Welcome to the January-February 2020 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an e-update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy
. Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of the Sustainable Markets Foundation.
We are committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Gov. Cuomo Seeks to Accelerate Renewable Energy Development
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants state agencies to develop shovel-ready sites for large-scale renewable projects as the private sector struggles with a challenging regulatory process.
Cuomo made the proposal during his budget address in late January. He said New York needed to take the lead in doing more, faster, on the issue of climate change.
"Setting goals without the means to achieve them is... baloney," Cuomo said. "We have to do it faster. It currently takes five to 10 years to begin constructing a new energy project. You can't have the goals we have and then have a system of bureaucracy that takes five to 10 years to start a new energy project. It just does not work."
Developers of new solar, wind and other projects have raised concerns about the current siting process. Only a handful of projects have been approved under a 2010 siting law that Cuomo signed. None of the projects approved under that Article 10 process have begun full-scale construction.
Cuomo said he wanted to bring together the Department of Public Service, Empire State Development, and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, "reform" them and "flip the whole model."
"We need a new, faster siting methodology, financing and building methodology," he said. "Let the state go out and find the site and do the approval and provide the financing and set up the transmission lines and then bring in the private developer."
Lawmakers and renewable developers expressed some interest in the concept of having state entities secure permits and build transmission infrastructure for projects.
But there are many questions about how such a process might work -- including how it would interact with the New York Independent System Operator's processes and the existing regulatory structure that is dominated by state agencies but allows input from local interested parties.
"I really need to see the details, but I'm pleased the issue got recognized," said Alliance for Clean Energy New York's Anne Reynolds in an email. She represents renewable energy
developers. "We DO need to build renewables faster, and look forward to digging into the nuts and bolts of their proposal."
Cuomo also said he's committed $33 billion over five years to address climate change. That includes the proposed $3 billion Restore Mother Nature bond act, which would provide a boost to restoring wetlands and waterways, improving flood resiliency, increasing fish stocking and access and other priorities.
Billions in subsidies for offshore wind, on-shore renewable projects, clean energy research and financing and electric vehicle chargers are part of ongoing programs overseen by the Public Service Commission and administered by NYSERDA. Supplemental funding for priorities like electric vehicle charging, storage and renewables is coming from the New York Power Authority.
The five-year horizon includes already-announced commitments to new renewable subsidies under the state's Clean Energy Standard; the $5 billion, 10-year Clean Energy Fund that was announced in 2016; and subsidies for offshore wind approved by the Public Service Commission.
Some advocacy groups have been pushing for specific, new, on-budget funding to fight climate change. NY Renews has proposed a $1 billion climate fund as part of an initial commitment while other groups have pressed for even more -- Food and Water Watch is among those pressing for a $10 billion "Green New Deal" investment this year.
"Instead of proposing the level of bold new funding necessary to combat climate change, the governor has mostly repackaged existing funding commitments. Simply put, that's not enough," said Food and Water Watch's Alex Beauchamp. "Make no mistake, without dramatically increased funding to speed the transition to 100% renewable energy, New York will miss the goals put into law just last year."
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, March 27, 2020
9 to 11 am
Tompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Conference Room
101 E. Green St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
New Downtown Program Encourages Sustainable Travel
by Jessica Wickham,
In late January, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) launched
, a pilot commuter benefits program that strives to incentivize Ithaca and county residents to limit their use of single-occupancy vehicles.
The free membership program provides education along with benefits and discounts for area transportation services to downtown Ithaca businesses, employees and residents, with the goals of helping those who drive alone find affordable, sustainable and efficient modes of transportation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating the need for additional parking garages and improving the ability to get around the downtown community.
GO ITHACA was founded in 2017 as a pilot Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Program, as Darlene Wilber, GO ITHACA outreach coordinator, explained.
In late 2016, the DIA secured a grant through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Department of Transportation to establish a TDM program - a program that applies strategies and policies to reduce or shift travel demand - to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on city and county roads.
For over a year, GO ITHACA team members built the program, but the results weren't as hoped. Wilber and others identified the structure of the program as a possible reason for the lackluster results, as it required participants to submit a considerable amount of data and only incentivized a few transportation alternatives.
"We decided to reformat to make it a little bit less work on [users], a little bit more fun for them," Wilber said.
The redesigned GO ITHACA is now Ithaca's first pilot Transportation Management Association (TMA), which uses TDM practices to accomplish similar reduction goals and is funded by the Climate Smart Community Grant Program, Title 15 of the Environmental Protection Fund through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
GO ITHACA collaborates with local employers and property owners, as well as the city of Ithaca, the county, Ithaca Careshare, Bike Walk Tompkins, TCAT and other area organizations to provide benefits for members who reduce their use of single-occupancy vehicles.
One of the main goals of GO ITHACA is to make people more aware of the many transportation options available in the city and the county, said GO ITHACA Program Manager Lauren Gabuzzi.
"People sometimes don't fully understand how to use the resources that are currently available, and that's really the whole point of this," she said.
Membership is free, and benefits include enrollment and four rides home a year through Backup Ride Home, a service that provides backup transportation if planned transportation falls through; 40 TCAT single ride passes on any TCAT route; $50 Ithaca Carshare credit toward monthly or annual Carshare membership; and access to 511NY carpool services.
Members also receive discounts like 50% off a monthly TCAT bus pass, 75% off a monthly parking pass for registered carpools and 50% off four one-day parking passes.
The program also rewards those who make the switch with freebies suc
h as movie tickets and ice cream along with special excursions and gatherings.
Employees can register for GO ITHACA online at goithaca.org, where they fill out a short questionnaire about their daily commuting habits and can learn more about alternative options like bus routes, rideshares, carpools and bicycle rentals.
Members commit to reducing their use of single-occupancy vehicles by switching to one or multiple alternative modes at whatever level or speed they are comfortable with. That could mean anything from taking the bus instead of driving to work once a week to taking a bike everywhere.
Gary Ferguson, executive director for the DIA, which oversees GO ITHACA, said this method allows people to make changes at their own pace, which he and other members of the GO ITHACA team believe is a more effective way to change behavior than requiring larger, transformative commitments.
"We recognize that people want to do it that way, and we reward them for doing that," Ferguson said. "A lot of baby steps add up to real savings for the community."
GO ITHACA is also available to employers, who set goals with GO ITHACA staff, choose the benefits they'll offer employees, use questionnaires to learn about employee commuter habits and receive quarterly reports on employee performance.
Gabuzzi said GO ITHACA is part of the goals set by Ithaca's Green New Deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. GO ITHACA aims to address the problem through concentration on transportation, especially since a typical single passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to Tompkins County's 2010 Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report.
"Eighty percent of the transportation emissions are from us, driving to work, getting around, so the city really wants to show their commitment to being green," Gabuzzi said.
||Energy Navigators: Helping Others With Energy Conservation
While Natalya is a naturally outgoing and warm-hearted person, she was still a bit nervous this last December as she embarked on her first home energy visit as a volunteer Energy Navigator. She was going to visit Diane, who had reached out to Get Your GreenBack Tompkins after receiving a postcard from NYSEG advertising the services of volunteer Energy Navigators. Diane was interested in free energy advising, which Navigators offer in person, or over the phone or email. Diane had requested a visit in person. Natalya was worried that she might not remember enough of the information about energy actions and programs that she had learned during her training to be of help to Diane, the resident.
Natalya, who was born and raised in Elmira, had been living in Ithaca for the last nine years, and had participated in the Energy Navigator training earlier that year, together with a group of 15 other residents from around Tompkins County. Natalya had applied for the program because it matched her passions for sustainability and working with people to help them make concrete changes in their lives. The training helped her and other participants understand how to help residents reduce their energy use and bills, and transition to renewable energy to heat and power their homes. But how could she possibly remember all the things she had learned about over the course of those ten weeks?
Natalya's fears quickly dissipated when she arrived. Diane showed her around the house, pointing out the places where it was cold and drafty. Natalya had brought with her some items donated by NYSEG that help reduce energy use, and helped Diane install plastic coverings over the drafty windows, as well as replace her light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs.
they worked together, Natalya mentioned a state program that helps low-income homeowners as well as tenants like Diane get an energy audit and cover the costs of energy improvements like insulation and sealing up air leaks at no cost to her or to her landlord. Natalya helped her fill out the application, which Diane later mailed in.
Natalya has stayed in touch with Diane, who is waiting on a response from this state-funded program. Natalya isn't worried. "One thing I've learned through my participation in this program", Natalya said, "is that these changes take time -- it takes time to build up a rapport with the participants, for them to complete the paperwork, and for the contractors to do the work."
Natalya highly recommends the Energy Navigator program to others. Some of the components she has appreciated the most include the classes and learning in detail about how we use energy in our daily lives. Natalya also mentioned being pleasantly surprised by NYSEG's initiatives to promote sustainability and energy conservation; the last several years NYSEG has supported the Energy Navigators program, providing the materials Navigators have given out to local residents. She also appreciated getting to know other volunteer Energy Navigators, many of whom continue to be active with the program even after their formal volunteer period has ended, as well as the chance to do outreach and tabling and interact with residents of all ages at community events.
Natalya's advice to others considering becoming an Energy Navigator? "Don't worry about memorizing all the energy information. Even if you don't remember all the details you can still do a great job!" If you do join the program, you may see Natalya. She's planning on continuing as an Energy Navigator for at least another year, and is looking forward to speaking and helping out many more people like Diane.
A new round of training for Energy Navigator volunteers begins on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020, with applications due on March 9th. To learn more and to apply, visit www.getyourgreenback.org/navigators.
Take a step to save money and energy!
||One Last Thing: Coronavirus and the Climate Crisis
The sudden appearance and rapid spread of the coronavirus is an unsettling reminder of how chaotic and uncertain the world can be. Seemingly out of the blue, this new and deadly virus is upending life across the globe -- the latest
identify almost 50 countries that have confirmed cases of infection.
, the epicenter of the outbreak, manufacturing, construction, and other economic activities have dramatically slowed down and even come to a halt, while air travel in the country has decreased by 70 percent. As a result,
China's carbon dioxide emissions over the past three weeks have declined by 25 percent.
||A significant majority of American voters now support the Green New Deal.
It's hard to escape the feeling that a similar unraveling of daily life is what the climate emergency has in store for us. The sense of foreboding is palpable. The fragility of modern life, its dependence on complex webs of supply chains, intricate social systems, infrastructure, and technology: all of it is up for grabs as we confront an epic series of disasters.
"Not all that long ago," David Wallace-Wells observed this week, "climate change was a story unfolding only in the future tense." Now, though, it has come "roaring into the present with a terrifying fury." The incineration of one quarter of Australia's forests in a single fire season underscores his point.
The ravages of climate destabilization, of course, are not confined to environmental destruction. Rising sea levels, extended droughts, flash floods, and wild fires are perhaps its most obvious manifestations. But less visible developments such as malaria, malnutrition, and heat stress will just as surely cause death and misery for millions of people as the climate crisis accelerates. If only global warming could inspire the kind of collective action that our fear of epidemics does.
More than ever, we need to remember that our fates as individuals and nations are intertwined. The poorest countries, as well as the most marginalized communities in the developed world, will continue to find themselves exposed disproportionately to the havoc that is underway. Just as doctors and nurses are rushing forward into the fray to care for patients struck down by COVID-19, the more fortunate among us need to act with a keen awareness that we are all in this together. It's not just a question of morality; the survival of human civilization depends on it. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."
Be sure to visit the website for TCCPI's latest project, the Ithaca 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca.