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The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz has released its tenth discussion brief, “Energy Action Consortia: Moving Municipalities Toward Collective Sustainability.”

This is a case study of how the national economic crisis in 2008 produced local opportunity for a collaborative group of municipalities in Westchester County, N.Y.

From a founding membership of 12 municipalities in April 2009, the original group of collaborating towns and villages has grown into the Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium (NWEAC), a not-for profit enrolling 18 municipalities with a combined population of more than 274,000 residents. Thanks to its achievements over the last four years, NWEAC is now recognized in Westchester County and beyond as an innovative leader in energy policy and practice, and more generally in sustainability issues.

NWEAC is proof positive that, with strong leadership and consistent local commitment, a collaborative intergovernmental infrastructure created for a particular purpose can develop into an important regional resource. As local governments face continued pressure to lower costs, the benefits of collaboration and sharing services becomes even more attractive. Replicability, a goal of NWEAC’s members from the start, while building and supporting a green and a sustainable economy, allowed the consortium to create a model that could be an example for others with the same goals across the state.

A sibling consortium organized itself in 2010 as the Southern Westchester Energy Action Consortium (SWEAC), gathering 10 municipal members totaling 364,000 residents. Together, the two consortia, an alliance of local governments with a total combined population of over 639,000 in 29 municipalities, are in discussion regarding further collaboration.

Nina Orville, executive director of SWEAC and chair of the Dobbs Ferry Energy Task Force notes, “A critical question for others to consider in contemplating a consortium approach is, ‘at what scale is the effort sustainable?’ It either needs to be large enough to attract sufficient funding to be able to support necessary staff or modest enough in ambition to work well within limited existing resources.”

Leo Wiegman, mayor of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, adds, “While the past few years of recession and tax levy caps have been tough fiscally for New York’s local governments, the benefits of pooling resources and sharing in whatever funding is available has really paid dividends for the members of our consortia here in Westchester. The process has forced us to be much more creative in establishing programs that benefit the public, while becoming either fully or partially self-funded as the programs develop.”

Gerald Benjamin, CRREO director and associate vice president for regional engagement, stated, “Research shows that local intergovernmental collaborations grow exponentially more difficult to achieve as the number of participants increases. This makes the scope and scale of the NWEAC achievement even more important.”

“Energy Action Consortia: Moving Municipalities Toward Collective Sustainability” Discussion Brief is published online at www.newpaltz.edu/crreo.

 

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From our Friends at NWEAC

Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is an innovative, market-based solution to some of the most pressing energy and environmental challenges facing the United States and New York State. In a CCA system, municipalities collectively purchase energy directly from electricity providers on the open market on behalf of local residents and businesses. Working either as singular localities or a unified combination of municipalities, municipalities operating under CCA replace Investor Owned Utilities (IOU) as the provider of energy by purchasing the electricity to be used in their communities directly from the market in the form of Megawatt Hours (MWh). IOUs remain responsible for the generation of power from the CCA-purchased energy as well as the transmission and distribution of power to customers. With this division of labor, communities utilizing CCA are able to utilize local control of purchasing energy in order to reduce electricity costs, increase use of renewable energy sources, and create economic opportunity by ensuring the use of locally-sourced power. By leaving the tasks of generating, transmitting, and distributing power to IOU, who are also responsible for maintaining their own infrastructure and customer service operations, the benefits to local governments are not off-set by the costs and burden associated with Municipally Owned Utilities.

Community Choice Aggregation holds the promise to lower the price paid for electricity while allowing for local populations to select their own environmentally sustainable renewable energy sources at the same time. Unfortunately, the program is only authorized in six states and operationalized in just five.

NWEAC is helping to lead the fight to bring CCA Electricity purchasing to New York. Not only has NWEAC played an integral role in drafting legislation designated for the New York State Legislature with the purpose of authorizing CCA programs in New York, NWEAC has also designed a pilot program for New York CCA to take place right here in the NWEAC region of Westchester County. This is truly an exciting opportunity for NWEAC to help Westchester lead New York State and the nation into a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future. We hope you will join us in showing support for bringing CCA to New York by keeping up with all the latest updates from NWEAC and by voicing your support to your local and State elected representatives and officials.

 

 Solar panel biz guy w piggy bank

Last week NWEAC, SWEAC, and PACE Law hosted an unique and important conference about Solar permitting procedures and regulations. The long range plan is to standardize as much as possible to enable the industry to grow rapidly in our County with the consequent impact of reduced energy costs and GHG Emissions.


The following is a succinct summary of the day by Nina Orville, our SWEAC partner:

“The event went very well - we were very pleased by the attendance (quantity as well as who showed up) and the quality of the presentation.  We had at least 65 people in attendance, the significant majority of whom represented local governments in Westchester and surrounding counties as well as reps from utilities (Con Ed and NYPA) and solar installers.

The turn-out demonstrated the level of interest in Westchester County and the Mid-Hudson in preparing to welcome an expected surge in solar installations: 

· 44 people representing local governments.  5 counties represented, 25 municipalities total... 

· Very strong Westchester representation - 35 people representing a total of 20 local governments.

Lower prices for solar installations and strong support for solar from the state, as well as programs SWEAC and NWEAC are developing in Westchester are expected to result in a dramatic increase in solar installations locally. The role that local governments play in making this possible is significant – every installation must comply with their zoning, go through their permitting process and be inspected by them.  The organizers of the event want the jurisdictions to be able to support the opportunities that solar brings while making sure there isn’t undue burden for local governments.  Streamlining solar permitting is one important step in marrying those goals.

In addition, achieving consistency of processes is important as Westchester has 45 municipalities, each with their own zoning and permitting requirements for solar installations. We recognize that this lack of consistency creates inefficiencies as well. We learned that the municipalities are at a similar baseline - none have information about requirements for solar installations available on-line, none have check-lists for installers. The attendance shows the level of interest in addressing these opportunities for improvement.

NWEAC and SWEAC are planning to partner with others who can help bring additional assistance to Westchester and the Mid-Hudson region to move this process.”

 

Herb Oringel for NWEAC

energyAfter Superstorm Sandy hit the northeast and left millions without power, and by default, heat, for nearly two weeks, it’s time for government to rethink the power grid infrastructure that was crippled by both nature and outdated technology. Together with the Pace Energy and Climate Center and Joule Assets Inc., NWEAC has applied for a grant to develop our thinking on so-called Micro-Grids which have the potential to enable efficient use of energy sources while serving smaller clusters of residents and businesses.


In addition to the technology, NWEAC wants to explore a business model that could make Micro-Grids a real option for region. Here is an excerpt of the plan:    
New York State stands at a crossroads in its electrical grid development. New technologies create enhanced customer opportunities for improved efficiency and reliability. Many of these opportunities specifically address small and medium end users at the “edge of the grid” and can unlock significant value for this market segment. However, this market segment is traditionally difficult to engage in smart grid solutions. Fostering a new market model to engage these end users would help advance State smart grid, efficiency, renewable, storage and economic development goals. Overcoming barriers to market engagement requires the development of business models and a legal/regulatory structure to facilitate this market segment capitalizing upon these new opportunities. We are pleased to propose a research project designed to complement NYSERDA’s Electric Power Transmission and Distribution (EPTD) Smart Grid Program activities by defining the key attributes of a new business model that can have an immediate impact upon New York State’s energy future.

 

Herb Oringel for NWEAC

 

panels_on_houseThe Westchester Board of Legislators has asked the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation to review county properties that could be fitted with energy-saving geo-thermal technologies, according to a Nov. 13 LoHud.com story. The DPWT is judging properties on two criteria: the size of the building’s roof and how much sunlight solar panels would receive at the location.

 

Herb Oringel for NWEAC

solar_opportunitiesThe Municipal Solar Buyers Group has officially formed with 13 of NWEAC’s 15 towns ready to help make their public spaces more energy efficient. Members will now identify where solar technology can be developed and how the plans can be funded through government incentives and grants. By forming the MSBG, participating towns can benefit from NWEAC’s size and expertise.


The execution team is comprised of:   
Program Advisory Team:
–     Global Structured Finance Advisors
•      Leading boutique advisory firm specializing in tax oriented finance
•      Extensive experience advising renewable energy developers, traditional utilities and public power and municipal entities
•      Strong relations with “tax equity” investors who are active in renewable energy projects
•      FINRA AND MSRB registered broker-dealer company to provide financial advisory and raising of financing on behalf of municipalities
–     GP Renewables & Trading
•      GP is a multifaceted Energy Services company with over 15 years of combined experience that combines Consulting, Commodity Risk and Operations Management, and Project Development to provide a full array of services to clients in the North American wholesale, retail, and renewable power and natural gas industries.
•      GP provides load forecasting, risk management, ISO scheduling and settlement services to ESCOs with over 500,000 customers in 8 states with over 500 mw’s of average hourly load.
•      GP’s team has marketed, traded, procured fuel or scheduled power for plants with an excess of 600 MW of capacity and has done business in every ISO marketplace in North America.
–     NWEAC Staff
•      Will oversee management of Municipal Buyers Group and provide coordination between the Advisors and NWEAC’s Members
For an example of what the MSBG can accomplish, look to Somers High School, which has already begun to move toward sustainability using solar energy. A large solar array sits on the roof providing the school with over 62 megawatt hours of electricity not purchased from a utility company. The school applied for a NYSERDA grant in 2009 and was awarded $275,711.20, which the school used to install the 46.2kW photovoltaic system.

TIP: Did you know a fireplace flue pillow can help seal heat in your home and reduce your energy bill during winter months? Just install the inflatable balloon the damper level when you’re not using the fireplace and feel the difference.

 

Herb Oringel for NWEAC

sun_cloudsThe Mid-Hudson Regional Sustainability Plan’s final public meetings will take place Tuesday, November 27th at 6:30 PM in Kaplan Hall’s Great Room within SUNY Orange’s Newburgh Campus; and Thursday, November 29 at 6:30 PM at the Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave., White Plains.  In each session, a presentation of the draft regional sustainability plan will be followed by a question/ answer session and open discussion.
The Plan is one of ten such collaborative initiatives taking place around New York State as part of Phase One of Governor Cuomo’s Cleaner, Greener Communities program. The draft Plan compiles regional trends related to land use, infrastructure, energy, transportation, and environmental practices and identifies project ideas that could significantly improve the economic and environmental health.  The plan is expected to be finalized by the end of 2012.
Share your views online, and read the draft plan,  at www.EngageMidHudson.com

TIP: Book your Comprehensive Home Energy Assessment with a certified contractor today. The assessment is offered through New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s ENERGY STAR program. Find out how your home can be sealed, insulated and better equipped to save energy and money.

 

Engage_MidHudson

 

 

 

Engage MidHudson is a New York State funded study leading to a regional sustatinability plan. This plan will inform and become part of a regional economic development plan. The sustainability plan focuses on projects that promote prosperity and environmental health and will guide future project funding. It's a great time to shine a light on your green project. Consider how your shovel ready project might fit into a regional sustainable community goal. Consider how your services might contribute to the regions green goals. Suggest ways to evolve our economic strategy to embrace ecologically positive actions.

Our region includes 7 counties: Westchester, Rockland, Ulster, Sullivan, Dutchess, Oragne, Putnam. We've got 79 days to get a plan together and need your great ideas. You can post ideas to the Engage MidHudson web site. 

 
house_300The Energize New York program, piloted last year in the Town of Bedford, has officially developed the tools and best practices required for duplication in towns across Northern Westchester. Ossining and Somers were the first to formally launch and begin offering the home energy assessments and recommended upgrades in their own communities, initiating a stream of cost savings that the program looks forward to carrying throughout the rest of Northern Westchester and beyond!

With each new launch comes a new idea on how to extend the opportunities of energy efficiency to other New York homeowners. Herb Oringel, who resides in Somers and is Chair of the Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium (NWEAC), built key partnerships with the local School District, Chamber of Commerce and Lion’s Club. Innovative partnerships like these are blossoming throughout Energize Somers, helping spread the word about the program and its local economic and environmental benefits.

In Ossining, steadfast support from the local elected officials has translated into public “energy assessment parties” hosted at the home of Village Trustee John Codman and Westchester legislator Catherine Borgia. Here, constituents have been able to witness the true energy assessment experience, understanding the potential savings Energize can bring to their own homes. These and other wonderful events are bringing an ever-growing number of homeowners into the Energize program, and we could not be more excited about the difference they’re already making in their communities.

Want to find out more? Visit EnergizeOssining.org or EnergizeSomers.org and 'like' them on Facebook: Facebook.com/energizeossining and Facebook.com/SomersEEC
 
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