to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

Meeting Highlights: 2021

January 2021
February 2021
March 2021
April 2021
May 2021

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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