lake?
  • Modeling project partners include NYSDEC and US EPA – Cornell University provides funding
  • Cornell willing to invest in research – using super computers to develop state-of-art modeling – applying best available science
  • 32K gallons per minute moving through pipe at peak use
  • Lake Source Cooling has led to tremendous energy savings – 86% reduction in energy used for cooling of campus and Ithaca High School
  • Overall reduction of 10% in Cornell’s Ithaca campus energy consumption – roughly 7K tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided in 2008 – less since then because of energy efficiency improvements
  • Monitoring of lake took place between April and October 2013
  • Modeling began in January 2014 and will be completed by June 2016
  • Once modeling is complete, NYSDEC will develop Total Maximum Daily Load allocation for phosphorus inputs
  • Could affect  phosphorus permit limits on point sources and or place reduction targets for non-point sources
  • NYSDEC has option to require other actions – the EPA has final approval
  • Phosphorus sources differ in their potency, i.e., the ability to support algal growth
  • In 2013 nearly all phosphorus supporting algal growth came from non-point sources (mainly creeks), about 96% -- only 4% came from point sources
  • Elevated phosphorus concentrations are associated with sediment particles (mud) that enter the lake during runoff events – the mud has low potency
  • Algal abundance not higher in southern lake—lake circulation dynamic and complex: significant mixing between the southern shelf and main lake
  • What other management methods are appropriate?

April 2015

Building TREE – Kendall & Mike Carpenter

Kendall and Mike Carpenter are the owners of AquaZephr, the construction firm for EcoVillage at Ithaca’s newest neighborhood, TREE. AquaZephr was named a 2014 winner of the US Department of Energy Housing Innovation Award for its work on this project. TREE is the third, and most energy efficient neighborhood at EVI. They discussed how they were able to build residential units that use 80-90% less energy for heating and hot water than typical homes in the Northeast U.S. for $100/ square foot.

  • Mike has been building for 50 years – believes need to approach building in new way if we are to develop more environmentally sensitive structures
  • Actually very easy to build house that’s energy efficient – but have to do it as a system, understanding how all pieces hite together
  • What would happen if we took profit out of home building and recognized housing as fundamental right rather than commodity?
  • Profit defined as money beyond what is earned – sets up competitive rather than collaborative process -- but very difficult to take profit motive out of process
  • Kendell: we work on developing collaborative relationships – more like a guild
  • In building TREE, we kept in mind context of local costs – included all people needed to build TREE from outset
  • Then focused on requirements such as tightness, air filtration, energy efficiency
  • Typical builder splits project into three parts: cost of land, cost of materials and labor, and profit
  • We have to stop business as usual and recognize limits within which we need to live –need to keep in mind generations that will come after us
  • Important to move from contractor model to construction management model
  • Building energy efficient homes not that expensive if you know how to build it
  • We need to change process at fundamental level
  • Pretty standard for contractors to build in 30% margin
  • Fred Schoeps: I worked with Mike and Kendell as finance manager for TREE – affirmed importance of developing collaborative relationship from outset
  • Andrew Gil: Peggy Ryan Williams Center involved stakeholder process that brought key parties around table right from beginning
  • Two types of construction management: 1) construction at risk; and 2) construction management services
  • In latter model emphasis is on construction management bringing people together – more cooperative relationship
  • In “construction management at risk” model, construction management has more legalistic role – assumes all risk
  • Communication, trust, and risk all critical components in process
  • Karim Beers: overlap between technical and social aspects – shared risk taking – similar process with CSAs

The Methane Emissions Debate Four Years Later – Bob Howarth

On the 4th anniversary of his seminal paper with Tony Ingraffea and Rene Santoro, "Methane and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations," Professor Bob Howarth presented an update on the new research since then, the resulting proposed policy and regulatory changes, and the ongoing debate. This was a reprise of the presentation Howarth and Ingraffea did at Cornell recently.

  • Original paper published on 4/5/11 – first one to look at whole life cycle of methane emissions from drilling through delivery
  • Began looking at methane emissions in 2009 – wanted to answer the question of whether natural gas is “bridge fuel”
  • Coal and diesel emit substantially more CO2 than natural gas but natural gas emits far more methane, a very potent GHG
  • EPA study in 1996 concluded that methane emissions constituted 1% of natural gas produced with conventional drilling
  • Howarth & Ingraffea study in 2011 determined actual rate was 3.8% and shale gas rate was 5.4%
  • Got huge amount of attention – findings appeared in 1400 newspapers in first month
  • Bob & Tony were named “heroes of the environment” by Time magazine
  • Because of potent nature of methane as important in its impact as CO2 in first ten years
  • The next 15 to 35 years critical period in determining whether we set off runaway climate change
  • Controlling methane critical to any solution – otherwise won’t avoid tipping points
  • CO2 emissions for thousands of years but methane more critical in short run
  • IPCC in 2013 acknowledged that using 100-year time frame arbitrary
  • Bob wishes that he and Tony had done more to stress short run impacts in their original paper
  • Data for downstream emission very poor (storage, distribution, etc.) – upstream numbers much stronger
  • EPA in 2010 determined that rate was 0.16% -- carried new study in 2011 found that rate was 1.8% -- same as Bob & Tony’s study
  • Under industry pressure, however, EPA cut number in half – no scientific basis for doing so
  • Bob & Tony’s 2011 paper called for more studies to produce more reliable data – scientists have responded
  • Data collected by flying over PA well sites in June 2012 identified major plume in wells even before they were fracked
  • Report in 2014 confirmed higher numbers found in airplane studies –concluded that these emissions (primarily Texas and South Dakota) were having global impact
  • Inventor of instrument used in airplane studies warmed that it was easy to misuse—thinks that other airplane studies that found lower numbers probably didn’t use instrument properly 2012 and 2013
  • Number of rigs in US dropped after 900 by more than 50% between
  • Harvard study in 2013 looked at data for conventional gas drilling before fracking and concluded that rate was 3.6%, compare to 1.8% in EPA’s study in 1997 – explicitly stated that Howard et al study was right and EPA was wrong
  • About 30% of natural gas used for generating electricity –most used for heating – generates significantly more GHG emissions than when used for electricity
  • Using 20-year time frame, Dryden pipeline would increase carbon footprint by 28% -- if methane included, number rises to 52% (assumes pipeline at full capacity)
  • Natural gas industry largest emitter of FHF emissions – animal agriculture next largest
  • Jacobson study showed that current technology could be used in cost effective way to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030
  • Shale gas makes up 30% of natural gas production currently – huge increase over last decade
  • In sum, natural gas does not make good bridge fuel

March 2015

Smart Energy Community Program–Todd Cowen, Cindy Chadwick, and Clay Ellis

Todd Cowen is a professor in Cornell’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and associate director of energy at Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. He was joined by two representatives from NYSEG, Cindy Chadwick and Clay Ellis to discuss a new project to test the viability of the REV vision in Ithaca.

  • Clay Ellis began by sharing information about relationship between Iberdrola and NYSEG
  • IUSA is parent company of NYSEG and IS (Spain) is, in turn, parent company of IUSA – IS one of largest utilities in world
  • Utilities have been very involved in Governor Cuomo’s REV initiative
  • PSC has held hearings all around state on reforming the state’s energy system
  • Will include regulator reform and way utilities work
  • REV will result in more of a two-way relationship between utilities and their customers
  • State’s infrastructure outdated – no longer need to build for few hours of peak demand
  • New technologies make other solutions possible – part of what REV will address
  • Six core policy outcomes of REV:
    1. Customer knowledge
    2. Market animation
    3. System-wide efficiency
    4. Fuels and resource diversity
    5. System reliability and resiliency
    6. Carbon reduction
  • Cindy Chadwick explained overall purpose of demonstration project
  • Ithaca would be a kind of test bed for technologies essential to implementing REV vision
  • At heart of project is collaboration among utility, university, and community
  • Demand management, microgrids, community solar power, and smart meters all crucial components
  • NYSEG has looked at about 30 communities – looking for communities where there are about 10,000 to 15,000 people, several substations, similar efforts already underway, and strong academic partner
  • Would take one year to carry out necessary planning, file with PSC, and secure its approval
  • Very conceptual at this point and will take time to put project together
  • Todd Cowen emphasized opportunity for NY to take leadership role nationally in modernizing energy system
  • Move from centralized system of Eisenhower era to more local, distributed, and resilient systems
  • REV process will help make this transition
  • Austin, TX has similar demonstration project of about 1,000 meters – has attracted lots of economic investment
  • Technology will be easiest piece – will implement already existing technology
  • Hardest piece will be bringing about necessary behavioral change
  • Range of funding sources: state, federal (such as NSF), nonprofit – likely to attract private sector resources as well
  • Ellis pointed out that many of pieces already in place – demonstration project would provide opportunity to adopt a more holistic approach
  • Cowen stressed importance of community engagement
  • Chadwick noted that effort would be phased in over few years
  • Peter Bardaglio pointed out that streamlining interconnection process will be crucial to implementing more distributed energy system
  • Chadwick acknowledged that NYSEG needs to devote more resources to interconnections
  • Bert Bland agreed that making interconnection process easier is important – commented that he’s already seen some improvement
  • Chadwick pointed out that NYSEG in business of distributing power, not producing it, but clearly needs to redesign legacy system not suited to more distributed approach that involves hundreds of new interconnections
  • Irene Weiser asked how Dryden pipeline fit into REV vision – expressed hope that alternatives will be considered and threat of eminent domain dropped
  • Martha Robertson stressed importance of demand management to meet increasing need to deliver more natural gas unnecessary – asked how solid commitment to Ithaca is for the REV demonstration project
  • Chadwick said that NYSEG had very strong opinion about working with Ithaca community but needs to secure approval from PSC
  • Also pointed out that NYSEG has obligation to meet customer needs for additional natural gas supply
  • David Kay asked about potential geographic scope of demonstration project
  • Cowen said need to consider number of factors but probably will include three-mile radius around Commons
  • Linda Copman asked about how greenhouse gas emissions reduction will play role in REV
  • Chadwick said this was currently unclear – PSC had not asked utilities to address this within context of demonstration project but commitment of community to GHG emission reduction one of attractive features
  • Also pointed out that concept of utility as distributed serve provided very new – unclear what new approaches to generating revenue will be
  • Ed Marx welcomed opportunity for community to be test bed and noted that we’re at key inflection point – moving forward on this front very exciting
  • Joe Wilson asked NYSEG to take closer look at impact of Dryden pipeline on GHG emissions


The MPowering Madison Project - Jim Armstrong

Jim Armstrong is the founder of Factivist, a mission-driven communications firm in Trumansburg. Jim shared his experience with the MPowering Madison Campaign, a highly successful effort in Madison, WI to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the use of renewable energy and strengthening energy efficiency and conservation efforts.

  • How do you get community, both business and residential, on board with behavioral changes needed to reduce GHG emissions?
  • MPowering Madison was an effort to reduce GHG emissions by 100K tons by 2011
  • Audience for messaging had to be everyone if effort was to be successful
  • Primary  word of campaign was “can” not “will:
  • Campaign personality was casual, flexible, and inclusive
  • Classic multimedia campaign – implemented wide range of media
  • Tagline: “You can make Madison the clean, green energy capital”
  • Taking pledge to reduce GHG emissions was key to campaign
  • Played with idea of putting big green “M” in different locations without any explanation to build interest
  • Created website for people to take pledge with range of options to select
  • Took place in 2008 with strong push in first six months – then became more segmented campaign with focus on recruiting business champions
  • Program significantly subsidized by EPA Climate Showcase Communities grant, City of Madison, MG&E (utility) and other sponsors
  • Currently funded by number of business sponsors – now 70 MPower business champions with 93% successful participation rate – 325 different projects
  • Also included wide range of educational events and programs
  • 26,110 tons in annual CO2 savings between 2009 and 2013 in business community
  • Goal of 100,000 tons reached after only 18 months
  • Collecting “lessons learned” crucial part of effort – put these up on the web
  • SustainDane carried load in getting word out – up to three e-mails per week – Madison in Dane County
  • MG&E, together with SustainDane, responsible for crunching numbers
  • SustainDane put in very stringent requirements to help prevent corporate green washing
  • Carol Chock: Green M is catchy but not too cute – feels authentic
  • Ken Schlather: Very similar to GYGB campaign in its emphasis on behavioral change
  • Nick Goldsmith: Lots of various efforts in our community but no cohesive message like MPowering Madison – would be great to develop campaign like this as part of demonstration project in Ithaca
  • Carolyn Peterson: Something like this would be crucial for our community

February 2015

Waste Prevention in Tompkins County – Barb Eckstrom and Kat McCarthy

Barb Eckstrom is the Solid Waste Manager and Kat McCarthy is Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist at Recycling and Solid Waste(RSWC) of Tompkins County. They provided an update on the County's latest waste prevention initiatives

  • Mission: To manage solid waste of TC in a manner that is:
    • Environmentally sound
    • Cost effective
    • Socially responsible
  • Curbside recycling began in country with pilot in 1988
  • Full scale curbside recycling and public drop off in 1991—developed 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan
  • Following year county passed mandatory recycling ordinance
  • County pays $23-24 per household for curbside recycling (annual)
  • Recycling and Solid Waste Center (RSWC) began operations in 1995 and in 2008 Finger Lakes Reuse, Inc. opened its doors.
  • Have developed wide range of partnerships to facilitate waste diversion including Cooperative Extension Home Composting
  • Tompkins County owns RSWC and Casella has 10-year contract to operate it
  • RSWC planning on strengthening recycling law—need to capture more of commercial waste stream
  • Disposable fee for commercial sector based on square feet of building
  • RSWC Functions:
    • Single stream recycling
    • Commercial recycling
    • Dump and bulk
    • Drop off areas
    • Waste transfer
  • Countywide residential curbside recycling:
    • Single stream recycling includes mixed paper and mixed containers
  • Reuse Center provides deconstruction service
    • Open 7 days a week
    • Also has electronics center
  • ReBusiness Partners designed to help businesses, schools, and organizations with 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, rebuy
  • Partners receive various kinds of assistance
  • Tompkins County Legislature passed resolution in Dec. 2013 taking steps to reshape waste stream through extended product responsibility (ERR) for difficult to manage products such as mercury-filled thermostats
  • Organics huge piece of waste stream—focusing on food waste prevention in both residential and commercial sectors
  • Estimated that people waste about 25% of food they purchase
  • CCE Compost Education Program provides training and support for community volunteers
  • Three-year contract with local excavating/topsoil companies—Cayuga Compost
  • Marketing key to success of composting program
    • Compost products include topsoil blends, pure compost, and mulch
    • Working with CCETC on marketing
    • Recycling for food scraps includes drop spots, curbside pilot, and multifamily
  • Curbside Collections Pilot
    • Phase 1: 450 homes—launched Nov 15th 2013—14.41 tons diverted in five months
    • Phase 2: Expanded to more than 1,000 homes in May 2014
    • Multifamily collection launched with USDA Grant in 2011
  • Waste diversion strategic plan part of larger 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan.
  • Seek to grow programs in waste reduction, organics diversion (compost), reuse, extended producer responsibility
  • Strive to achieve 100% engagement
  • EPA estimates that each individual produces 4.1 pounds per day in NY
  • Tompkins County in 2014 averaged about 3.5 pounds—looking to get to 2.7 pounds by 2017 (includes both residential and commercial)
  • Community- based social marketing key to success of program
  • Provides onsite technical assistance to large number of restaurants and grocery stores through ReBusiness Partners Program
  • Cayuga Compost has capacity to take from half to two-thirds of county’s food scraps
  • Also working with Waste Water Treatment Plant, which takes organic waste to produce biogas
  • Cayuga Compost does marketing for product they produce
  • Another key piece is good recovery—lots of businesses in community donating goods and also organizations distributing them
  • Biggest challenge right now is financing—due largely to decrease in recycling revenue, which makes up 30-35% of budget


 Flood Resiliency and Storm Water Management—Sharon Anderson and Becky Marjerison

Sharon Anderson is the Environment Team Leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County and Becky Marjerison is a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering. They presented a progress report on their recent work regarding flood resiliency and storm water management

  • Support for project comes from TCCPI funding with CCETC match
  • Increase in extreme precipitation events in Northeast—74% from 1958 to 2010
  • Program in Hudson River Valley involved study of road culverts under current and future climate conditions
  • Road damage from flooding extremely costly
  • Flood resiliency and stormwater management efforts include:
    • Flood resiliency workshop on April 16th
    • Boot Camp will provide more intensive training
    • Emergency Stream Intervention
    • City of Ithaca Flooding Task Force
    • Sewersheds mapping for MS4 Communities
    • Role for residents: rain garden barrels, pollution prevention
    • Brochure for residents with local focus
  • About one million culverts in NYS—no good inventory of locations, sizes, conditions
  • Town of Ithaca one of few communities in Tompkins County that keeps good track of this
  • Two key factors:

1) Volume of runoff (infiltration and saturated landscapes)

2) Capacity of culvert

    • Slope of land and topography, land use, degree of urbanization, and soil composition are factors shaping volume of runoff
  • Culvert properties: size (diameter), shape, materials, slope stream, or ditch conditions
  • Sharon and students collected data on culverts in Fall Creek Watershed
  • Approach:
    • Calculated culvert capacity
    • Used watershed model to determine runoff
  • Assumptions:
  • Inlet (end of barrel where water enters) submerged but road not overtopped
  • Precipitation uniform over watershed and for duration of storm
  • Did not account for soil moisture before storm
  • Method:
  • Then determined relative capacity each culvert could handle by comparing runoff to capacity
  • Repeated for predicted 2050 precipitation events
    • Findings:
  • About one-quarter of culverts can handle only 1-year storms
  • Excludes areas that have storm drains and sewer—also includes only road culverts, not driveway culverts
  • Only about 25% of culverts can handle 25-year storm or bigger
  • Summary & Future Study:
  • Study does not take into account increase in development that would increase volume of runoff
  • If each culvert considered adequate at its current relative capacity, with future changes 35% of culverts become less adequate—i.e. lower return period storm will overtop road
  • New culverts should be designed for future precipitation conditions
  • Will go out into field in spring and redo some of this study and continue working on other areas
  • Goal of current work was to demonstrate proof of concept
  • Will be looking at use of compost in such areas as road ditches to decrease runoff
  • Flooding Task Force in city looking at how mitigation upstream can reduce downstream problems—culverts key factor in managing upstream runoff.

  • January 2015

    Land Use Regulations and Sustainability, Pt. II – Mina Amundsen and David Kay

    Mina Amundsen is the current Director of Capital Budget and Integrated Planning. Previously, she served as the University Planner for Cornell University from 2002 to 2013. David Kay is a Senior Extension Associate with the Community & Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) in the Department of Development Sociology and serves on the boards of several city, town, county and New York State State not-for-profit and government organizations concerned with sustainability and municipal land use planning.

    • In Pt. 1, at October meeting, we explored definitions and understandings of land use and land use regulations.
      • “Land use” involves impact of human activities on land.
      • “Land use regulations” involve the rules that shape management of land use.
    • Focus today on land use & energy use—culture plays a key role in how this relationship manifests itself.
    • European society tends to place more value on commons—American society tends to emphasize values of individualism.
      • Leads to very different patterns of land consumption and transportation patterns
      • Sanctity of private property tights in US leads to externalization of costs.
      • Americans want their own piece of suburban frontier and rights to do whatever they want with it – tend to forget costs of diffuse transportation infrastructure (highways) and energy infrastructure (natural gas lines, e.g.)
    • In contrast, for example, people in new neighborhood (TREE) decided to place more emphasis on commons, which led to a very different approach to design of neighborhood (clustered) and new approach to energy that resulted in need for much less energy infrastructure (passive house standard w/solar panels).
      • Impact of zoning can play major role in how housing patterns develop and how sustainable these patterns actually are.
      • Important to bring systems view to the planning process
      • New effort underway to explore new approach to zoning—form based—that will encourage greater density and stronger sense of identity.
      • Form-based approach to codes does not grapple with issues of equity and access.
      • In-fill projects such as Aurora Pocket Neighborhood and Belle Sherman Cottages promote densification of city and more effective use of resources.
    • Another model has developed in a more rural area of Tompkins County—Caroline has worked on developing ways to conserve energy and increase use of renewable energy.
      • Put solar panels on town hall, distributed light bulbs, encouraged residential energy retrofits, and promoted expansion of residential solar through Solarize Tompkins SE.
      • Major challenges when it comes to issue of development; no municipal water sewage infrastructure, for example.
      • Will have to come to grips with these issues as Caroline undergoes transition from rural farming community to bedroom community for Cornell and City of Ithaca.
    • How do we strike a more sustainable balance between private property rights and healthier commons? Clear that we need to use our finite natural resources more effectively.
    • Issue of scale becomes crucial as we seek to transition to a less carbon intensive economy.

    Diversity and the Natural Leaders Initiative – Reed Steberger, Assistant Coordinator for TCCPI

    • Increasing attention to issue of social justice in context of climate change and environmental activism.
      • Diversity and inclusion are critical
      • Issues of equality and inclusion come up in large variety of situations
      • For example, how does Cayuga Nature Center provide access to people who don’t have cars?
    • Clear lack of diversity among sustainability directors across the country.
    • Childcare and transportation become major issues in participation in organizations and events.
    • These are the kinds of issues that come up in Natural Leaders Initiative workshops
      • Five sessions over four full days
      • Registration for spring/summer session open now
      • Helps build capacity within organizations to address challenges of diversity and inclusion

    Roundtable: 2014 Member Accomplishments & 2015 Goals

    • Sarah Liberatore: Way to go looking for greater collaboration with other organizations in 2015
    • Meagan McDonald: Comprehensive plan completed in 2014 and looking to carry out Energy Road Map in 2015 (public meetings)
    • Jennifer Tavares: Looking to see how Chamber can become more sustainable and encourage greater energy efficiency among commercial property owners—working with GYGB and Cornell Cooperative Extension.
    • Bob Rossi: Providing more effective ways to get feedback from SEEN membership
    • Reed Steberger: Continue work with youth and community leaders on climate justice issues
    • Karim Beers: Working with Chamber in 2015 on increasing energy efficiency among commercial property owners
    • Carolyn: Continuing work with EPA; Local Government Advisory Committee; methane; best practices
    • PB: Securing Cleaner Greener Communities grant for Ithaca 2030 District from NYSERDA, signing agreement with Cornell to purchase all of power from Black Oak Wind Farm and getting Black Oak’s environmental review approved by the Town of Enfield
    • Brian Eden: Sales tax exemption for solar and ensuring sustainability part of county comprehensive plan
    • Irene Weiser: Crucial that more people become involved in REV—Feb. 12th meeting in Binghamton
    • Ingrid Zabel: Solar panels on roof of Museum of Earth and rolling out Climate Change in Your Backyard program at Cayuga Nature Center
    • Fred Schoeps: EVI, Inc. will be taking higher profile regarding stewardship of land and working with community and neighbors.
    • Mina Amundsen: Reworking capital budget process so that each new project takes into account campus climate action plan
    • Dan Apfel.: Working with Alternatives Federal Credit Union on Alternatives Fund (through Croatan Institute) 
    • Nick Goldsmith: Hoping to increase sustainability staffing in City Hall
    • Dave Astorina: Joined CCETC as member of energy team
    • Mark Witmer.: Successful Solarize Tompkins SE Campaign last year—now working with larger Solar Tompkins effort—helping to improve people’s financial situation thorugh conversion to solar
    • Don Barber: Statewide report through Comptroller’s Office on the zero carbon footprint of Caroline’s Town Office Building. 

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

    Meeting Highlights: 2015