Welcome

to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

Meeting Highlights: 2021

January 2021
February 2021
March 2021
April 2021
May 2021
June 2021
August 2021

August 2021

Earth Source Heat Project – Ole Gustafson and Terry Jordan

Ole Gustafson, a geologist in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, and Terry Jordan, J. Preston Levis Professor of Engineering in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department, provided the group with an update on the Earth Source Heat project, which recently received a $7.2 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Sarah Carson Zemanick:

  • Cornell’s goal is to achieve 100% renewable energy use by 2035
  • One way to do this is via earth source heat (ESH) – heats without use of electricity
  • More information on ESH available at https://earthsourceheat.cornell.edu/
  • Can lead to a scalable, renewable energy solution for not just Cornell but many large campuses
  • Heat accounts for about half of energy expenditures at Cornell, which makes ESH even more important
  • For more information on ESH, contact the ESH Community Advisory Team:
    • Luis Aguirre-Torres (co-manager), City of Ithaca
    • Jordan Buffalo, Seneca Nation
    • Terry Carroll, Tompkins County
    • Sarah Carson Zemanick (co-manager), Cornell
    • Sara Culotta, Tompkins County Climate Sustainable Energy Advisory Board
    • Sandy Dejohn, SUNY Binghamton
    • Sachem Sam George, Cayuga Nation
    • Ole Gustafson, Cornell
    • Rod Howe, Town of Ithaca
    • Tony Ingraffea, Cornell
    • Darby Kiley, Tompkins County
    • Dan Lamb, Town of Dryden
    • Susan Riley (co-manager), Cornell

Ole Gustafson:

  • Cornell University Borehole Observatory (CUBO) plans to do the following:
    • Confirm ESH can be safely implemented at Cornell
    • Predict site performance by measuring various assumed parameters during planning phase
    • Inform a geothermal systems approach to heating campus
    • Provide other technical information for planning and design
  • Some of the questions CUBO plans to answer:
    • Can sufficient heat be produced to meet Cornell’s Climate Action Plan at an acceptable cost?
    • Can heat production be sustained over many years to justify investment?
    • What is the level of risk of unintended consequences, can they be mitigated, and how?
      • Examples include induced felt earthquakes and water pollution
    • Can an ESH project succeed through the stages of regulatory permits and community acceptance?
  • During borehole drilling, many measurements and observations were made, including:
    • Geophysical measurements of rock properties and fracture characteristics
    • Bedrock cores
    • Fluid samples
    • Hydrogeologic tests
    • Stress tests
    • Fiber optic system – detailed temperature profile
    • Borehole seismometer
  • Included with CUBO:
  • Fiber optic system for observation
  • Temperature measurements
  • Borehole seismometer
  • Pumping system flowrate measurements
    • Where will CUBO be drilled?
    • Positioned far away from properties that may be sensitive to drilling, such as residential areas
    • Proposed drilling site located on a previously disturbed site to reduce impact
    • Drilling expected to last 6 weeks
    • Less truck traffic expected relative to typical construction projects
    • Electric drill rig will reduce noise levels
    • Total water usage expected to be less than one day of normal usage, from Cornell water system.
    • After drilling is complete, well site will consist of a small, fenced area around well head, along with small testing trailer for few months
  • Well dimensions:
    • 36” borehole diameter at top
    • Bottom of the borehole will be ~8”, due to telescope drilling method
    • Depth of 10,000 ft or ~2 miles, 0.1% of the distance to Earth’s core (1800 mi)
  • Currently doing bid development
  • Turnkey option explored, but not viable
  • Cornell will separately bid out various drilling scope elements
  • Next firms will be selected and contracts negotiated
  • NYSDEC drilling permit application to be filed
  • Drilling expected to occur in early 2022
  • Groundwater, surface water, noise, and seismic monitoring programs are ongoing

Teresa “Terry” Jordan:

  • Terry serves as the technical point person for outreach and PK-12 Education Activities.
  • Drilling a borehole is great opportunity for the public to learn about:
    • Energy system transformation
    • Geology of the subsurface
    • Engineering devices and means for creation and testing of borehole
    • Challenges, inconveniences, and risk mitigation along the way
  • Four main audiences, across which materials will likely overlap, but strategies for delivering materials will differ with different audiences:
    • K-12 and curious public in Tompkins County and globally
    • Tompkins County residents/stakeholders
    • Policy makers and energy technologists
    • Cornell internal and alumni community
  • Planned materials:
  • Further questions can be directed to sustainability@cornell.edu, and more information is available at https://climateaction.cornell.edu
  • How will Cornell meet its 2035 goals if ESH proves unsuccessful?
  • If ESH doesn’t pan out, ground source heat pumps on a commercial scale would be a good solution
  • As “plan B”: heat pumps are a great technology, and shallow geothermal technology can work well
  • Advantage of deep source heat: its coefficient of performance is much higher, meaning we have to put less energy in to get same heat out
  • How can we keep inclusivity and diversity in mind when doing community outreach?
  • We are planning to reach as many communities as we can, keeping in mind differences between communities and how they access information

 

Climate Change in the News – Peter Bardaglio

 If it’s August, then it must be time for a review of the year’s climate change developments. Extreme weather events have brought climate change into the mainstream of media coverage this year and there’s a growing sense that we’re now deep into a climate crisis.

  • In May, Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded average concentration of atmospheric CO2 at 419ppm
  • Highest monthly reading ever recorded at site (since 1958), according to NOAA–on April 30 exceeded 420 ppm for first time ever – 315 ppm in 1958
  • Currently adding about 40 billion metric tons of CO2pollution to the atmosphere per year
  • No turning back now: “no place is safe”
  • David Wallace-Wells in Guardian, 8/1/21: “Even an astonishing pace of decarbonisation will still deliver us a warmer world than we have today”
  • Rate of CO2 increase in atmosphere has been steadily accelerating – annual growth averaged about 0.8 ppm per year in 1960s – doubled to 1.6 ppm per year in 1980s and remained steady at 1.5 ppm per year in 1990s
  • Average annual increase of 2.3 ppm from 2010 to 2020
  • Global emissions jumped this year due to global economies pouring stimulus money into fossil fuels as part of Covid recovery – IEA projects second biggest annual rise in history
  • NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information: July 2021 "the world's hottest month ever recorded “– July 2016 was previous recordholder
  • Land and ocean surface temperatures last month 1.67 degrees F above normal -- "very likely" that 2021 will finish as warmest year on record
  • Asia had its warmest July on record, while Europe experienced its second-warmest July on record
  • Climate apartheid: developing countries will bear 75% of climate crisis costs yet poorest half of world's population causing just 10% of CO2 emissions
  • Year’s extreme weather events have had devastating impact on global food security in developing nations
  • Major food production regions under severe stress from heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and flood
  • Dramatic drop in agricultural output has driven up commodity prices and sparked political and social conflict
  • “Code red for humanity”: IPCC issued alarming report earlier this month warning extreme weather events only going to get worse – “indisputable” that climate change caused by humans
  • Landmark study called on world’s countries need to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 to put brakes on global warming
  • UN Secretary-General declared “code red for humanity” in response to report – COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow this November crucial
  • Most sobering climate change news of year: Bioscience article last month found some 16 out of 31 tracked planetary vital signs, including GHG concentrations, ocean heat, and ice mass, set new records
  • Co-author William Ripple: “Growing evidence we are getting close to or have already gone beyond tipping points associated with important parts of the Earth system”
  • Example: more than 4 billion ruminant livestock now – total mass is more than all humans & wild animals combined – responsible for much of methane emissions
  • Close runner up: new paper just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests social cost of carbon vastly underestimated
  • Social cost of carbon: what each ton of CO₂ emitted today costs society & thus should cost those polluting
  • Previous estimates have not taken climate tipping points into account
  • New study examined tipping points such as Greenland & West Antarctic ice sheets and Amazon rainforests
  • Cost of these tipping points has been underestimated by at least 25% and probably more
  • Most important point: impact of tipping points highly uncertain, with very real possibility of much larger impacts – underscores urgency of decarbonization
  • Recent extreme weather events called attention to accelerating climate crisis
  • Rain fell for first time ever on summit of Greenland’s ice cap – rained throughout day on August 14
  • Temperatures usually well below freezing at two-mile high peak, 500 miles above Arctic circle – so unexpected research station there had no gauge to measure rainfall
  • Ice core samples indicate above freezing temperatures only occurred 6 times before this century in last 2,000 years
  • Now have occurred 3 times at summit in less than 10 years: 2012, 2019, and this year
  • Another troubling sign of changes in Arctic – warming faster than any other region on planet
  • Unprecedented heat wave baked S. Pacific Northwest and British Columbia in June
  • Heat dome once in a 1,000-year event – not even represented in computer models
  • Canadian heat record broken when local monitoring station hit 121 degrees F
  • Temperatures in Pacific Northwest climbed more than 30 degrees F above average – Portland, OR hit 116 degrees F – inflicted widespread damage on wheat & cherry crops
  • NY Times estimated heat wave responsible for 600 deaths in Washington and Oregon – Canadian officials reported 400 heat-related deaths in British Columbia
  • Scientists said record-breaking heat would have been "virtually impossible" without climate change
  • Record heat and drought have led to over 100 large fires in West this summer so far, scorching 2.5 million acres
  • Thousands under poor air quality alerts, forcing people to stay indoors
  • Two of largest: Bootleg Fire in Oregon and Dixie Fire in California
  • Dixie Fire has been burning for 44 days – largest fire in state’s history – has burned almost 750,000 acres so far & only 45% contained
  • Bootleg Fire started in early July, burning more than 400,000 acres in southern Oregon – took until mid-August to fully contain
  • At one point largest wildfire in U.S. – so intense that it created its own weather, setting off its own thunderstorms, lightning, and high winds
  • Record breaking rains in July led to massive floods in Europe and China – scale of events caught climate scientists off guard
  • Flooding in Germany and Belgium very rare but, according to scientists, up to 9 times likelier due to global warming – in Cologne 6 inches of rain in 24 hours smashed previous records – more than 220 deaths, most in western Germany
  • Floods in central China killed over 300, including 14 trapped in subway – nearly 10,000 people trapped on passenger trains and 200,000 evacuations occurred\
  • Climate scientists have warned for years that global warming would lead to more extreme weather – said it would be deadly and become more frequent
  • But many expressing surprise that heat and rain records being broken by such large margins
  • Michael Mann, Penn State: "The models are underestimating the magnitude of the impact of climate change on extreme weather events."
  • International Energy Agency in 2021 annual report: imperative to reach net zero emissions by 2050 to avoid climate catastrophe
  • “The gap between rhetoric and action needs to close” – will require “a total transformation of the energy systems”
  • Path to net zero narrow but achievable – annual clean energy investment worldwide needs to triple by 2030 to around $4 trillion
  • Doing so would create millions of new jobs and significantly lift global economic growth
  • How do Americans view climate change in 2021?
  • Seven in ten Americans think climate change is happening and half of all Americans are extremely or very sure global warming is
  • Fifty-seven percent of all Americans think global warming is mostly caused by humans
  • Even now, though, only one in five Americans understand that climate scientists are nearly unanimous in concluding that human-cause global warming is occurring
  • Forty-two percent of Americans say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming – up eleven percentage points since March 2015
  • How about some good news?
  • Jerome Powell, chair of Federal Reserve, in June: Fed exploring implications of climate change for its bank supervision & financial stability responsibilities
  • Fed needs to better understand economic consequences of climate change and risk to financial system
  • In July, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin announced she would lead regulatory review to assess risks climate change poses for U.S. financial stability
  • Noted that climate change introduces “new and increasing types of risks”
  • “The current financial reporting system is not producing reliable disclosures” – needs to provide “the useful information that investors need to make informed decisions”
  • Big oil’s very bad day in May: on 26th Netherlands court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to dramatically cut its emissions over the next decade
  • Next 61% of Chevron shareholders voted to demand company to cut emissions generated by customers burning its products – Scope 3 emissions
  • Then ExxonMobil shareholders elected 2 dissident candidates to board who pledged to push for climate action
  • Finally, media gets climate change right
  • New study: 90% of print media coverage now accurately represents scientific consensus that human activity driving global warming
  • Examined thousands of articles from 2005 to 2019 in 17 major newspapers in US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada
  • Sharp change from 2004 study: researchers looking at articles from 1988 to 2002 found only 35% accurately reflected scientific consensus on climate change
  • Half of articles in older study treated dissenting opinions as equally valid – important shift in recent coverage from “both sides” approach
  • Of course, newsprint media only part of where people get their information about climate change – TV & social media still has long ways to go

July 2021

A Nationwide Carbon Capture Pipeline? – Sandra Steingraber

The concept of a carbon capture pipeline – possibly bigger than the entire oil pipeline system – is getting significant traction in the fossil fuel industry, AFL-CIO, and U.S. Department of Energy. Sandra Steingraber, Senior Scientist at the Science and Environmental Health Network as well as co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Ithaca College from 2003 to 2021, provided an overview of the emerging proposal and the risks it poses.

  • As senior scientist at Science & Environmental Health Network, Sandra’s mission is to bring good science to the frontline communities dealing with natural oil and gas
  • Part of her duties includes assessing the new risks of oil and gas companies via carbon capture and storage
  • Current information available regarding the proposed nationwide carbon capture pipeline is scarce due to the current rapid advancement in technology
  • A new briefing from Center for International Environmental Learning (CIEL) is available here: https://www.ciel.org/reports/carbon-capture-is-not-a-climate-solution/
  • Carbon capture utilization/storage (CCS) is a process that collects CO2 from high emission sites and transports it to other sites for alternate usage or permanent underground storage
  • Currently, this technology is prohibitively expensive and ineffective
  • Methane not captured via carbon capture, which means CCS leads to more CH­­­­­­­­­­­­4 ­leaks, increasing GHG emissions
  • 80% of the carbon captured is being used for advanced oil recovery, thereby allowing oil companies to recover additional oil from depleted wells
  • Infrastructure for CCS will take time to build due to its massive scale, quality of materials, cost, and energy requirements
  • Environmental justice implications: building pipelines near residential communities has caused major harm to people living in the area, as seen in Missouri’s 2020 CO2 pipeline rupture
  • Storage of CO2 underground can be difficult since it can harden or dissolve out of the rock
  • CO­2 stored in rocks with high moisture content can create carbonic acid, which mobilizes heavy metals that can leak into the groundwater
  • Overall incapable of achieving climate stability, according to the Science & Environmental Health Network and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Fossil fuels are still being burned every year and direct air capture of CO2 cannot work at the scale necessary to stop climate change
  • 28 CCS sites globally –19% of the CO2 captured is sequestered in geological strata, but the rest is used for advanced oil recovery

 

Q&A:

  • Amy Panek asked if there were any major environmental groups that were also expressing support for CCS
  • Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund were semi-friendly towards CCS, but most other major groups have been silent
  • Regi Teasley asked if restoration agriculture was a good alternative for CO­2 sequestration
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility has expressed strong support for regenerative agriculture, and they have come out against CCS
  • Sandra agrees with PSR, but currently forest fires in the west are going up in flames – the practice can work in theory, but trees also release CO2 when burning
  • Phytoplankton also account for far more CO2 sequestered than trees do – while regenerative agriculture is a valid method, it can’t work at the larger scale necessary
  • Another good recent account of the proposed carbon capture network: https://www.desmog.com/2021/07/18/doe-moniz-blueprint-carbon-capture-pipelines/
  • Al George said that our civilization uses a lot of energy, but CCS only makes sense if you own large sources of carbon such as oil wells
  • Sandra pointed out that the fossil fuel industry is trying to create a different narrative regarding CCS – in essence, it’s a lifeline for the industry since it keeps depleted oil wells running longer
  • Al noted that people think CCS will create jobs, even though the jobs created will be harmful for the environment in the long run
  • Dan Antonioli asked Sandra to talk more about the counter-narrative we need to create, especially considering recent webinars from DOE that were pro-natural gas and pro-fossil fuels
  • Sandra explained that CCS has been planned by the government for a long time – the Environmental Health and Science Network is convening task groups to counter the CCS support
  • Just like fracking, this false solution can be dismantled
  • Brian Eden agreed with Sandra that the fossil fuel companies’ desperation revealed by their embrace of CCS – blue hydrogen another example of a false solution
  • Brian observed that fossil fuel distributors in the area unwilling to develop infrastructure retirement plans – they argue that they still have 30 years before they need to start these efforts

 

1000 Conversations About Our Future – Anne Rhodes

Longtime activist Anne Rhodes, a member of the Ithaca Green New Deal advisory group, briefed us on the 1000 Conversations About Our Future initiative, its role in the Ithaca Green New Deal effort, and how TCCPI and others can participate.

  • Anne: We’re fighting to transform the culture and to ensure we have a livable planet – Luis Aguirre-Torres, the City of Ithaca sustainability director, has launched a new initiative, 1000 Conversations About Our Future, to provide a vehicle for everyone to be engaged in this fight
  • We all need to have common understanding of threat we’re facing and opportunity we have for transformation, to build a new world in which we can thrive
  • We have to do more than change our light bulbs, we have to mobilize and work together
  • Luis’s vision is to launch 1000 conversations to engage the whole community, getting people to talk with people they know and people they don’t know about the climate crisis and what kind of community we want to create and how we are going to do that without leaving anyone behind
  • People should record their conversations and upload it to the website at www.1000conversations.org – that way we can see what everybody is saying about the future
  • We’ll be curating the conversations and every month there will be something going on where we pull people together to have these conversations all across the community over the next year
  • If we can do this here in Ithaca and Tompkins County, everyone is going to want to be part of it
  • Content of conversations will be summarized and shared with decisionmakers in the county, towns, and villages as well as at the state level

June 2021

The Climate Action CouncilBob Howarth

Bob Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell, is a member of the Climate Action Council, which has been charged with developing a scoping plan to achieve New York State’s ambitious clean energy and climate agenda. The 22-member committee was created by the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019 and it has been meeting regularly over the past 16 months of its existence. The Council is expected to release its plan this fall, and Bob provided us with an update on its progress and what we can expect to see when the plan is made public.

  • CLCPA became law in January 2020 – required the following:
    • New GHG accounting for methane
    • 40% reduction in GHG by 2030 in all sectors
    • 70% electricity from renewables by 2030
    • 100% emissions-free electricity by 2040
    • 85% reduction in GHG emissions and 100% carbon neutrality by 2050
    • Explicit consideration of environmental justice, with minimum 40% allocation of benefits.
    • 22-person Climate Action Council (CAC) to develop policies for implementing the law and reaching above goals, with statutory authority
  • Under the new approach on GHG accounting, the state will take responsibility for all methane emissions associated with fossil gas usage, independent of location of emission – “consumption-based” approach to GHG accounting
    • CLCPA will use 20-year global warming potential (GWP) to account for smaller methane “lifespan” in the atmosphere
    • Will use best peer-reviewed science for estimating methane emissions, which have been underestimated in past
    • Grew out of conversations at COP21 in Paris in 2015 and at Cornell in Senior Leaders Climate Action Group (SLCAG) in 2016 – SLCAG recommended this approach in 2016, and was adopted by Tompkins County in 2016
    • Cornell briefly used this approach in GHG reporting in 2017, but not since 2018
    • Became law in final CLCPA in 2019
    • Question: Does this data account for emissions within NYS?
    • Answer: Yes, we are only state in country to accept responsibility for emissions not from fuel usage but also from leakage
    • Question: What typically happens when environmental regulations increases costs of energy and is there any thought given to “embodied energy and carbon”?
    • Answer: Not so much in those words specifically, but the data does address the leakages from environmental issues from interacting with other states. Bob will have a better idea about this on Monday, June 28th, because the Environmental Justice Panel will give a briefing then
  • Power Generation Advisory panel uses a principled approach to electrification, based on values of reliability, equity, affordability, zero-emissions,timeliness
  • The panel’s recommendations inspire Bob’s confidence that electric production can be 100% carbon-free.
  • Emissions for NYS come from 2 main grids that are not very well connected, upstate and downstate:
    • Energy from nuclear plants has decreased since the closing of Indian Point Nuclear Plant.
    • Downstate will need to grow their supply of renewable energy as well as replace the fossil fuels being used currently.
    • The plan primarily focuses on downstate emissions, using wind as the major source of energy. Also importing hydro energy from Quebec.
    • We expect hydro energy contribution to increase due to efficiency upgrades as well as increase imports from Quebec.
  • Regarding Bitcoin mining Greenidge Facility on Seneca Lake:
    • Not subject to PSC oversight, but CLCPA still applies. NYSDEC still working on developing regulations with guidance from the CAC.
    • Possible approaches: prohibit expansion of fossil fuel use, tighten up emission regs on NOx, etc.
  • Housing sector is single largest source of the emissions in NYS and has been increasing its emissions over past 30 years
  • Planned systematic changes include:
    • Ban of fossil fuels in construction of new single-family homes by 2025 and by 2030 for construction of new multi-family & commercial buildings
    • Prohibit replacement of fossil-fuel furnaces & water heaters by 2030 for single-family homes and by 2035 for mult-family homes and commercial buildings
    • Prohibit replacement of gas stoves & clothes dryers in all residential buildings by 2035.
    • Benchmark all buildings for GHG emissions, with annual reporting required for large commercial buildings (by 2023), and public disclosure for all residential buildings & units that are to be sold or leased (by 2025).
    • Begin planned phaseout of natural gas delivery systems.
    • Question: Does CAC have the authority to enforce these guidelines?
    • Answer: Likely that ultimate authority for enforcing CAC guidelines lies with NYSDEC, but no further legislative action required on our part
  • There are multiple strategies that can be used to mitigate challenges above plan will encounter:
    • Stop utilities advertising fossil gas as “clean,” “natural,” “climate friendly,” or in similar terms.
    • Phase-out incentives and rebates for fossil gas equipment offered by utilities
    • Undertake analysis and provide resources for building-readiness for electrification
    • Undertake analysis and planning for decarbonization of ConEd district steam system
    • Level playing field for adoption of clean heating solutions by eliminating the “100-foot-rule” regarding free natural gas installation systems
    • Clean heating choices should be considered in public interest – provision of clean heating service to homes necessary for preservation of health and general welfare
    • Develop easement rules to allow access for thermal/ground source loops to use utility and public (municipal) rights of way on reasonable terms
  • The Transportation Advisory Panel’s recommendations were heavily constrained by Federal preemption & California regulations (2035 ban)
  • Currently sees major role for biojet fuel, biodiesel, and hydrogen.
  • Strong pushback from CAC members, particularly on biofuels, but also on hydrogen (fuel cell usage vs. combusted hydrogen)
  • Recommend smart growth, more mass transit, etc.
  • Transportation panel supported funding Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI-P), building on existing regional agreement
    • CAC member Peter Iwanowicz views TCI-P is “trickle down environmental justice” and argues instead for Climate & Community Investment Act (CCIA) – “developed by front-line folk for front-line folk”
  • Land Use and Local Government Advisory Panel Members
    • Put forward many recommendations, including smart growth, mass transit, development planning, open space recreation, blue carbon storage in coastal seagrass beds, renewable site planning, etc.
    • More important, they recommended help for local governments with GHG accounting under CLCPA, consistent with DEC state-wide accounting and improved building codes
  • Energy Intensive Industries Panel: Continue with measures we have in place and maybe offer subsidies to these industries to improve efficiency
  • Wastes Panel: Aggressive recommendations regarding manure and landfills, perhaps using anaerobic degradation.
  • Environmental Justice: Critical part of process, will hear from them on Monday, June 28th
  • Agriculture and Forestry: Ideas included methane digestion from manure, carbon sequestration from soil and water, measuring needed carbon offset for 2050
  • Carbon capture goals need to align with other environmental constraints – for example, to increase carbon sequestration, we can encourage “no-till” agriculture, but this would aggravate nutrient pollution or algal blooms
  • Much work still needs to be done before draft implementation plan released 6 months from now, but most of the above will probably be approved
  • Most likely points of debate:
    • Estimation of upstream emissions
    • Carbon fee/tax?
    • Role of hydrogen, biofuels, “renewable natural gas”
    • Carbon offsets?

 

Discussion

  • Keeping in mind the key points from the presentation, we will break into small groups and discuss the following:
    • What did you find most striking/surprising?
    • What are the implications for climate and energy action in our community?
    • What issues would you like to see the Climate Action Council focus on in the remaining months?

 

Group #1 – Linda Willis, Nick Goldsmith, Terry Carroll

  • What did you find most striking/surprising?
    • Everything going on around hydrogen – how quickly that’s developing
    • Amazed at how ambitious some of the goals are – that many of these things could become law
    • Looking mostly at building related issues – all the recommendations are in line with what we would want to see – very similar to the IECS
    • Not sure if we could do it sooner than the recommendations
  • What are the implications for climate and energy action in our community?
    • How does the work of the Climate Action Council and its eventual recommendations impact the existing building challenge for town/city of Ithaca?
    • Do we need to take this on – can we rely on State efforts? Can we move our efforts elsewhere?
    • If it was a guarantee…maybe, but hard to know
    • Maybe not drop it – should be kept on table because there will still be hurdles to move forward once it’s passed
    • Real question of how this all ends up being implemented and enforced – for building piece, is it DoS? Do we get new building codes?
    • Where does the equity piece come in? Implementation has to be done keeping climate justice in mind
    • Hope for incentives to help out with transition? What is the financing piece of all of this?
    • Love for gas stove – what happens then?
    • What is the role of Counties?
  • What issues would you like to see the Climate Action Council focus on in the remaining months?
    • How do we implement all of this at a statewide level?
    • Financing for everything
      • How much money does the state actually have? What is the funding coming from?
      • Private foundation funding can’t make up the gap – need other sources
      • Role of private investors – but how do you deal with increased risk of working with low-income communities
      • There are willing investors, but how do you make sure they’re being connected to the people that need the funding? Previous experience with Alternatives green funding
      • Revolving loan funds
      • Program related investments – Park Foundation: 1.5% loans; forgivable loans, etc.
    • Workforce development – how does it tie into implementation?

 

Group #2 – Dan Lamb, Janice Whitney, Irene Weiser, David Kay

  1. What did you find most striking/surprising? Striking, not surprising per se: The scope of change being reviewed, proposed and that will soon be decided upon – and ultimately implemented - in such a short time frame.  The complexity of optimizing carbon emission reductions at this scale in an interdependent system in the context of other important goals (including the still to be reviewed justice goals) – and the possibilities of unintended consequences when optimizing around carbon goals (cf. Bob’s mention of nitrogen runoff in relation to notill ag).  His characterization of the land use working group’s report as having too many recommendations (unprioritized) to offer guidance, seemingly (?) rendering the work of that group less effective.
  2. What are the implications for climate and energy action in our community? Raises the bar for Tompkins County, as a community   favorably disposed towards moving forward aggressively, to show what can actually be accomplished in short order in relation to actually getting the community on board.  Intensifying focus on building code-related issues.
  3. What issues would you like to see the Climate Action Council focus on in the remaining months? Clarification of the next steps required to move specific agenda items forward past CAC supermajority decisions. The implications of the Climate Justice Working Group report.  Plausible strategies for getting a price put on carbon (sure it’s a heavy political lift, but so are many of the other recommendations on the table.)  The need to educate/bring along the public on what is in effect largely a highly technical set of sweeping proposals.

Group #3 – Bob Howarth, Mike Straight, Brian Eden, Peter Bardaglio

  • When do you think state agencies will begin to implement the CAC recommendations? Ban on fossil fuels will mean agencies will have to get a head start
  • Final scoping plan required by Climate Act to be issued in 2023
  • Can’t replace gas furnaces after 2030 – need way to provide subsidies to help people make transition
  • Big question lurking over the whole issue of how NYS moves forward on climate action front: What do we do about existing buildings?
  • SEQR review needs to be updated to reflect new concerns about energy efficiency, transition to clean energy, and carbon footprint reduction
  • Any talk about continued incentives for EVs? Internal combustion engines (ICEs) banned after 2035 – tax on ICEs could possibly provide funding for extension of subsidies that get dropped
  • Big surprises for Bob: Power Generation panel recommendation to reduce power production by 70% relative to 1990 baseline – also radical nature of Housing and Energy Efficiency panel recommendations
  • Brian impressed/surprised by high quality of people on various panels
  • Mike impressed by speed of work overall – concerned, though about lack of attention to issue of embodied energy

 

Reporting Out

  • A lot of what was described was prohibitions, not much emphasis on enabling actions/steps
  • Infrastructure will depreciate, so how can we accelerate depreciation of fossil fuel infrastructure?
  • People don’t always know what they have to deal with to get to net-zero emissions, so how are resources provided so everyone can move forward together?
  • Blown away that so many people are listening to scientists; in particular, they are paying attention to Bob’s work
  • Exciting to see mandates but there are concerns about how they would be implemented for single-family and multi-family households – they will need prior notice ASAP!
  • Impressed by ambition of recommendations, but what are implications for policy on existing buildings?
  • Should we wait for the state or move on our own directive? Perhaps not a good idea to wait for the state
  • Not much confidence in the state legislature to follow through with implementation of plan
  • Moving ahead and figuring out what we can turn into policy will have implications far beyond just Tompkins County

 

Finger Lakes Energy Compact – Luis Aguirre Torres, City Sustainability Director

  • Luis announced Finger Lakes Energy Compact involving Cornell and City of Ithaca
  • Represents City of Ithaca’s and Cornell University’s increased ambition and commitment to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals and objectives of the Paris Agreement.
  • Talked with six different agencies within UN – while US government is aiming to decrease emissions by 50% by 2050, City of Ithaca will have more aggressive implementation plan
  • We plan to work together and share best practices with other municipalities in the region
  • Environmental justice will be important emphasis in discussions

May 2021

Going Net-Zero with Multi-Residential Affordable Housing – David Shepler and Guy Kempe

This month’s meeting focused on the topic of net-zero, affordable, multi-residential buildings. David Shepler of Net-Zero Development, LLC and Guy Kempe of RUPCO, a nonprofit provider of and advocate for quality, affordable housing and community development programs in the Hudson River Valley, presented on two outstanding examples of what is possible, the Energy Square in Kingston and the Zero Place in New Paltz.

David Shepler

  • Peter introduced David Shepler, the developer for Zero Place, a multi-family, mixed-use, net-zero energy building
  • David launched the Zero Place project after pursuing a net-zero residence for himself in 2009
    • Worked with the architect of his own house to take the first steps in scaling up a net-zero house into a net-zero building
  • David expressed his belief that, due to the ever-worsening effects of climate change, it’s necessary to move all buildings towards net-zero operating emissions, which can be achieved by:
    • Electrification of all systems (replacing oil/gas/propane)
    • Making buildings more efficient
      • Insulation in walls, roof, floor, and windows is key
      • HVAC and domestic hot water systems must be improved and made efficient
    • Use of solar power
    • Decarbonization of electricity production
      • Grid will become increasingly clean as more solar and wind power comes on line
  • Zero Place uses readily available, off-the-shelf technology to achieve net-zero energy usage
  • Has 4 stories, with 46 residential units, 25 x 2-bed units and 21 x 1-bed units, 5 affordable housing units, and 8,400 SF of retail/commercial usage space on the ground floor -- ~64,000 SF overall
  • 100% privately financed, but takes advantage of NY and federal incentives
  • Zero Place won NYSERDA’s Building of Excellence Award in 2019 – NYSERDA especially interested in how this building combines HVAC and domestic hot water into a single building-wide geothermal system
  • Approximate energy performance compared to EnergyStar goals: 3x the efficiency in heating, 2x the efficiency in cooling, 5x in water heating, 1.12x in lights and appliances – overall ~2x as efficient as EnergyStar requires
  • Features:
    • Insulated-concrete form (ICF) walls
    • Triple-paned, argon-filled windows
    • Slab of the building is highly insulated with foam
    • Roof deck uses open-cell spray foam
    • Air-tight construction strategy
    • Thermal bridging reduction
    • 20 EV Charging stations w/electric bike ports – future ready.
    • 50 bicycle racks
    • Adjacent to Empire State Trail
    • Bus stop onsite and near village center
    • Bike lanes along street frontage demonstrates commitment to “complete streets” principles
    • Seeking LEED Platinum and LEED Pilot credit for passive survivability – even in crisis, the public can safely and comfortably take refuge in the building
  • Insulation Performance:
    • Building performs 37% better than code
    • 65% better than NYS Energy Conservation Code
    • Saves 169,488 kWh/yr of energy
  • Geothermal Solution:
    • Ground-source heat pump provides 100% of the building’s heating, cooling, and hot water
    • Buffalo Geothermal’s system uses 15 x 500-ft wells that fit within building’s footprint
    • Total of 60 geothermal heat pumps: 50 single-stage pumps for apartments and hallways, 2 dual-stage pumps for foyer and community bathroom, 6 variable speed pumps for commercial spaces, and 2 high temperature pumps for DHW.
  • NYSERDA Support:
    • $109k in efficiency rebates
    • Provided a secondary design review
    • Will do quality assurance inspections
  • Solar:
    • 248 kW system, with 688 panels @360W each
    • Total annual generation: 296,141 kWh/yr, 1,398 kWh/yr excess
    • 84 metric tons carbon offset/yr
    • Panels installed on roof, awnings on south wall
    • Currently evaluating possibility of a building-scale battery backup power system to lessen grid usage
  • Operations:
    • Zero Place bundles power and water with rent
    • Building should largely run on its own, but tenants must be incentivized to not waste energy
    • Monitoring infrastructure installed – sub-metering of the HVAC and plug load of units, and sub-metering of hot and cold water can inform tenants of their usage
    • Custom mobile software developed to inform tenants of real-time and historic usage.
    • Social incentives include gamification, anonymous competition regarding average energy and water consumption
    • Lease agreement limits – payments for exceeding energy usage threshold
    • Tenant selection – select tenants committed to building’s ethics.
  • Cost Analysis:
    • Estimate a 20% - 25% premium over NY ECC-code compliant building, which will pay for itself in 8-10 years.
    • Electrification of homes addresses the issue of fossil fuels
  • Ground-source heat pumps are much more efficient compared to air-source heat pumps because the temperature of the ground is relatively constant -- much more difficult to implement in a retrofit, however

Guy Kempe

  • Peter introduced Guy Kempe as the director of RUPCO, a 40-year-old nonprofit agency headquartered in Kingston, NY and operating mainly in the Hudson Valley.
  • RUPCO’s Energy Square project in Kingston seeks to promote energy affordability for residents and minimize the building’s carbon footprint
    • RUPCO was approached by the Center for Creative Education (CCE), a program part of the Percussion Orchestra of Kingston, dedicated to keeping inner-city youth engaged in school and education through cultural arts – CCE currently uses much of the commercial space of Energy Square
    • Other tenants include Season Delicious, a black-owned café and catering business, and the Midtown Arts District, a non-profit creating programs to foster arts education for inner-city youth
  • Energy Square has 57 apartments with a large residential common area above a ground floor commercial space
  • Apartments designed to facilitate interaction of the community – located across street from a performing arts center
  • Guy described a hierarchy of priorities for Energy Square as a high-performance building, in order from highest to lowest priority:
    • Optimization of thermal enclosure to reduce building heating and cooling energy usage
    • High efficiency mechanical systems
    • On-site renewable energy source, including solar and geothermal
  • Energy Square uses similar methods to Zero Place in terms of thermal insulation
  • Geothermal system uses wells for high efficiency heating and cooling and uses high efficiency natural gas boiler system with central distribution system for domestic hot water
  • Dedicated fresh air and exhaust ventilation for each unit
  • Energy Square uses energy recovery ventilation:
    • Exchanges energy from indoor, conditioned air to incoming outdoor air
    • Recovers 60-80% of energy
    • Provides superior ventilation.
  • Architecture of the building designed to blend in with style of other buildings in area while being more energy efficient than other buildings
  • Total development cost $21.8 million – received nearly $18 million in state and federal funding
  • Following Guy’s presentation, Peter asked how we can make sure the Northside project doesn’t end up using natural gas as well as what resources can be brought to bear
  • Brian Eden noted that as building envelops get tightened air quality and health of occupants becomes serious issue in buildings that use natural gas
  • Guy offered advice regarding renovation of Northside: make use of the existing infrastructure, avoid sending building material to the landfill, and listen/communicate with residents

Breakout Groups

  • Peter asked small groups to address following questions during breakout:
  • What did you learn?
  • How could we apply these ideas locally?
  • What opportunities do you see?
  • What resources can be brought to bear?

Discussion Group #1

What did we learn?

  • Need a lot of money upfront for this type of project
  • 20% premium on development cost: is that passed on to renters?
  • How do energy savings factor in? It seems like renters see the savings.
  • Might work in affluent communities like New Paltz and Ithaca, but a harder sell elsewhere
  • Not allowing cars would be a tough sell
  • We wondered how effective the gamification would be. Some tenants might be interested in that, others not.

What opportunities?

  • CLCPA wlll require net zero buildings in 2025 but this is taking place before the mandate. Other communities can learn from this project; use it as a case study to learn what works well and what doesn’t
  • People often resist change imposed upon them, and this may occur when the CLCPA requirements take effect. We can point to the New Paltz project and say “it’s already being done!”

What resources can be brought to bear?

  • PACE funding from NYSERDA? Not sure…we had questions about it

 

Discussion Group #2

  • Guy Kempe noted that his building was farther along than David Shepler’s project – Energy Square celebrating one-year anniversary
  • Guy explained the Rural Preservation Campaign for NY which was an upstate counterpart for the more urban Neighborhood Preservation programs – RUPCO’s name derived from Rural Ulster Preservation Company
  • Both buildings great examples for building designs going forward
  • Some of differences between the buildings included use of wood in construction and different funding sources.
  • Also Guy’s building had deliberate connection to the arts (hosting the Center for Creative Education) and Ulster Performing Arts Center nearby
  • Questions came up about ventilation concerns -- “Seal tight and ventilate right.”

 

Discussion Group #3

  • Important to make strong connections with Ithaca Housing Authority, especially with regard to the Northside decisions
  • Preserving the Northside community should be top priority
  • Affordability concerns key issue in building construction and retrofits locally
  • Need to take advantage of state and federal policies and resources to help us get to where we need to be – can’t do it alone as a City or County
  • But federal money always comes with strings attached that are restrictive – example: not allowed to include public space, community space (Women’s Community Building)
  • Can we avoid demolition at Northside? Adaptive re-use is better than landfill – economically, environmentally, and less disruptive of community
  • If we don’t take community into consideration, then we’re just doing same old urban “removal”
  • Many reasons to avoid demolition and new construction even though we could get more efficient systems
  • We don’t have workforce locally to do material salvage and there isn’t sufficient market for salvaged materials (72 units is a lot of waste) – also high cost of new building materials
  • Where would people go if their community was demolished?
  • Need to connect with Retrofit NY to see options for avoiding demolition and retrofit in place, with only minimal, temporary displacement of residents
  • Critical to not install gas at Northside – danger of seriously poor air quality if we tighten building envelope and then heat, cool, and cook with gas

April 2021

Introducing the New City of Ithaca Sustainability Director: Luis Aguirre-Torres

Following a national search, Luis was appointed to fill the new position of Sustainability Director for the City of Ithaca. He joined the Department of Planning in late March and has quickly taken up leadership of the City’s Ithaca Green New Deal. Luis has more than 15 years of domestic and international experience working with government, non-profit, and business sectors in green technology, policy development and implementation, emissions reduction, and green entrepreneurship. He received two commendations from President Barack Obama for his work in Latin American and sustainable innovation, and he served as White House Fellow in 2016 focusing on climate change.

  • Luis discussed his work on integrating energy innovation and equity in Latin America, particularly Mexico, and then he presented his vision of the Ithaca Green New Deal 2.0
  • Luis launched and oversaw Cleantech Labs, a 10-year long public-private partnership project focused on development of clean technology
  • Provided shared infrastructure and a community center, coworking capacity building as well as technical assistance programs, financing, permanent exhibition space, and employment center
  • Currently houses 45 companies, 3 of which are international
  • Human Development Index on Mexico’s side of the border is dramatically lower than American side of the border – clear need to improve quality of life in Mexico
  • Some numbers indicating the low quality of life in the city where Cleantech Labs located:
    • 3% of those entering elementary school make it to college
    • 0% of those who complete college come back to live in the same municipality
    • 50% inherit a family trade
    • 4% have held a job for more than 3 years
    • 35% of men migrate to the United States
    • 90% do not pay taxes
    • 42% have a criminal record
    • 27% have lost somebody to gang violence
    • 84% do not have access to social security
    • Lowest number of convenience stores in the entire country
    • Only one international company, Goodyear
    • 6,200 cases of domestic violence reported every year
    • Highest incidence of early pregnancy
    • Only 1% can retire at 65
    • Highest incidence of people over 75 working on hard labor
  • Reasons accounting for these conditions:
    • Access to education
    • Access to employment opportunities
    • Unreliable infrastructure, including electricity, water, transportation
    • High criminal activity
    • Lack of inclusion and isolation
    • Sense of identity and belonging
    • Culture and family history
  • Disproportionate CO2 emissions per capita in poorer parts of Mexico underscore extent to which climate injustice, education, and economic development are linked
  • Clean technology expected to be the main source of quality employment between 2010 and 2030
  • Average wages in clean technology experienced increase of 31% between 2008 and 2011
  • According to Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, clean technology workers make 16% more than other manufacturing sectors
  • Worked with large companies and implemented humanitarian and sustainability-centered technology such as permeable concrete for rainwater harvesting, solar energy for hospitals, electric bicycles for carbon emission reduction, convenience stores for economic activity, and more
  • Results:
    • 7,000 participants
    • 41% women
    • 200 new companies
    • 1,200 new green jobs
    • 12 new school programs
    • 150 new patents
    • US$15 million invested
    • 120 companies with representation in region
  • Luis then turned to current issues in Ithaca and work in front of him as new Sustainability Director overseeing Ithaca Green New Deal.
  • Ithaca GND adopted unanimously by Common Council in June 2019 to address climate change, economic inequality, and racial injustice
  • Transformative effort capable of altering the economy, enabling a new social contract and redefining the relationship between government and society, as well as between the planet and the economy
  • People-first approach focused on long run outcomes that elevate social capital, creating a new future, one where equity, justice, and sustainable prosperity are at core of our transition and transformation strategy
  • Requires the mobilization of public sector capabilities and participation of all sectors of society for the transition to new economic model
  • Progress on climate change reversal postponed a year by global pandemic
  • Biden administration has dedicated billions of dollars to new initiatives, including climate change
  • Actions taken by Biden comparable to those taken by European Union
  • Social cost of carbon an estimate of economic damage from emitting 1 extra ton of greenhouse gases – varies from country to country
  • Puts effects of climate change into economic terms to help policymakers and other decisionmakers understand the economic impacts of decisions that would increase or decrease emissions
  • In 2021, US raised social cost of carbon to about $51/tCO2
  • 164,000 clean energy jobs created in 2019, 5,000 of which have been restored since COVID-19 reopening in August 2020 – not divided equally, however, among all racial and ethnic groups
  • Ithaca GND aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 -- main points:
    • Community-wide net-zero emissions by 2030
    • Meet electricity needs of City government operations with 100% clean electricity by 2025
    • Reduce emissions from City vehicle fleet by 50% by 2025
    • Ensure benefits shared among all local communities to reduce historical social and economic inequities
    • Facilitate a comprehensive public engagement process
  • Strategy for Ithaca’s emission reductions:
    • 30% decarbonization
    • 25% electrification
    • 25% energy efficiency
    • 20% carbon storage
  • Phases of the Net-Zero 2030 Strategy are as follows:
    • Data collection
    • Efficiency
    • Decarbonization ~2025
    • Electrification of new and existing buildings as well as transportation
    • Carbon capture ~2030
  • Estimated cost to achieve net zero in Ithaca: $2 billion
  • Ithaca GND effort organized into following components:
    • Climate Justice
    • Education and engagement
    • Share governance
    • International cooperation
    • Innovation and economic development
    • Finance and investment

March 2021

Energy Warriors – Aloja Airewele

Aloja is the program leader of the Energy Warriors and staff member at Cornell Cooperative Extension–Tompkins County. He discussed the development of the Energy Warriors program, which introduces youth to green career training, work readiness, and life skills development.

  • Aloja: Can we bring together people who already do good things and become one in a non-competitive manner? A group of people participating in the project not just to enhance themselves but to help the underrepresented and marginalized?
  • Goal: Establish a program where people benefit from the opportunity to come out and be ready for the green jobs this city is working towards. Target unemployed and underemployed individuals. A collab of several stakeholders.
  • Duplication and redundancy: Tompkins County has a lot of good programs but much redundancy between them.
  • Roots of Success:
    • Program goes beyond traditional soft skills and hard skills.
    • Individuals need to understand why they’re doing this; need to be invested and have sufficient knowledge and confidence.
    • Curriculum has 10 parts, starting from fundamental environmental literacy.
    • Fairly easy to teach and productive in classroom
  • The group is working on an inventory of organizations that are working with individuals and will be able to enter the workforce training.
  • Luis: Thinks the project is fantastic and the country needs it implemented at a large scale. How to measure success?
  • Aloja: Will invite Luis to workgroup. Success measured by having a job, moving up the career ladder, having more hours working, no longer applying for benefits from Dept. of Social Services or sitting at home
    • Emphasize collaboration rather than competition, staying open to suggestions
    • The goal is to find a working way by every means
  • Dan: Does the program also emphasize soft skills and liberal arts education beyond career-specific hard skills?
    • Aloja: Yes. Soft skills are built-in. Haven’t moved people into community college yet but TC3 is interested in collaborating.
  • Marisa: How long is the program?
    • Aloja: Initial plan was 12-week in-class weekly training but realized individuals couldn’t come to classroom 5 days, 5 hours each day. Roots of success takes 50-70 hours to complete. Will follow up 3 months, 6 months, 12 months etc. after the training to measure progress. The whole program is about 2 years.
  • Sara: Mentoring and apprenticeships is a proven methodology – one-to-one matches. Have you considered this?
    • Aloja: The program is partnering with Ultimate Reentry Opportunity (URO) to provide long-term mentorship. Also have a workforce coordinator employed by the ReUse who comes alongside the training.
  • Peter: Finds it interesting that Roots of Success emphasizes soft skills.
  • Aloja: Addition to the Roots of Success training: raising your personal value, learning to reward every act of trust with excellence.
  • Peter: Very inspiring – should be at the core of any policy about workforce development
  • Aloja’s email: aaa247@cornell.edu

 

The Climate Reality Project Scorecard – Diane Stefani

Diane Stefani and two other members of the Federal Policy Working Group, a sub-team of The Climate Reality Project, Capital Region, NY chapter, shared a climate action scorecard they have developed to track the Biden Administration’s progress on its initial climate commitments.

  • Goal:
    • Track Biden Admin’s progress for 100 days
    • Reflect progress via the scorecards
    • Communicate status
    • Encourage and enable advocacy
  • Website: climaterealitycapitalregionny.com
    • “Percentage initiated” and “countdown clock” – motivate people to get involved
    • Connects to Climate Reality Project and encourages people to join the local Climate Reality chapter
    • Scorecards:
      • Actions initiated, partially initiated, not yet initiated
      • Each card is verbatim from Biden administration’s plan
    • Results:
      • Surprised by the amount of activity in the first 2 weeks of Biden administration
      • Saw public concern on advanced biofuels, reached out to expertise, clarified with definition in Clean Air Act
      • Concern about overcommitment: tremendous amount of issues involved, for example, with the goal “Protect federal lands and water”
      • New way of advocating
    • Peter: What about the goal of establishing 100% decarbonized grid by 2035?
      • Diane: Longer-term commitments are not on the scorecards. Currently only focusing on 10 things starting from day 1.
    • Luis: Fantastic tool and very visually engaging. Recommends expanding to include things happening in Congress.
    • Peter: Things move fast in the Biden administration, but also need to be aware of the climate action clock. We need to move faster than we are right now.
    • Lisa: Thinks the idea of hydrogen economy might be a trojan horse of the fracking industry. Climate Reality Projects’ position?
      • Laura: Doesn’t have a position on green hydrogen – not much discussed at the advocacy level. Need to stick closely with the 10 items in Biden’s plan.
      • Luis: Biden’s plan is talking about green hydrogen from electrolyzers and biomass gasification. We should push for the greenest possible version of hydrogen.
      • Lisa: Urges everyone to be aware of different ways hydrogen is produced.
      • Al: Need to pay attention to the life cycle analysis of hydrogen: how much GHG is produced during the process? Hydrogen is more concentrated than battery so has its own advantages.

 

Updates and Announcements

What’s the latest on climate efforts in the community?

  • Ithaca Energy Code Supplement: near adoption by City and Town. City Council will discuss on April 7. Town Board may be motivated to also adopt accelerated timeline.
    • Nick: Thinks scorecard/dashboard is a useful tool – potential to measure the City/Town’s progress on the energy code supplement
  • Peter: Difficult to track multi-tenant buildings without whole-building energy data, and NYSEG hasn’t been very cooperative. Reached out to Anna Kelles for help. Will need to tackle this to move the existing building green policy forward.
    • Luis: Necessary to have existing building policy but need to start with voluntary program -- requires a bit of patience.
    • Peter: Voluntary program is the basis of Ithaca 2030 District.
  • Joe: Adoption of energy stretch code in Dryden: Planning Board has recommended to Town Board to adopt. Discussion was political and the votes were close.
  • Dan: People put on political uniforms on the boards even at the local level. We presented an objective case for adoption of the energy stretch code. Terry and Lou helped explain the economic benefits; both were very patient and resourceful.
  • Lisa: Looking for people to comment on the renewable heat now campaign on gas planning: https://renewableheatnow.org/we-need-a-real-plan-to-get-off-gas/

February 2021

Ithaca Energy Code Supplement – Discussion

The Common Council has begun its deliberations on the Ithaca Energy Code Supplement (IECS) regarding new buildings. The Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee undertook a review at its recent monthly meeting and will again take up the IECS – also under review by the Town of Ithaca – at its March meeting. A number of issues have emerged, including calls for strengthening the IECS and accelerating its targets, and we explored these at our meeting.

  • Goal: to establish “a local energy code supplement with requirements above and beyond the state energy code”
  • Priority placed on electrification, renewable energy, and affordability – transition to buildings that do not use fossil fuels by 2030
  • Framework - Two options:
  • Whole building path – building must comply with one of several certification programs and/or use modeling to show compliance
  • Easy path – a certain number of points must be earned for the building to comply
  • Certification of occupation not issued unless requirements for one of the paths are met

General Questions

  • What are the strengths of the IECS as currently proposed?
  • Al: Impressed with level of details. The code is well-designed to prevent people from getting around it.
  • Brian: We’re living in a community where we can foresee the code being implemented. There needs to be social acceptance, but there isn’t much resistance so far.
  • Peter: Another strength is flexibility – there are many options
  • Where does the code apply?
    • Greg: New construction, major renovations, and additions above a certain new square footage depending on residential or commercial
    • What are the main issues that have emerged during the public comment period?
  • Dan: Net energy building is net energy lifestyle.
  • Dan: What does the word “certification” mean in the code?
  • Nick: You can use 3rd party certification like LEED as a tool. Compliance is expected from all buildings, but some buildings may choose to get certified.
  • Sara: Need to advance the timeframe: move the deadline for zero fossil fuel to 2025. We have a low-emission grid. That’s a significant advantage of the Upstate.
  • Al: Agree with Sara but have concern on how to get there. Expenses of retrofitting are quite high. There are a lot of low-income households. Affordability is a tough problem.
  • Brian: On affordability – need to look at life cycle costs, esp. in multifamily homes. Higher costs on tenants due to operating/maintenance expenses. The discussion needs to be broader and includes more people with technical expertise.
  • Joe: Cost is just one side of the equation. Other factors to think about: benefits over time, payback timeline, etc.
  • Guillermo: Need to think about what new construction will look like in Ithaca. Low-income people cannot afford to build new houses. Need to differentiate between large multi-family housing and commercial buildings from small households.
    • Perspectives on accelerating the timeframe?
  • Paul: Ithaca could be a source of training for new environmental professionals and be a model of post-pandemic transition for the State to take on.
  • Sara: Consensus on the committee to accelerate the time frame. The question is how much. The City has a climate goal of community-wide carbon neutral by 2030 – need to get rid of fossil fuel in buildings by 2025. Ian says for residential buildings it’s cheaper to install electric heat pumps than gas and will be so for commercial buildings in the next few years.

Building electrification

  • Why is the electrification of buildings such a crucial step in reducing our community’s carbon footprint? Other benefits of electrification?
  • Nick: Health and safety implications.
  • Brian: There shouldn’t be a need for internal combustion in Ithaca but efficient heat recovery and insulation.
    • What objections have been raised to this approach?
  • “Grid electricity is also from burning fossil fuels, so why not allow combustion in buildings?”
    • How can we best address these objections?
  • The grid is getting cleaner. Upstate grid is 88% decarbonized.
  • Al: Need to find the capital to build clean energy sources quickly.

Renewable energy

  • Currently, the draft code requires RE projects to be sited in the NYSEG service area. Does it make sense to expand this to the NYISO territory?
  • Al: If you can get renewable energy anywhere, you get credits.
  • Peter: The goal is to get NY State carbon neutral so it’s better if focused on NY
    • How strict should the requirements for RECs be? To earn points, RECs need to be associated with an actual RE project developed in the region. Should building owners be allowed to replace RECs with less expensive certified RECs from outside region or required to stick with more expensive NYS RECs?
  • Al: A lot of differences between RECs. No matter where the RE project is, purchasing RE is still helping the world.
  • Peter: We want the RECs to help develop new solar projects, not piling up on existing projects.
  • Brian: In short, we want to build RE project here so it’s local and beneficial to the community.
    • Would it be acceptable to allow weaker REC requirements for homeowners or small business owners when RE systems are under a certain size (e.g. 25 kW)?
  • Peter: If we need to weaken the requirements, this should be the only place where it happens.

 

“Our Future, Our Choice”: Climate Change at PRI – Ingrid Zabel

The Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) has just opened a permanent exhibit on climate change at the Museum of the Earth as well as an online version. Ingrid Zabel, climate change education manager at PRI, introduced us to the exhibit and its related resources, and provide an update on the New York Climate Change Science Clearinghouse, which she oversees.

  • Climate change and energy education at PRI:
  • A Teacher-Friendly Guide, curriculum, videos online, youth climate summit, BioBlitz, nature center funded by Park Foundation, etc.
    • Include both permanent exhibit and temporary exhibit
    • Messages:
  • The Earth’s climate has changed in the past;
  • The climate is changing now because of human activities;
  • Climate change affects people and other life on Earth;
  • We can do something about it.
    • Six focus groups, from middle schoolers to climate scientists, during testing
    • Feedback station: in video or text response, both available in-person and online
    • Exhibit opening: December 26, 2020
    • Online exhibit in process of adapting to smartphones
    • New York Climate Change Science Clearinghouse: nyclimatescience.org
    • Ingrid is a curator of the site. To share ideas or resources that could be helpful for the site, please contact Ingrid.

January 2021

Overview of Community Choice Aggregation – Terry Carroll

Terry is an energy educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and coordinator of the Clean Energy Communities program in the Southern Tier. He provided a brief overview of community choice aggregation (CCA) and update on the CCA discussions taking place on the Energy Committee of the Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG).

  • Community choice aggregation (CCA), at its most basic level, is a bulk buying agreement for energy supply (electric and/or gas) by one or more municipalities on behalf of their residents.
  • Public service commission (14-M-0224, order April 21, 2016)
    • Municipality can pass local law to purchase energy supply on behalf of residents and small commercial accounts; must be done at the lowest level (village, city, town) and individuals have the rights to opt out.
  • In NYS:
    • 61+ municipalities with active CCAs
    • About 170,000 residential and small commercial electricity accounts
    • 38 municipalities are currently receiving 100% renewables as default supply
  • Current CCA Administrators that have implementation plans:
    • Good Energy
    • Joule Assets
    • Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA)
    • Westchester Power
  • Different stages of CCA:
    • CCA 1.0: Save money by RFP to procure lower cost per kWh, green energy (RECs) at a slightly higher cost
    • CCA 2.0: Regional green energy procurement at a cost less or equal to utility supply, cheaper energy option with local energy programs.
    • CCA 3.0: Save money by reducing energy demand. Social and energy equity at core. Locally built, owned, and managed green energy & storage, EV, heat pumps, local jobs. Keep money in the community.
  • TCCOG CCA Working Group
    • Five webinars covering a range of CCA topics, available at southerntiercec.org
    • Several communities (Town & City of Ithaca, Caroline, Newfield, Danby, Trumansburg) working together to look at model law and consider tweaks.
    • Funding Discussions: help municipalities get organized and moving forward.
  • Path Forward:
    • Existing Administrator
      • Put out an RFP for an administrator,  listing what requirements the involved municipalities want.
      • Likely fastest way to get off ground.
    • Create a Local Administrator:
      • Utilize an existing organizations’ structure or create a new organization to undertake becoming a local admin.
      • Slower to get off ground but may meet overall CCA goals faster.
    • For questions, please contact Terry at tc629@cornell.edu or 315-857-5918

 

Community Energy as a Shared Municipal Service – David Gower

Like Terry, David has been participating in the TCCOG Energy Committee discussions on CCA. He has 10 years of experience in the clean energy space and has been actively involved locally in organizations such as the Green Resource Hub, Sustainable Enterprise and Entrepreneur Network, Southern Tier Energy Network, and Fossil Free Tompkins. David discussed his vision of community energy as a shared municipal service. In doing so, he addressed the following questions:

  • How can a CCA allow communities to get 100% renewables at a cost less than the default utility?
  • Why should communities implement and manage CCA on their own?
  • In what ways could they make it self-funding with minimal staffing needs?
  • In NYS, first CCA begun by Sustainable Westchester – Westchester Power
    • As of Jan 2021, 28 communities and 115k customers
    • NYSERDA CCA Toolkits available online
      • Specifically mentions option of municipalities doing without 3rd parties or consultants.
      • Organizations like Joule, MEGA, and Good Energy are an option, but not intended as the only choices.
    • Many advantages to keeping control and sharing with other municipalities.
      • The key is to expand the group purchasing power and to combine with other programs (e.g. energy efficiency, low-income, etc.)
    • Possibility to cut out the administrators and even the ESCOs to enable a price for green energy even lower than the default offered by the ESCOs.
    • Example of benefits lost to communities by using 3rd party administrator.
      • CCA operated by Joule Assets at Town of Geneva, create Geneva Community Solar
        • Expensive to find subscribers
        • Solar developers often pay $600 or more per subscriber household
        • 400-subscriber enrollment target, 400 x $600 = $240,000
        • Town of Geneva earned $25,000
        • Plus approx. $25 per household/year paid to Joule by ESCO in perpetuity of contract for managing CCA (approx. 5000 households or $120,000/year paid to Joule).
      • If done without 3rd party administrator, these funds could support staff and provide a revenue source for funding towns
      • Community-owned land could be leased to support program funding.
      • Likely to become a revenue generating activity, not a cost.
    • Framework plan to ensure control and preserve choice:
      • First step – promote unified adoption of “no loss” CCA legislation, and add the following:
      • Require ESCO offer to be 100% renewable with price at or below default utility (currently possible, especially if you work with community solar developers to incorporate acquisition value and discounts that can be shared across community).
      • Emphasize right to retain CCA administrator role; if needed bring on consultants, but don’t completely outsource to a 3rd party CCA administrator.
      • Retain rights to use the value of the relationship with CCA members in the communities – don’t easily give the brand away.
      • Limit contract lengths with any consultant or other 3rd parties.
      • Make sure to retain rights regarding how this ‘opt-out’ relationship with community members can used for communicating and implementing future energy and other community programs (e.g. broadband, low-income, recycling, other)
    • Future benefits of retaining control of CCA membership:
      • Direct local investment in projects/microgrids/DERs, etc.
      • Become your own broker/ESCO, no need to go out to the ESCO market – enables the community to decide its own energy supply rather than putting out RFP to existing ESCOs.
      • Share services/structure with other counties and gain more benefits for the entire group. Additional funding available with NYS DOS Shared Services Incentive.
      • Take over the billing from the utility entirely and bring clarity and local branding to electricity and use the same platform for water/sewer, etc.
    • For questions, please contact David at gowerdavid@gmail.com or 716-969-4899
    • For more information, review David’s slides or the following:

 

Group Discussion

How feasible does CCA as a shared municipal service seem? What do you see as the main opportunities? What do you see as the biggest challenges?

  • Irene: Paul Fenn said he’d be happy to work with us on CCA on a contracted basis. Paul also mentioned CCA’s can get data from utilities. He’s able to look at the data and figure out how to save energy. Ongoing challenge is lowering the energy costs. Future challenge is to save energy.
  • Rod: Next step of TCCOG is to find grant funding, looking to interview organizations/administrators and identify who might be willing to work with us.
  • Mark: Excited about this. Will involve education and engagement of municipal boards and the public to move forward.
  • Karim: What are the first steps that municipalities should work on?
  • David G: The first step is setting more people to know about this – list the key ideas and promote to the town for adoption. Then set the minimum requirements for the program to be sustainable and put it into legislation. To develop local control: anybody can establish an ESCO but many are not adding value, so the community can get together and establish its own “authority.”
  • David K: What are points of concerns/potential pitfalls once municipalities take over?
  • David G: Need to keep an eye on what utilities try to do (such as charging CCA fees) once their business model is threatened. But customers don’t need to worry about service degrading since regulated utilities are required to deliver electricity.
  • Irene: CCA is about energy supply. Utilities are about energy delivery/transmission.

 

TCCPI Issues & Topics for 2021 – All

Thoughts about what issues and topics participants would like to see TCCPI focus on in 2021?

  • CCA
  • Ithaca Energy Code Supplement
  • Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) Advisory Panels – updates would be very helpful (see ACE-NY)
  • Energy upgrades and retrofit of existing buildings – both commercial and residential
    • Focus on incentives for retrofitting existing buildings
  • County Energy Summit
  • Electric vehicles
    • Vehicle-to-grid technology and battery storage
  • Reuse of materials and job training: Finger Lakes ReUse collaboration with Cornell, CCETC, and Historic Ithaca
  • Intersection of housing rights and energy/environmental justice
  • Green financing and the structural racism built into financial institutions
  • Guidelines for valuing carbon, integration into assessments of projects

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