to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

Meeting Highlights: 2021

January 2021
February 2021
March 2021

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

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