to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
309 North Aurora Street | Ithaca, NY 14850 | email@example.com
Alternatives Federal Credit Union
Center for Community Transportation
The Center for Community Transportation envisions a community where travel by shared and active transportation is healthy, safe, affordable, and convenient for all. The CCT's mission-focused services and activities include Ithaca Carshare, Bike Walk Tompkins (and its signature program Streets Alive! Ithaca), and Backup Ride Home, emphasizing social equity and environmental sustainability in this era of new transportation options and emerging mobility trends. CCT works with local transportation providers, educators, planners, decision-makers, advocates, and users to fulfill the mission of enhancing transportation access in our community while reducing its negative environmental and economic impacts.
Bike Walk Tompkins
Backup Ride Home
The Backup Ride Home program provides peace of mind for commuters who travel to work without a personal vehicle (bus, carpool, bike, etc.). Ithaca Carshare’s on-call staff facilitates free alternate transportation home if something unexpectedly happens that makes an original commute plan home unfeasible. Enrollment in the program grew to 85, and 3 rides home were provided. CCT collaborated with the Downtown Ithaca Alliance’s Go Ithaca commuter program to integrate Backup Ride Home enrollment for all participants.
City of Ithaca
Green New Deal Implementation
Ithaca Energy Code Supplement
Emissions Reductions for Existing Buildings
Climate Reality Project, Finger Lakes Greater Region NY (FLGR-NY) Chapter
The Finger Lakes Chapter of Climate Reality includes inspired climate activists located in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions of Central NY. We are working to unify climate activism over a fairly widespread area, with plans to improve public awareness of the climate emergency and to actively promote the completion of the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) for our region. The Chapter also aims to reach out and work cooperatively with other active environmental, climate justice, and sustainability groups within the region.
Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County
Clean Energy Communities
Summary: CCE-Tompkins holds the contract for the Southern Tier for this program, which works with municipal officials to save energy in their facilities and communities through targeted, prescribed actions.
Impact: 2020 capped off a four-year “Leadership Round” that resulted in more than $1.78 million in grants awarded throughout the Southern Tier. There were 81 active communities and 37 designated communities during that time, with a total of 220 completed actions that included the installation of almost 11,000 LED streetlights, installation of 19 electric vehicle charging stations and purchase of 6 EVs, and 63 communities sending staff for code enforcement trainings. Staff also helped the following Tompkins County communities become Climate Smart Communities certified (as well as others in the Southern Tier): Ulysses (Bronze), Tompkins County (Silver), City of Ithaca (Bronze), Town of Ithaca (Bronze), Town of Dryden (Bronze), and the Town of Caroline (Bronze). See here for a sample CEC newsletter. In late 2020 we were awarded the subcontract to cover the Southern Tier for the next program cycle.
Ithaca 2030 District
Summary: Ithaca became an official 2030 District in mid-2016, with the CCE-Tompkins office building being one of the District’s founding member buildings.
Impact: CCETC Energy & Climate Change Team Leader Guillermo Metz serves on the Advisory Board and has helped develop resources for District Member building owners.
Energy Smart Community (ESC)
Summary: The ESC is a collaborative project focused on modernizing our electricity system through smarter infrastructure, reduced peak demand, and increased customer engagement. CCE-Tompkins and Cornell University have partnered with New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG), the local utility, to develop and test the technologies, educational approaches, and customer options that lead to greater adoption of cleaner and distributed energy sources; improved grid reliability, resilience, and safety; and reduction of overall energy use and shifted use from times of peak demand achieved when businesses and residents have expanded choices and increased energy literacy.
Impact: The ESC effort continues, though in a diminished capacity. While early efforts focused on helping community members understand NYSEG-developed resources such as Energy Manager, to better understand and manage their energy use, in 2020 CCE-Tompkins shifted to working to coordinate planning efforts between NYSEG and Tompkins County municipalities. More coordinated planning can greatly reduce inefficiencies, improve grid resilience, and focus limited resources to where they are most needed in order to facilitate the transition to greater building and transportation electrification.
EV LMI Project
Summary: Growing out of EV Tompkins, a collaboration with Energetics, and other community groups to promote the use of electric vehicles and installation of EV chargers across the county, this project is intended to bring the benefits of EVs to a wider population. This effort includes growing the used EV market, working with local lenders to provide more accessible financing options, and providing outreach and education focused on low- and moderate-income community members.
Impact: After much planning, the majority of this project will take place over 2021-2023.
Induction Cooktop Program
Summary: In late 2020, we started a program to bring the benefits of electrified cooking to a broader audience, focusing on people who participate in the Food as Medicine Tompkins program. Food as Medicine Tompkins provides “prescriptions” for healthy local foods to people who are suffering from food-related illnesses (e.g., diabetes) and/or are on restricted diets due to other health issues (e.g., fighting cancer). In addition to the climate impacts, there are many dangers of cooking with gas and other fossil fuels, including creating indoor air pollutants. We will introduce people to induction cooking through portable induction cooktops. These affordable (between $40 and $100) units are a perfect solution for introducing people to the technology without a major investment.
Impact: While most of this work will take place in 2021, we began collaborating with the CCE-Tompkins Nutrition Team on delivering classes that will use portable induction cooktops. Depending on our ability to conduct in-person programming, we will also work with community members who have changed out their fossil fuel-fired heating systems for heat pumps to now consider changing out their fossil fuel-fired cooking appliances as well.
Summary: In addition to energy programing, the Energy Team continued to provide information to residents about the dangers of radon and, through a long-standing NYS Department of Health grant, hand out free radon test kits.
Impact: The Energy Team distributed 35 free radon test kits and received nearly 485 page views on the CCETC radon web site. We were obviously hampered by not being able to do in-person programing, but did deliver one radon awareness presentation through Zoom, in addition to the annual in-person radon awareness event that we held before the pandemic shut-down.
Energy Warriors in Green Workforce Training in Tompkins County
Summary: In late 2020, Energy Warriors began a collaborative project with the Finger Lakes ReUse Center, as well as many other community-based organizations, to pilot a Green Workforce training program. This program sought to train unemployed, under-employed, and hard-to-employ individuals in an Environmental Literacy apprenticeship with training based on the nationally recognized curriculum “The Roots of Success,” with an ultimate goal of creating 125 jobs in the green energy sector. That pilot program is now being scaled to reach more individuals in a “Career Pathways Project,” which goes further to prepare individuals to acquire the knowledge and skills to enter into the jobs that will be needed to help the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County realize their Green New Deal plans. This project has received tremendous support from the Tompkins County Legislature, the Director of Sustainability for the City of Ithaca, the DC4 Unions, local employers, and the Tompkins Workforce Development Center.
Impact: In fall 2020, we enrolled seven participants in the training and five of them were able to participate in a paid apprenticeship with ReUse and one got a job with CSP management. This program is expanding in 2021.
TConnect – Increasing Rural Transit Access
Summary: Way2Go partnered with TCAT and the private app development firm Hypercommute to launch the TConnect pilot in the Lansing/Etna area. This door-to-destination service replaces TCAT’s weekend fixed-route 77 and allows residents to book a same-day ride from their home in the service area to select destinations, including TCAT bus stops, the Ithaca Mall, and Kendall. Users are able to book rides with as little as a half hour notice by calling in or using the Tconnect app. The purpose is to encourage transit ridership by reducing the barrier of accessing a fixed route bus stop. One of the goals is to reduce single occupancy vehicle use and encourage shared mobility use. Way2Go engaged in Community outreach in the Lansing/Etna area, provided feedback on app design and functionality, and evaluated rider experience through surveys and focus groups. The project will expand to the Dryden area in late summer 2021.
Impact: TConnect provided over 300 rides between its launch in September and December 2020 and provides an average of 30-40 rides each weekend. Learn more at www.tcatbus.com/tconnect.
Shared Transportation Awareness and Education
Summary: Way2Go regularly shares transportation information that promotes new and existing shared mobility options (such as ride sharing, car sharing, car hailing, bike sharing, and demand-response bus service), while supporting public transit as the core of a robust transportation system. To that end, we seek to increase public awareness of services such TCAT, Gadabout, Ithaca Carshare, Bike Walk Tompkins, and Go Ithaca, which is a Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) program that provides “sustainable and affordable transportation solutions to improve a person’s commute and completing errands while supporting a healthy lifestyle, reducing vehicle pollution, and decreasing traffic congestion in our community.” We provide resources that include best practices for ridesharing, how to ride the bus, how to put your bike on the bus, and how to ride the bus while in a wheelchair as well as a comprehensive brochure Transportation Options for Tompkins County and the region. We share this information through the Way2Go website, how-to videos on YouTube, a web-based transportation directory, and through classes such as GIAC’s Hospitality Training Program and TST Boces’ ESL classes.
Impact: In 2020, 10,304 people were reached through social media posts and 22,324 community members were reached through local listservs, local media ads, TCAT Alerts, and webinars.
Way2Go Collaborations with Tompkins County Programs
Downtown Ithaca Alliance
Finger Lakes Land Trust
Finger Lakes ReUse
Following a temporary voluntary closure of public-facing operations due to safety concerns at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Finger Lakes ReUse programs grew in 2020. Our ReUse Materials Access Program (ReMAP) continued as an essential service during our temporary closing for local people in economic distress. We also launched an interim online shopping platform, continued to offer local pickups of materials for a fee, coordinated a mask-making effort with Tompkins County utilizing local used textiles, and are actively continuing to revise our operations plans to protect the safety and well-being of our workers and prepare for future developments. All of our operations and offices established new COVID-19 safety measures, 100% of our furloughed staff were offered full reinstatement, and we have been able to hire additional staff as we expanded into additional locations in 2020.
In 2020, Finger Lakes ReUse:
Fossil Free Tompkins
Although the pandemic slowed some aspects of Fossil Free Tompkins’ work – no more trips to Albany – much of our activity continued via Zoom.
NYSEG Rate Case; As reported in our 2019 summary, NYSEG/RG&E filed their gas and electric rate cases with the Public Service Commission (PSC) in May 2019. The Rate Case is a legal proceeding where the utility proposes rate increases for various infrastructure and administrative projects along with basic operating/maintenance expenses. The period between May and September 2019 provided time for reading the various filings, asking written questions, and getting answers. From September 2019 through July 2020, FFT and other stakeholders were engaged in confidential negotiations regarding the proposals, and we were instrumental in several results that we won on behalf of ratepayers and the environment. These included first-of-their-kind concessions from the utility regarding gas infrastructure: an agreement to aim for no net increase in gas use across their service territory and to offset any gas growth with non-gas alternatives such as energy efficiency and heat pumps; to conduct a benefit-cost analysis comparing efficiency/heat-pumps before undertaking any new pipeline project; to provide $1.5 million subsidies for low-income residential heat-pump projects and $3.1 million for commercial heat pump projects; and to do a planning study on the financial impacts of coming into compliance with the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act given the likelihood of stranded gas assets and how to mitigate those impacts. In addition, we initiated discussions and achieved multiple provisions in response to the COVID crisis, including suspended disconnections, late charges, disconnect and reconnect fees; $16.5 million for up to $100 per customer bill credit, arrears forgiveness, flexible deferred payment plans and $3 million for a COVID-19 grant assistance program for commercial customers.
Lansing Non-Pipe Alternative Proposals: Fall 2019 saw the release of NYSEG’s RFP for non-pipe alternative projects to address reliability concerns in the Town of Lansing. In March 2020 NYSEG received 16 responses to the RFP. Technologies proposed varied from non-gas solutions such as heat pumps (air, ground, water, community loop), heat recovery, energy efficiency measures, hydrogen injection, dynamic electrification, a demand response thermostat program, and outreach and education to gas injection solutions such as compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquified natural gas (LNG). By September 2020, NYSEG had evaluated the proposals and filed a petition with the PSC seeking approval for several projects in the Lansing area to reduce gas demand and/or convert to heat pumps. Among the projects included in NYSEG’s petition were a consortium of heat pump installers that will install 200 residential heat pumps over three years; a ground-source heat pump system and efficiency upgrades in a non-residential building; ground source heat pump and energy efficiency improvements at the Tompkins County International Airport; a community district geothermal loop system in a lakefront neighborhood; and heat recovery and energy efficiency measures at one of the County’s largest industrial operations. In the good news category, NYSEG did not recommend pursuing CNG, renewable natural gas (RNG), or hydrogen solutions. In June 2021 the Commission ruled on NYSEG’s petition, supporting all the projects NYSEG recommended except the geothermal system at the County’s airport. The County is currently contemplating an appeal of that ruling. Altogether the NYSEG portfolio of recommended projects would reduce gas demand by 56.34 thousand cubic feet per hour (MCFH) and would bring over $9.6 million investment to the community.
Gas Planning Proceeding: In March 2020, the PSC initiated the “Gas Planning Proceeding” in part to respond to gas moratoria in various parts of the state, as well as to bring utilities gas planning into alignment with the goals of the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. No doubt this proceeding was also in response to the participation of environmental organizations (including FFT) in several utility rate cases, where the mismatch between the utility industry’s business-as-usual thinking and the State’s climate goals became apparent. Fossil Free Tompkins helped to spearhead an effort by members of the Renewable Heat Now (RHN) coalition to develop comments that could potentially influence inform the NYS Department of Public Service (DPS) recommendations. Among other things, the RHN comments advocated for clear GHG reduction goals with year-by-year targets for the utilities to meet and an orderly, just transition plan for getting off gas that would minimize stranded assets and ensure affordability for all. After 11 months and seven extensions, in February 2021 the DPS staff finally issued their preliminary recommendations for gas planning, recommendations that were astonishingly bad. There were no calls for the utilities to provide clear targets for GHG reduction, no plan for an orderly transition, no plan to assess or address risk of stranded assets, and no plan for ensuring affordability. RHN submitted reply comments to the DPS proposal, and FFT submitted separate supplemental comments based on our experience with the Lansing moratorium and non-pipe alternative process. One bright note: FFT advocated and DPS staff supported the idea that within a moratorium area, as gas was “liberated” because of efficiency measures, utilities should be allowed to preferentially allocate the liberated gas to essential uses such as industrial development where alternatives to gas were insufficient so that economic development was not permanently thwarted by the moratoria.
Greenidge and the Behind-the-Meter Loophole: In June 2020, the Public Service Commission issued a declaratory ruling allowing that the old, coal-to-gas Greenidge power plant on Seneca Lake could utilize the power it generated onsite to support a bitcoin mining operation on their property. Upon reading the ruling, FFT noted that the power plant owners had found and exploited a loophole in the CLCPA. While the CLCPA requires 70% renewables in the grid by 2030, it does nothing to impede fossil fuel generating facilities from supporting behind-the-meter operations. FFT has spent much of 2020 and 2021 working to raise awareness of this loophole and finding ways to fix it. In the process we learned that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has no specific way to track behind-the-meter emissions and that air permits are issued relative to the plant’s potential to emit rather than historical actual emissions.
Get Your GreenBack Tompkins
For this year we had one primary goal: to continue to offer energy advising to thousands of people throughout the region, helping hundreds of them take meaningful action, while increasing the effectiveness of the advising system. Despite the setbacks imposed by the pandemic, we have been able to accomplish this goal and have made significant progress in all of the related elements, as detailed below.
While the pandemic has significantly curbed our ability to do in-person outreach and has thus reduced the number of people we have been able to engage and support, we have still been able to reach thousands of people using other approaches such as television and partner referrals and we supported 170 in taking action. The numbers below represent our cumulative impact through October 2020.
2020 Cumulative Impact (through October)
# Steps Taken
While the number of steps taken and reported to GYGB is less than the previous year (267), we are proud of the support we’ve been able to provide. As in past years, many of the people we advise may take actions on their own without informing us, so our numbers are undoubtedly an undercount. Also the last two months of the year may provide a significant boost to the numbers due to a surge of interest during the cooler fall months.
The energy advising work continues both in Tompkins County, and in the eight-county Southern Tier region, where we coordinate the work through the Smart Energy Choices program funded by NYSERDA.
The tiny home PowerHouse has been built and is already scheduled for a number of outreach venues. Having completed the design of the home and its exhibits over the last two years thanks in great part to student interns from Cornell University Sustainable Design, we were able this year to secure funding from NYSERDA to build the tiny home. The home is on a trailer and can travel in the region to do energy outreach and education, both with general audiences and with schools.
Major components of the PowerHouse include:
In addition to securing support from NYSERDA for the construction of the PowerHouse, we were also successful in securing NYSERDA funding to support the expansion of the Energy Navigator program. We revised the original curriculum to make it relevant to the state (previously it was centered on Tompkins County) and trained four staff from other Cornell Cooperative Extension offices throughout the state. They conducted their own trainings in the summer of this year and are currently working with over 40 volunteers in five counties: St. Lawrence, Chemung, Dutchess, Sullivan, and Ulster. The volunteers are now engaged in energy outreach and education with their own networks. All of the training and support is taking place remotely. While unanticipated, we have now tested the curriculum in a remote learning setting and it seems to be working. We hope that the respective counties will be able to sustain this work in the future.
Due to the pandemic, we did not hold another round of training in Tompkins County this year; instead, we focused on supporting some 15 existing Energy Navigator volunteers who wanted to continue with their service. Some have helped build the PowerHouse and its exhibits; another has focused on supporting businesses and non-profits with a program that subsidizes the installation of electric vehicle charging stations (see this story of one such success); and others have provided the one-on-one advising to friends, neighbors and other contacts that helps them navigate the steps to energy efficiency, renewable heating, solar, and electric vehicles.
In our proposal to the Park Foundation, we indicated that we were interested in exploring the issue workforce development, with a focus on the clean energy industry. According to NYSERDA, to reach the state carbon emission reduction goals by 2050, we need to increase our workforce trained to do energy efficiency work and heat pump installations by a factor of ten, beginning in 2021. This seems like an incredible opportunity to bring well-paying jobs to under-served and marginalized populations. During the 2020 summer we had a team of three interns from Cornell’s school of management research green job workforce programs in the country. They identified the “Roots of Success” program as a leader in the field of green job workforce development and based on their recommendation the coordinator received training in using the Roots of Success curriculum. He is currently supporting a small pilot effort with a CCETC colleague in collaboration with the ReUse Center, where they are using the Roots of Success curriculum to train a small group of people in green jobs while building up skills by working at the ReUse Center at the same time. The GYGB coordinator is continuing to network with others in the county who are interested in furthering this type of programming, with the goal of putting together a plan for a more robust green job workforce development program and proposal in 2021.
In addition to the focused work described above related to energy advising, education and outreach, we have also led and supported a number of other initiatives:
2020 was a banner year for HeatSmart Tompkins despite the challenges that came with the COViD-19 pandemic. In April we launched new campaigns for residential buildings with our NYSERDA grant that will take us through March 2022. We continued to focus our outreach efforts on Tompkins County, with special emphasis on the Town of Lansing, while also expanding into Chemung County.
The coronavirus lockdown required us to develop a business continuity strategy. We needed to completely revamp our model and methods for community outreach. Relying no longer on the in-person community meetings, home tours, and house parties, we switched to a webinar format and redesigned our presentations to be shorter, more focused, and more interactive. We also designed a virtual learning room on our website where visitors could create their own learning experience. Over the summer with the assistance of our interns and several generous volunteers, we developed a collection of case studies and video home tours on HeatSmart homes highlighting the various kinds of heat pump systems. Our fall webinar series included virtual home tours where we showed the videos and invited the homeowner and contractor to be present to talk about the project and answer questions. We also presented installer case studies where each installer was invited to conduct an in-depth presentation on a single project. Installing contractors adopted new methods for virtual energy assessments and extensive safety protocols when working in resident’s homes. We continued to conduct enrollee surveys to assess their satisfaction with our efforts as well as homeowner’s relationship with the installing contractors.
NYSERDA launched several initiatives as part of the state’s economic recovery plan that drove enrollments. In June, there was an offer of 0% financing for heat pump installations and weatherization. This was followed by increased grants and expanded eligibility for grants through two programs that are designed to assist low-to-moderate income households, EmPower and Assisted Home Performance.
In August we celebrated Jonathan Comstock’s leadership and legacy in his roles since our founding as either the Board Chair or the Program Director with a small, socially distanced outdoor retirement party at Taughannock Park. On September 1 Lisa Marshall became the new Program Director.
We finished the year in strong shape with the launch of an exciting pilot study that provided funding for heat pump installations in 500 low-to-moderate income households statewide. The “Heat Pump Demonstration Pilot Study” led to record interest in our program (94 enrollments in December alone!) making heat pumps available to a whole new segment of our community.
Our marketing efforts were greatly expanded thanks to generous matching funds provided by NYSERDA. With the creative guidance of our communications consultant, Kitty Gifford, our outreach team designed and launched innovative postcard mailings and ads on radio and social media which have been emulated by other HeatSmart programs across NYS. We were invited to present on our marketing efforts at NYSERDA’s annual Clean Heating and Cooling Conference in December.
We continued to partner with Ithaca Area Economic Development and the County’s Business Energy Advisor in the BEA Lansing program to support commercial businesses in their adoption of expanded energy efficiency and high performing electric energy heating and cooling systems for existing buildings in Lansing. This program provides outreach and technical assistance for existing facilities ≥ 3,000 square feet in the Lansing natural gas moratorium area.
HeatSmart Tompkins continues as a formal party in the Lansing Non-Pipe Alternatives Proceeding. NYSEG had declared a moratorium on new gas hookups in 2015 to address the concerns of insufficient gas supply to maintain the reliability of the system. Our community has stated goals to reduce its carbon footprint and to eliminate non-renewable fuel options. New York State’s recently adopted CLCPA legislation requires aggressive emissions reductions. A list of NYSEG approved non fossil fuel options has been submitted to the PSC for their action.
In 2020 we conducted two sets of workforce training programs, Air-Source Heat Pump Installations Without Call-Backs, each consisting of three webinars and a day of field training. One of the field trainings involved the installation in the fall of a whole house air-source heat pump system at a Habitat for Humanity House on Slaterville Rd.
Perhaps what we are most proud of at HeatSmart is how we have mentored similar programs across the state. Both Lisa and Brian stretch their time to include advocacy work with the Renewable Heat Now campaign that is focused on energy efficiency and clean heating policy. In conjunction with Renewable Heat Now we also have initiated a new level of collaboration among the now 23 HeatSmart programs in NYS and other individuals and groups both in NYS and in other states who are aligned with our work.
In 2020 the oversight for most of the Clean Heating and Cooling incentive rebate programs was transitioned from NYSERDA to the NYS utilities. HeatSmart Tompkins has a standing monthly meeting with NYSEG staff to assist with a smooth transition of these responsibilities.
We were a formal party to the NYSEG/RGE Rate Case Negotiations in the period October 2019 - May 2020. The gas utility portion of the agreement, which was called “a model for future rate cases” by regulators includes a number of gas reduction strategies, retraction of $128 million for gas infrastructure including pipelines, and funding of $1.5 million for renewable heating systems for low-income residents on top of the utilities’ other incentives for renewable heating and energy efficiency. Importantly, as part of the agreement, NYSEG and RG&E also committed to planning for no gas growth (offsetting new gas customers with heat pumps and efficiency), to stop marketing gas (“Convert to Gas” has occupied a prominent place on their website front page menu bar), and to seek alternatives to nearly all new gas investments. In the electric case, we were unable to reduce the rate increases as much as we had hoped. The PSC Order provided far too little investment in correcting years of deferred maintenance on the substations, distribution lines, and the full cycle vegetation management needed to maintain system reliability while approving the discretionary initiation of an expensive smart meter infrastructure program. A program of beneficial electrification with heat pumps requires a robust electric grid.
In conjunction with Renewable Heat Now, we prevailed upon the Public Service Commission (PSC) to introduce a generic gas planning proceeding. A managed, equitable, affordable transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is in the best interests of all New York residents. It is incumbent upon the PSC to enact a well-researched, comprehensive plan to align New York's gas utilities with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). We must ensure all New York residents have the energy needed for heating, hot water, and cooking, and that access to renewable options for these services is provided in a timely, orderly, and affordable manner.
A major infrastructure bill designed to put people back to work as well as address the needs of an aging infrastructure has been on the agenda of the Congress for the past year. We have participated in discussions with our Congressional representatives to ensure that clean energy systems are well represented in the final bill. We have proposed the Community Electrification, Green Buildings and Jobs Act that would train workers and create thousands of jobs in clean thermal energy infrastructure by installing air source heat pumps, geothermal (ground source) heat pumps, and community district-wide geothermal heat pump systems for residences and commercial and public buildings.
Ithaca 2030 District
Ithaca Carbon Neutrality Project
The Ithaca Carbon Neutrality Project, sponsored by the Systems Engineering Program at Cornell University, has been underway since fall 2019. This report to TCCPI is a brief summary of the work done to date (May 2021). In the next month or two a full report should be available publicly with the details of our results.
In 2019 the City of Ithaca and later the Town of Ithaca passed Green New Deal resolutions committing themselves to large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from various sources in their municipalities while also paying attention to equity and affordability. In the summer of 2019 Nick Goldsmith of the City and Al George of Cornell agreed to a large cooperative student project by the Cornell Systems Program to help understand the work necessary to move towards reaching heating and cooling carbon neutrality by the year 2030. This report is a product of the Ithaca Carbon Neutrality (ICN) team, which is made up of about 30 members each semester, including undergraduate and Master of Engineering (MEng) students as well as several faculty advisors.
The project team’s work, which was informed by liaison with the sustainability staffs of the City and Town, is intended to help them consider the myriad of possibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to existing buildings’ heating and cooling. The overall team has spent the past two years working on a comprehensive guide to applicable policies, retrofits, effectiveness, and equity considerations.
The Ithaca Carbon Neutrality Project will continue during the fall 2021 semester and our next major report is anticipated to be available by approximately January 2022.
Systems Engineering Process and Results
Conclusions and Future Work
Office of Facilities
Office of Energy Management & Sustainability
Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council
Like most other agencies the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council (ITCTC) had to adjust its work program in 2020 to address pandemic conditions and needs. All our meetings moved to a remote format. We continued to have strong participation from partners and our obligations managing surface transportation funding were met without interruption.
Specific activities during 2020 included:
Local First Ithaca
New Roots Charter School
New Roots is a small public high school with a big mission located in the heart of downtown Ithaca. Open to any student eligible for high school i n the wider region, the tuition-free college and life preparatory program engages students in learning actively, thinking critically, and solving real world problems creatively and collaboratively, developing the knowledge and skills to turn 21st century challenges into opportunities. New Roots features a unique four-year learning sequence that fully integrates Education for Sustainability (EfS) standards and interdisciplinary, community-based projects featuring sustainability themes while meeting all New York State graduation requirements. The lower school program (grade 9-10) cultivates foundational understandings and skills that prepare students to become actively involved in their school and local community as leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists when they move into the upper school program (grades 11-12).
The State Education Department has honored New Roots Charter School as a New York State Green Ribbon School, one of only three state nominees for the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) program distinction.
The Green Ribbon award recognizes schools that reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.
“The Green Ribbon Program sets the gold standard,” said New Roots Founder and Principal, Tina Nilsen-Hodges. “We are so honored to be recognized among schools committed to the highest i deals for these essential elements of a 21st century education.”
Authorized as a tuition-free public school by the State University of New York in 2008, New Roots attracts a regionally diverse population of students in grades 9-12, bringing together young people from rural, urban, and suburban backgrounds in a learning environment that integrates core environmental, sustainability, green technology, and civics studies into a four-year college preparatory curriculum emphasizing STEM through community-based, interdisciplinary projects.
“To be honored here in New York and nominated for this prestigious national award is truly an outstanding achievement and I congratulate staff, students, and school board for their commitment to creating sustainable and healthy school communities,” New York Education Commissioner Betty Rosa said. “It’s inspiring these students are committed to creating a cleaner, greener environment and they are positioned to be our future environmental and clean energy leaders.”
The Green Ribbon Schools recognition award is given to schools that have demonstrated high achievement in all three ED-GRS Pillars:
New Roots students engage in interdisciplinary studies of core academic subjects within a framework of sustainability and environmental stewardship, focusing on college, career, and life readiness.
The school’s student-initiated Cayuga Wetlands Restoration Project, inspired by the ecological wisdom of the Cayuga Nation, integrates scientific knowledge with civic engagement. The NY Department of Environmental Conservation awarded New Roots a four-year grant of $38,000 to establish the Summer Youth Ecological Restoration Corps to further the project, designed to study how native wetland species contribute to the health of the lake ecosystem.
“The Board and I commend the students, educators and staff in these schools for their commitment to improving their communities and working to build a cleaner, safer environment for all,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said. “Recent natural disasters have shown that environmental responsibility is imperative for our planet and our next generation. These schools are not only setting an example for their students, but they are also setting an example for their community and schools across the state.”
The ED-GRS program recognizes schools where staff, students, officials, and communities have worked together to produce energy efficient, sustainable, and healthy school environments and to ensure the environmental literacy of graduates. The recognition award is part of a larger USDE effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices proven to result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, as well as a government-wide goal to increase energy independence and economic security.
Honorees of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools competition will be announced i n a ceremony held in Washington DC this fall.
Paleontological Research Institution, Museum of the Earth, and Cayuga Nature Center
Sunrise Movement Ithaca
National Campaigns & Actions
Local Campaigns & Actions
Taitem’s Energy + Sustainability and Quality Assurance departments continue to provide a broad range of services through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Our projects are located throughout New York. Local highlights include:
Taitem continues its consulting role in Avangrid’s NYSEG’s Energy Smart Community, providing support to initiatives that promote electrification and modernizing New York’s electric grid, including the transition to electric vehicles.
Taitem’s Design Department continues its work on new buildings and renovations/energy retrofits, often being able to provide integrated design and energy consulting services. Local buildings of note include:
Tier Energy Network
The Tier Energy Network (TEN) is a regional network of industry, government, community, and higher education members supporting the development of an energy strategy for New York State’s Southern Tier. The Tier Energy Network was founded through the efforts of local business leaders in 2014 and currently has over 200 members and participants. TEN’s intent is to develop and promote the Southern Tier of NY for clean energy business growth, creation of clean energy jobs, energy conservation and efficiency adaptation, development and adoption of renewable and energy storage technology and services, and fostering a venture capital friendly environment for energy innovators.
Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 and 2021 have been busy times for TEN. TEN was awarded a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) through the Southern Tier East and Southern Tier Central Regional Planning Boards to map the clean energy industry cluster in 11 counties in the Southern Tier of New York. The project consisted of identifying, large-scale clean energy projects, solar PV projects larger than 25 kW, energy storage projects, custom manufactures, EV care dealers, university research centers and projects, air source and ground source heat pump installers, and engineering firms.
Included as part of the project were interviews with startup companies, county IDAs, utilities, NYISO and NYSERDA, and project managers to determine projections of employer needs for workers, barriers to the development of projects, utilization of clean energy technologies, the potential influence of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), entrepreneurial support for rural areas, the need for energy analysis for business, economic developers, and the general public, and the effect of COVID-19 on the economic recovery in the Southern Tier. The results of the mapping project will be released by the ARC in 2021.
The TEN Workforce Development Committee has been busy with following the state forecasts for clean energy workers and what training will be required by each sector in the clean energy ecosystem. The WFD Committee seeks to identify best practices for workforce development and hiring, analyze the segmentation of the workforce and the training or educational needs for each segment, develop a workforce strategy for the implementation of air source and ground source heat pumps, look for resources for the oversight committee, and find good experiential education opportunities for interns and apprentices. TEN will support the Talent Taskforce, the Regional STEM Initiative, the A,M&T grant on clean energy technology manufacturing, the SUNY Broome Mechatronics program, the development of a STEM center in Waverly, and will seek to support a grant to train hard to place populations for energy service jobs.
TEN has continued with its Energy Speakers Series and had several start up and industry speakers in 2020 including:
The Tier Energy Network has begun a Technology Roadmap Committee to study the CLCPA and its effects on the technologies to be implemented to reach the goals of the CLCPA. Outreach will be made to municipalities, commercial and industrial organizations, and institutions to provide support for the implementation of clean energy technologies.
TEN Goals for 2021 include:
TEN looks to collaborate with any professional group who seeks to develop a clean energy technology industry cluster to drive economic and workforce development in the Southern Tier. All TEN meetings are free and open. Please email Mike@CleanEnergyTechnologyResources.com with any inquiries.
Tompkins Community Action
Tompkins Community Action, Inc. has been the designated U.S. Department of Energy/NYS Homes and Community Renewal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) provider for Tompkins County for thirty-seven years. Working closely with the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) as a Home Performance with Energy Star contractor; we provided Assisted Home Performance and EmPower NY Programs.
As a Building Performance Institute (BPI) Goldstar Contractor, members of TCAction’s Energy Services Department held multiple BPI Certifications including Auditor, Heating Professional, Envelope Professional, Manufactured Home Professional, Building Analyst and Quality Control Inspector. We partnered with numerous municipal entities, not for profits, and private sector organizations to leverage funding associated with weatherization, energy efficiency, and other types of home repair and housing rehabilitation programs.
We carried out the following projects in 2020-2021:
Due to many years of losing monies in our efforts with the NYS Weatherization Assistance Program and the recent inability to hire staff, TCAction chose not to engage with the NYSHCR contract for the Weatherization Assistance Program in 2021 and our services in the Weatherization Assistance Program have ended. There is, however, still a program serving Tompkins County; Cortland County Community Action (CAPCO) will serve Tompkins households. Please give Linda Nash a call at 607-273-8816 for information on how to access CAPCO services in Tompkins County.
Tompkins Community Action’s Energy Programming has ended, and we will concentrate our efforts on maintaining our Energy Efficient Supportive Housing Residences and Head Start Centers, and continue to make remarkable progress in Housing, Food programs, and Early Childhood Education.
We wish to thank our dedicated energy staff members throughout the years and thank CAPCO for taking on Tompkins County as part of their Energy Services commitment in NYS.
Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
Tompkins County Council of Governments Energy Committee
For 2020, the Tompkins County Council of Governments Energy Committee decided to focus on Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). The committee offered numerous educational webinars and discussions throughout the year working with Terry Carroll from the Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County and Irene Weiser from Fossil Free Tompkins. In addition to committee members many of the webinars were attended by community members who had previously been involved with CCA explorations. The webinars were recorded and may be found here: https://southerntiercec.org/webinars-cca. In addition, Terry offered to make presentations to municipal boards about CCA and his offer was taken up by a number of municipalities.
Toward the end of the year, we reached out to municipalities to gauge interest in moving forward. The feedback received highlighted a definite interest with a focus on renewable energy and energy cost savings. The stated goal is to move forward in a way that aggregates benefits and alleviates the pressure of each municipality to work out details on their own. Furthermore, there is a desire to outline a path that starts with CCA 2.0 and moves toward CCA 3.0.
Tompkins County Environmental Management Council
Outreach & Communications Committee
In October 2020, the committee hosted a virtual panel focusing on environmental justice and the disproportionate impact pollution and its detrimental effects have on low-income communities and communities of color. Richard Rivera from Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources of Tompkins County started off the evening’s discussion by sharing his on-the-ground perspective and experiences working with displaced individuals living in the local homeless encampment commonly known as “The Jungle.” Rebecca Evans, campus sustainability coordinator at Ithaca College, and community activist Anne Rhodes rounded out the conversation, speaking to the history of environmental justice and how its dynamics continue to play out beyond our local borders, especially as a public health issue, in communities everywhere. A recording of the evening can be viewed on the County's YouTube channel here: http://https//youtu.be/3w1LA_jTjms.
In 2020, the committee began to pilot a way to keep a finger on the pulse of various environmental groups in our community with the creation of an EMC email that would include information from multiple newsletters and listserv messages.
Bi-weekly this repository email is reviewed to highlight pertinent news and events. In addition, numerous Facebook pages and websites are reviewed for other items or events of import. Roughly 50 groups are tracked throughout Tompkins County, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Notice Bulletin is also reviewed. Sent to all EMC members and anyone else with interest, the Community Roundup has been useful for EMC members to have a better idea of environmental news and events in Tompkins County. While not exhaustive, the calendar of events provides a helpful snapshot of happenings of interest around town.
Unique Natural Areas
The committee did not meet in person or on Zoom in 2020. We did email about the following issues:
Climate Adaptation Committee
The committee worked on three main activities in 2020:
Zero Waste Committee
The committee's activity was somewhat hampered earlier in the year due to COVID-19 but resumed in the summer when the group began to meet regularly via Zoom. Perhaps prompted by increasing community awareness about discarded single-use disposable waste during the pandemic, several new student and community members from the Zero Waste Ithaca group started to show up to the meetings regularly. In 2020, the committee worked on the following initiatives:
Town of Caroline
Town Planning & Sustainability
The exciting sustainability activity in Caroline in 2020 involved moving forward to seriously consider more intentional planning tools for the Town of Caroline, given increasing growth pressures, the abundance of open land in Caroline, and the decline of traditional agriculture, especially dairy farming. The Town’s Planning Board completed an update of our 2006 Comprehensive Plan after seven years of diligent work by this all-volunteer group. The new plan was officially adopted on January 13, 2021. A key recommendation is to consider and enact stronger development guidance tools such zoning regulations and other measures that would enable the Town to guide development in a way that promotes the Town vision of a sustainable, livable community. The Town Board commissioned a Task Force on Land Use and Economic Development that researched zoning and other tools and drafted a revised Site Plan Review Law for consideration by the Town Board. They worked with a professional planner and completed their work in fall 2020, presenting a detailed report to the Town Board. In December the Town enacted a 180-day Land Use Moratorium, anticipating moving forward to enact zoning regulations and/or other enhanced development guidance tools in 2021.
Brighten Up Caroline (Clean Energy Communities Program)
LED bulb distribution to Caroline households was curtailed because of the COVID pandemic. Caroline completed purchase of streetlight facilities from NYSEG on September 8, 2020, in preparation for the conversion of our 79 streetlights to LED fixtures. By owning the Town’s streetlight facilities, we will save more than $7,000 each year in facilities charges give the Town greater control of maintenance. We expect to complete these actions in 2021.
Key players from the Town’s energy committee (Energy Independent Caroline) continued work with the Solar Tompkins Inc. HeatSmart Program, promoting home energy efficiency and heat pumps for space heating and cooling.
Town of Dryden
Town of Enfield
Town of Ithaca
Town of Ulysses