Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Central New York Climate Change Innovation Program

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Central Upstate New York

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The Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board (CNY RPDB) used an EPA Climate Showcase Communities grant to develop the Climate Change Innovation Program (C2IP) to assist communities implementing programs that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. C2IP encouraged and incentivized communities to initiate energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The main goals of C2IP were to establish community-wide GHG inventories; develop Climate Action Plans; empower citizens to reduce energy consumption; engage the community; and implement clean energy demonstration projects.

CNY RPDB used approximately 40% of the CSC grant funding to provide sub-grants to seven target communities in the region that implemented pilot projects demonstrating the effectiveness of energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy technology. The remaining funding was used to provide technical assistance and initiate the Central NY Energy Challenge. Overall, the participating municipalities identified strategies that could reduce GHG emissions 12.7% below the baseline. Through the demonstration projects, C2IP realized lifetime GHG emissions reduction of 2,861.5 metric tons of CO2-equivalent (MTC02e), comparable to the annual emissions of more than 600 passenger vehicles. Total community-wide pledged emissions reductions from Climate Action Plans total an additional 151,082 MTCO2e, equivalent to the annual energy use of nearly 13,800 homes.


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Climate Action Planning

Staff from the CNY RPDB launched a kickoff workshop for the participating communities that provided an overview of relevant renewable energy programs within New York State and outlined the Climate Action Plan process. Communities were offered a path for local governments to start taking climate action to mitigate climate change. Representatives from U.S. EPA, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), non-profits, and other municipalities that had completed emissions reductions plans attended and to provide first-hand knowledge of the process and encourage relationships among the municipalities and supporting staff.

Local colleges and universities provided interns and faculty to assist with the Climate Action Plans. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry offered an energy audit course that used the Syracuse GHG inventory as a hands-on learning experience. Interns helped smaller municipalities complete GHG inventories and analyze energy savings data, calculate return on investment, and estimate the GHG reduction potential of certain mitigation projects.

CNY RPDB also encouraged communities to form small advisory committees of elected municipal officials, staff, and community members. These advisory committees were responsible for determining the potential impact and limitations of goals, increasing knowledge among stakeholders, and moving their communities to action.

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Solarize MadisonFigure 1: Solarize Madison.Show Progress with Demonstration Projects

An important part of C2IP was to identify, develop, and deploy demonstration projects in each community. CNY RPDB provided up to $30,000 in matching funds to seven participating communities, three of which are highlighted below. CNY RPDB also offered technical assistance in the planning process to extend the impact of the funding.

Preble – The Town of Preble demonstrated energy efficiency and renewable energy through an energy retrofit to its historic town hall building, formerly a two-room school house built in 1906. The retrofit included insulation and air sealing, replacing a fuel-oil forced-air heating system with electric heat pumps that will also provide air conditioning, a lighting retrofit, window replacement, and installation of a 9.4kW solar photovoltaic system.

Solarize Madison – The purpose of the Solarize Madison initiative was to streamline the solar installation process and make solar more affordable for residents, either through direct ownership or a leasing program. In exchange for a $2,000 installation incentive, homeowners helped market the solar program by hosting an open house, writing an article in the local paper, or producing an information video about their solar PV system.

Syracuse – The City of Syracuse replaced 38 incandescent streetlight bulbs along Syracuse Creekwalk with new lighting that will consume 78% less power. At a cost of $30,400 the lighting has a long return on investment, but the upgrade was integral in initiating a larger project to revitalize the public Creekwalk. The project enhances community safety, walkability, and aesthetics.

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Inspire Community Action

C2IP also sought to implement energy savings programs that would engage communities, and looked across the country for inspiration. It examined programs such as MN Energy Challenge Platform Exit, Energize NY ExitNE Carbon Challenge Exit, and Finger Lakes Energy Challenge Exit.  C2IP studied successful elements of each of these programs and developed a partnership with NYSERDA to create the Central New York Energy Challenge. The challenge consisted of friendly competitions between teams of households to see who could save the most energy. The Behavior Research division at NYSERDA identified five specific actions households could undertake:

  • Exercise 1: Determining Your Energy Intake
  • Exercise 2: Household Lighting
  • Exercise 3: Electronics, Powering Off When Not in Use
  • Exercise 4: Heating and Cooling
  • Exercise 5: The Home Energy Audit

Teams consisted of five to eight households and a team leader. Additionally, C2IP distributed Kill-a-Watt monitors to libraries so that residents could borrow the tool to monitor and reduce their energy consumption.

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Preble - The total project cost was $136,000, but with grants from C2IP, NYSERDA, and National Grid, Preble will pay back its investment cost in just under 6 years, and will reduce emissions by 19.53 MtCO2e annually—equivalent to avoiding the consumption of more than 2,000 gallons of gasoline. The initial grant amount of $30,000 more than quadrupled after taking advantage of incentives. As a result of the project, the town hall no longer needs to consume fossil fuels on site.

Madison – In total, Madison County received a grant of $28,000, but took advantage of over $100,000 from NYSERDA and $185,000 in private investment. This extra funding increased the investment from the initial grant amount more than 10-fold. The program installed 25 direct-owned solar energy systems totaling 157.7 kilowatts (kW), and 4 leased systems totaling 26.5 kW. The program prompted other companies to match the Solarize Madison incentives, resulting in additional installations that eclipsed 300kW of production. Solarize Madison is now continuing the program, expanding it to include solar thermal for hot water heating. Additionally, two other Solarize events, Solarize Tompkins SE Exit and Solarize Brooklyn Exit, have been created due to the success of solarize Madison.

Syracuse – Increased lighting efficiency in the city saves 28,500 kilowatt-hours per year. Additionally, Syracuse’s draft sustainability plan sets goal of reducing municipal GHG emissions 47% below 2002 levels by 2020 (7,460 MTCO2e), and community-wide GHG emissions 7% below 2002 levels by 2020 (84,446 MTCO2e).

Central New York Energy Challenge – Overall, 9 teams (63 people) participated in the pilot program, with the goal of reducing electricity consumption by 10%. Data show that the average participant in the program used 29% less energy than the average control group participant for the month of June 2012. The program was so successful that it was expanded to surrounding localities such as Skaneateles, Preble, and Syracuse.

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Obstacles to Overcome

Energy savings programs through community engagement projects often face challenges with data collection. Historically, programs in New York were either based on self-reported (and potentially inaccurate) data or prohibitively expensive data collection methods. C2IP addressed these competing challenges by starting an energy competition based on low- and no-cost actions with verifiable and measurable data that were already collected by utilities.

Emissions inventories can be time- and resource intensive, and smaller townships had neither the time nor the resources for the process prior to the grant. The CSC grant provided financial resources for CNY RPDB to offer technical support to assist municipalities with their inventories. Without the CSC grant, the small municipalities would not have been able to complete the inventory process.

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Promote, Promote, Promote!

After many of the demonstration projects and community initiatives concluded, CNY RPDB staff conducted public information sessions and spoke at conferences across New York State. Public information sessions allowed municipal representatives to share knowledge and best practices with their neighboring towns and cities. Additionally, NYS DEC conducted a webinar to share ideas and engage stakeholders more broadly. Throughout the duration of C2IP, CNY RPDB continually worked with participating communities to assist them in the climate action process.

Staff from CNY RPDB also organized municipal workshops, participated in conferences, and attended meetings to share information and promote climate action benefits. The Central New York Energy Challenge created a website to showcase the significant energy reduction achievements. Its Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn groups also have many followers. The process of promoting successes and lessons learned complemented the demonstration projects.

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Next Steps

Mayors in Oswego and Cortland have challenged each other to enlist members of their communities in the Energy Challenge. Materials were distributed in each city with the potential of enrolling 120-200 households in the friendly competition.

CNY RPDB has expanded the Energy Challenge into the classroom environment and created a program called “Classroom Energy Challenge.” Syracuse will launch two pilot programs in 2015.

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Replicating the Program

Staff Needs: Larger jurisdictions, such as Syracuse and Madison) required 1 FTE staff plus ancillary support in order to complete their GHG inventory and climate action plan. Smaller localities (such as Preble and Skaneateles) completed projects with volunteer support, in addition to between 100 and 200 hours of staff support.)

Cost: The total grant amount was $497,793, of which $208,000 was used for sub-grants to develop the seven pilot projects. With this seed funding, the communities were able to leverage an additional $1.94 million in regional, state, and private funding to complete the demonstration projects.

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Learn from similar Climate Showcase Communities programs:

Corvallis, Oregon – Energize Corvallis
Denver, Colorado – Denver Energy Challenge (DEC)

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Contact Information

Chris Carrick
315-422-8276, ext. 213

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