As the following case studies illustrate, municipalities can take advantage of outside funding and resources and engage citizens to make changes to meet these goals.
Last winter, volunteers from the Town of Rosendale wrote grant proposals to fund retrofits to their town’s highway garage. They requested money to add insulation to the cinderblock building and to install a solar array. In a highly competitive funding environment, their applications were turned down. At that point, members of the Environmental Commission decided to take a step back and look at the big picture. They worked with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to conduct low-cost energy audits of five municipally owned buildings. Energy audits, which cost either $100 or $400 for buildings spending less than $75,000 per year on electricity, provide an assessment of the condition of a building’s insulation, heating, cooling, and electrical systems. “The energy audits provided us with valuable suggestions about how we could save energy that include cost estimates and payback projections,” says Town Supervisor Patrick McDonough. The audit fee is refunded once the customer shows receipts to indicate that at least some of the recommended measures were installed.
With the awareness that they could save both money and energy, the Town Board formally created a volunteer task force this summer to explore energy reductions. The task force’s first step was to join ICLEI, an international group that has helped over 1,100 local governments to reduce emissions and address climate change. Using ICLEI’s software, communities can track their energy consumption by sector. The climate task force created a website to expand the scope of their efforts and will host public events this winter about energy-saving incentives for residents and local businesses. Rosendale is also working with Central Hudson, which provides free lighting upgrades for government buildings.
10 Percent Challenge
Red Hook, in Dutchess County, is a front-runner in energy conservation, having secured more than $300,000 to install solar panels on its town hall and firehouse. These projects will save thousands of dollars each month on their electric bill and are a wonderful showcase of renewable energy technology. The town was also awarded $52,000 from NYSERDA to hire an energy consultant to create a climate action plan and a greenhouse gas inventory as a basis for further action.
This summer, the Town of Red Hook entered into a year-long partnership with Sustainable Hudson Valley. “The 10 Percent Challenge has two goals,” says Sustainable Hudson Valley’s Executive Director Melissa Everett, “to reduce energy use by 10 percent and engage 10 percent of citizens as leaders.” The campaign began in August with the help of volunteers from the Student Conservation Association, who went door-to-door providing information and resources for savings. The formal launch on October 10 with 10 events, including a footrace and clothing swap, brought the first 150 participant commitments.
Investing in the Future
In addition to its participation in the Climate Smart Communities program, the City of Kingston has worked closely with NYSERDA’s Focus on Local Government program. Focus on Local Government helps local governments to access funding and offers a range of services including providing assistance related to creating inventories of energy use, developing and implementing energy reduction strategies, and monitoring progress. Kingston completed a NYSERDA energy-efficiency study in 2007. Based on the recommendations of the study, the city hired Wendel Energy Services to complete an Energy Performance Contract to make the energy-efficiency upgrades. The project was completed last year at a cost of $2.1 million. The upgrades will save 896,492 kWh in annual electric savings and $170,610 in annual energy costs. Kingston is using stimulus funds to hire a climate analyst in 2011 to develop a local action plan and greenhouse gas inventory.
In 2007, the Town of Bedford developed an Energy Advisory Panel to study the issues leading to climate change and carbon emissions and to produce a Climate Action Plan for the Town. In January of 2009, the group hosted the Beacon Environmental Summit with the goals of informing the community about key environmental issues and increasing citizen involvement. The summit focused on actions that would further the goal of 20 percent community-wide greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2020. The Climate Action Plan that was drafted with input from this summit outlines over 70 projects that will be undertaken by the community and municipality to meet these reduction goals. The Town of Bedford created a guide for other communities interested in following in its footsteps. Bedford’s “summit-in-a-box” is the template for an upcoming environmental summit that is being planned in the Town of Clarkstown.
We should not underestimate the power of local action. More than 80 communities in New York State have signed onto the Climate Smart Communities Pledge. Each of these commitments represents a desire to reduce energy consumption and to plan for the future of the places that residents call home.
To learn more about how you can become involved, or about the resources available to municipalities, please visit nyserda.org/municipalities or contact Mid-Hudson Energy$mart Communities at (845) 331-2238.
Sarah Charlop-Powers is the Mid-Hudson Energy$mart Communities Coordinator at Courtney Strong Inc., a NYSERDA contractor.